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Is your organic produce really pesticide-free?

Saturday, March 30, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: organic product, pesticide, residents

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(NaturalNews) The incredible success and sustained growth of the organic movement over the past several decades has led to many positive changes for the general food supply, which include the increased availability of clean food. But there is a common misperception among many in the natural health community that all organic food, and particularly all organic produce, is grown using absolutely no pesticides, herbicides, or other external inputs.

In truth, some organic foods are, indeed, grown with chemical inputs, which may come as a surprise to some. But the good news is that these inputs are not the same as the inputs used on conventional produce, and do not contain any synthetic ingredients. In most cases, natural and organic pesticides are developed completely from plant and herb components, and actually promote the health of both plants and soil.

Depending on the size, scope, and focus of a particular organic farm, varying cultivations standards can be legally employed and still be considered organic. Small-scale, family-operated biodynamic organic farms, for instance, may be able to successfully grow all their produce using absolutely no chemical interventions whatsoever, while larger-scale organic farms may need to apply certain chemical solutions to their crops in accordance with the official organic standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"[O]rganically produced fruits and vegetables are grown in an environment absent of synthetic chemicals, yes, but the notion that they're grown without chemicals at all is false," explains Doug Smith from ElephantJournal.com about the issue. "The fact is, most state laws allow organic farmers to spray a whole gamut of chemical sprays, powders and pellets on their organic crops. That is, if they are 'organic' or natural chemical sprays, powders and pellets."

Some organic inputs may have questionable safety records, say some

Are these approved-for-organic growing chemicals safe? Yes, but possibly no, according to some. As it turns out, certain natural pesticides and insecticides like rotenone-pyrethrin, for instance, or Spinosad, may be potentially harmful to humans. The former was linked in a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives to potentially causing Parkinson's disease, while the latter is said to be highly toxic to insects and fish.

Sure, not all organic crops are grown using these chemicals -- many organic growers, in fact, truly do use only all-natural cultivation methods that pose no risks to human health. But some organic crops, including some varieties of organic lettuce, have allegedly tested significantly higher for certain organic-approved pesticides and herbicides than their conventional counterparts have for much more harmful synthetic pesticides and herbicides.

What does this mean for you and your family? While the goal here is not to tarnish the organic label in any way -- organic certification is currently the best and most trustworthy system we have for regulating the production and sale of clean, chemical-free food -- it is important that readers be aware of the fact that chemicals are still sometimes used on organic foods. Natural News readers will recall that we addressed this issue recently as it pertains to organic apples, some of which are legally sprayed with antibiotics to protect against fire blight.

At the same time, organic growers who have been in the industry for years insist that even though certain organic growing chemicals may be used on some organic crops, the practice is safer and far superior to conventional growing methods. One organic farmer, commenting on Smith's assessment of the issue, states: "I've never put anything on my crops that I couldn't eat," and goes on to explain that his methods are much safer for the planet and people "than what I did before I was organic." And many others in the field echo this sentiment.

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