You’ve recently watched What the Health on Netflix and are compelled to eat healthier. You head to the fresh produce section at your local grocery store.
You begin looking at the various apples, oranges, and pears that have been arranged in certain bins. Scrunching your brow, you realize that every piece of fruit has different labels that begin with 9’s, 8’s, 4’s or 3’s.
What’s the difference between this gala apple with a 9 and the other with a 4? Why does this 9 cost so much more than the 4, 3 or 8?
You can easily identify what you’re eating by looking at the price look up sticker (PLU)!
Labels on food that begin with 9’s are Organic.
Labels that begin with 3 or 4’s are conventionally grown.
Labels that begin with 8’s are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s).
If you see a 4-digit code, your produce has been conventionally grown, meaning they have been sprayed with pesticides.
Pesticides are chemical or biological agents that protect crops from insects, weeds and infections. The most commonly used pesticide in the United States is acutely toxic organophosphate (OP) pesticides (The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, University of Washington, 2017). They are used on fruits, vegetables, and wheat.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that the levels of pesticides are low on crops, but they still present some risks to the consumer! Not properly washing your produce or being occupationally exposed to pesticides can present risks such as:
Parkinson’s disease (neurological disease that affects movement)
ADD/ADHD which was seen in a national study with 8-15 year olds with OP pesticide exposure in their urine (Bouchard, 2010)
These are some ways you can properly wash your produce:
75-85% of pesticides can be removed with a cold water scrub (Centre for Science and Environment (CSE))
Two teaspoons of salt and 4 cups of warm water
Glass bottle with one tab mix one tablespoon of lemon juice, two tablespoons of white vinegar and one cup of water (Natural living ideas, 2016)
Or simply peel and trim the skin after a cold wash
But what are the risks of eating GMO’s?
GMO’s are genetically modified organisms such as plants, animals or microorganisms that have been modified using recombinase DNA methods. GMO’s are not created in nature and can withstand harsh temperatures and environments to grow.
In 2010, the European commission published a report that said, “…there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants.” (Monsanto, 2017).
However, there is still some skepticism about the potential risks of GMO’s in the future.
According the Non-GMO Project, more than 80% of all GMO’s are modified for herbicide tolerance. Crops that are genetically modified are responsible for “superweeds” and “superbugs”, which are herbicide resistant and require the usage of more toxins to kill them.
So does that mean go Organic?
Although Organic foods are generally more expensive, many people believe they can reduce the risk of disease due to “safer” farming practices. Conventionally grown animals are pumped with antibiotics, hormones and chemicals that could be potentially harmful for our bodies. Not to mention, knowing that conventionally grown crops are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. This automatically makes the consumer believe that organically grown food may be better.
However, organic food may pose some risks as well.
There are currently 20 commonly used chemicals that have been used in the growing and processing of organic crops. These chemicals have been approved by the U.S. Organic standards and the amount of organic pesticides that are used on organic farms are not recorded by the government (Scientific American, 2011). There was the belief that organic pesticides would be better for crops because they are natural in origin. That was proved a lie when in 2005, Rotenone, an organic pesticide was discontinued in the U.S. due to health concerns (Scientific American, 2011).
In addition, scientists haven’t been able to prove within the last 50 years that organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown or GMO’s. You may be spending that extra money at the grocery store for nothing!
You need to know what you are eating!
Be sure to ask your local grocery store about how their meat and crops are raised. If you’re buying produce from a farmers market, ask about their farming practices. Always do your research and judge what’s right for you.
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food” -George Shaw
Leonard , Jayne. “5 Ways To Wash Pesticides Off Fruits & Veggies & Why You Should.” Natural Living Ideas, 29 Feb. 2016, www.naturallivingideas.com/wash-fruits-veggies/.
“GMO Facts.” Non-GMO Project, 2016, www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/.
“Are GMOs Safe: Commonly Asked Questions About GMO Safety Concerns.” Monsanto, 6 Apr. 2017, monsanto.com/company/commitments/safety/statements/are-gmos-safe/.
Gonzalez, Neil. “Decoding Produce Stickers: The Hidden Meaning Behind Fruit & Vegetable Labels.” WonderHowTo, WonderHowTo, 24 Sept. 2015, food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/decoding-produce-stickers-hidden-meaning-behind-fruit-vegetable-labels-0154570/.
Bouchard, M. F., et al. “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides.” Pediatrics, vol. 125, no. 6, 2010, doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3058.
Weintraub, Peter. “Is Organic Food REALLY Better for You?” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Apr. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-weintraub-/is-organic-food-really-be_b_9786964.html.
Wilcox, Christie. “Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc., 2017, blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/.
“Fast Facts about Health Risks of Pesticides in Food.” depts.washington.edu/ceeh/downloads/FF_Pesticides.pdf.