Here’s the Dirt on the “Dirty Dozen”

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out two lists ~ the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15”. These lists reflect pesticide use on conventionally grown (not organic) fruits and veggies in the US.

I have no problem with encouraging people to go organic. I’d love to see a whole lot less pesticide use and a lot more organic farming. I think it’s important to take care of our world and I’m concerned about the level of chemical use on our farms and orchards (for a number of reasons).

My concern with the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists is the science behind them is faulty. In the long run, people will figure that out and then they don’t take you or your concerns seriously.

the science

The EWG analyzes USDA data on produce and pesticides. They focus in on several criteria only one of which (kinda sorta) impacts safety (the average amount of all pesticides found).

The problem is that not all pesticides are created equal. Some pesticides are more toxic, others less so. Making a set standard (by amount) across the board does not take into account the different chemical makeups of the various pesticides.

This makes the EWG’s lists inaccurate.

they’re not really “dirty”

Beyond that, the growing industry is heavily regulated and standards are created for each individual pesticide that are 100 times less than is safe in animal testing. What that means practically is you can’t eat enough produce to get close to the safe-for-animals limit, much less receive any negative effect.

is organic “clean”?

I was talking to an organic grower and mentioned how I liked that organic growers didn’t use pesticides (I was talking about the impact of pesticides on beneficial insects at the time). He looked a little embarrassed and then explained to me that organic growers may use organic pesticides on their farms and still call the produce organic (and their industry is less regulated and monitored).

Geesh! Are you kidding me?

so what’s a gal to do?

I’m growing some of my own food. I figure I should at least do on a small scale what I would like to ask of others. I’m learning to make my own compost, rotate crops, use mulch, and generally create a healthy garden. I also just have to make friends with the idea that bugs are a part of my world and live with a few nibbles on my produce.

I try to support in practical ways those who are growing gardens without pesticides. I’m grateful that most of them are willing to teach me what they know.

When I shop in stores, I don’t much pay attention to the source. It’s pretty much all from big growers who use some kind of pesticide (chemical or organic). Pesticides levels should be negligible. I wash any produce and enjoy my meal.

eat your veggies!

I haven’t offered you much of a solution to current pesticide use, but do be aware that the “Dirty Dozen” aren’t really dirty and the “Clean 15” aren’t any cleaner than the rest of the produce on the shelf. They’re all pretty safe.

So you have no excuse now. Eat your veggies!

Further Reading:
Don’t Let the “Dirty Dozen” Scare You Away from Conventional Produce
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Organic Based on the “Dirty Dozen” List [Updated for 2019]

Image credits
farmer spraying crops © skeeze /
produce © LubosHouska /