People are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of buying organic. Some of these benefits have to do with avoiding pesticides, avoiding genetically modified food, avoiding added hormones and antibiotics, avoiding irradiation, and improving nutrition (in many cases double the number of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and enzymes). Eating organic means supporting organic farmers and their dedication to protecting the soil and other natural resources, including wildlife.

Most people feel they are doing a good job if they are able to consume a substantial proportion of organic produce in comparison to conventionally grown foods. Eating 100% organic is not feasible for many, for reasons of availability and financial resources. However, as conventional methods have increasingly depleted soils and yield outputs, their cost goes up, while the cost of organic farming continues to go down. We might even see a parity of cost, if large agribusiness farms were not so heavily subsidized by the government.

The increased cost of conventional farming owes in large part to the larger volume of chemicals required to squeeze the same yield out of ever more depleted land, and the use of newer and stronger pesticides and herbicides against organisms that have developed resistance to conventional chemicals. For this reason, the average number of pesticides and other toxic chemicals applied to conventional produce during its growing and harvesting seasons is now an astounding 47 to 67. The Environmental Working Group periodically issues a report on the 12 most contaminated varieties of produce when purchased from conventional sources. These are known as the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen list that was issued for 2010 includes the following:

Dirty Dozen (47-67 separate pesticides in this produce if not organic):
Domestic blueberries
Sweet bell peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Imported grapes

The Good News
There are still some kinds of produce that have very little, if any, contamination present. Or their skins are thick enough to protect the heart of the fruit inside, without systemic treatment affecting the whole plant. These items are called the Clean Fifteen. So if there are some fruits and vegetables you cannot locate from organic sources in your area, and are not prepared to grow in your own backyard, the following are relatively safe to eat, even when grown conventionally.

Clean Fifteen (safer to eat these if non-organic – minimal pesticide residues in edible portion):

Sweet corn
Sweet peas
Kiwi fruit

Use discernment in shopping, apply common sense, and enjoy happy eating!