Pesticides: useful for keeping bugs away, but maybe not the best thing to put inside your body.
If you’ve never thought much about the relationship between pesticides and the produce you eat lately, this year’s edition of a report prepared by the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program report contains some data you’ll either find reassuring or unsettling, depending on your perspective.
Based on more than 10,500 data samples collected across 10 states in 2018, more than half of the fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, wheat flour, heavy cream, and rice indicated traces of pesticides.
It sounds gross to think that the things farms use to kill bugs winds up in the food supply, but it’s important to place that single data point in context. The report notes that roughly 52.2 percent of samples had at least one pesticide (with 31.2 percent having two or more), but the overwhelming majority of those samples fell within accepted pesticide thresholds established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
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In total, less than 100 out of the total 10,545 samples tested as part of the PDP report exceeded acceptable levels of pesticide. Of those 82 there was a nearly even split between domestic (43 samples) and imported (39 samples) food products that didn’t make the grade. While rice and 12 different types of fresh or frozen produce exceeded pesticide tolerance levels, kandle (19 failing samples) and snap peas (23 failing samples) were the worst offenders.
The Alliance for Food and Farming, a group representing both organic and “conventional” farm concerns, notes that the results are “consistent with previous years,” and show “the exception level of compliance among farmers of fruits and vegetables with the stringent laws and regulations governing pesticide use.” While it’s worth remembering that the organization’s interest lies with those producing fruits and vegetables, they hail the results of this year’s study as a signal that fruits and vegetables are overwhelmingly safe for consumers.
So if you’re ok with taking them at their word and trusting the EPA to set proper limits, humans can probably have a little pesticide and be ok. If fruits and veggies didn’t made you sick in years past, you’re probably no worse off this year. And pesticides or not, we’re all slowly dying anyway.