Pesticides: Can’t live with them and we can’t eat without them

By Vince Faust,

Tips to Be Fit,

The U.S. is second behind China in the use of pesticides. Farmers use pesticides to control the thousands of weeds, insects and plant diseases that can afflict their crops. Without pesticides, food production would decline and many of the fruits and vegetables you enjoy in the store would be in short supply and cost a lot more.

If farmers didn’t use pesticides, more than half of our crops would be lost to pests and diseases. 26 to 40 percent of the world’s crop production would be lost annually because of weeds, pests and diseases. These losses could easily double without crop protection.

Pesticides are sold in either a liquid, solid or gaseous form:

• Liquid formulations include suspensions (flowables), solutions, emulsifiable concentrates, microencapsulated suspensions, and aerosols.

• Solid formulations include dusts, particulates, granulars, pellets, soluble granules, soluble powders, baits, tablets, dry flowables and wettable powders.

• Gaseous pesticides are typically fumigants (can be sold as liquids or gases).

Pesticides distributed in the United States, must first be review by the EPA to determine that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. The EPA must set limits on how much pesticide to be used on our food during growing and processing, and how much can remain on the food when we buy it. Government inspectors are responsible for monitoring food in interstate commerce to ensure that these limits are not exceeded. The EPA also sets limits to protect workers from exposure to pesticides while on the job.

Almost 70% of your fresh produce sold in the U.S. has pesticide residues on it even after you have washed it. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), “high levels of pesticide residues can be toxic enough to cause long-term cancer, damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, birth defects and severe disruption of the immune system.”

Are you safe if you go organic? Organic foods may not be pesticide-free. The pesticides that are allowed for organic food production are typically not manmade. They tend to have natural substances like soaps, lime sulfur and hydrogen peroxide as ingredients. You can’t eat soaps, lime sulfur and hydrogen peroxide.

Those created from natural sources are often called organic products. No matter whether it was created in a test tube or are derived from a plant, if it is labeled as killing a pest, it’s a pesticide by law. That means organically produced fruits and vegetables may not be pesticide-free.

You should wash all your fruits and vegetables according to the Center for Science and Environment (CSE). The CSE recommends washing with 2% of salt water will remove most of the contact pesticide residues that normally appear on the surface of the vegetables and fruits. Almost 75 to 80 percent of pesticide residues are removed by cold water washing. Be more thorough with these fruits and vegetables in specific: grapes, apples, guava, plums, mangoes, peaches and pears and vegetables like tomatoes, brinjal and okra because they can carry more residue in their crevices.

Consumer Reports recommends rinsing, rubbing, or scrubbing fruits and vegetables at home to help remove pesticide residue. A study from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, suggests soaking them in a solution of baking soda and water.

A first step to safer eating can be smart shopping. Domestic fruits and vegetables have smaller amounts of pesticides than imported brands because many countries don’t have regulations on pesticides. For instance, imported cantaloupes are 7 times likelier to have pesticide residue than domestic brands.

You should wash all fruits and vegetables that have a peel you can eat. You can use a mild soap but you should rinse them well. Bananas and oranges can be peeled, but you should wash them because the pesticides on the peel will get on your hands when you peel it and into your system. Wash and peel apples, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, pears, strawberries and any vegetables that have been waxed. Avoid cooking tomatoes and apples that have been treated with pesticides because the pesticide residue in them becomes more concentrated with heat.

To help minimize the pesticide residue you take in, make sure you pull off the outer leafs of foods like cabbage and lettuce. The leaf tops of celery are like a sponge and draw pesticides into the stalk. Trimming them can reduce pesticide residue up to 90%.

Many people are enjoying fresh vegetables without pesticides by planting their own gardens. Some Farmers markets have foods with fewer pesticides than the chain supermarkets. Wherever you get your fruits and vegetables make sure they’re as healthy as possible by cleaning them thoroughly.

The body can handle small amounts of pesticides because the liver and kidneys detoxify our systems. However, this protective system doesn’t work if the body doesn’t have time to clear the pesticide residue from the body before you ingest more.

Last and most important, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables so you don’t take in the same pesticides every day. Most vegetables and fruits are sprayed with a different pesticide, so if you don’t take in the same pesticide every day your body can get rid of most of the various pesticides one at a time.

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