at the grocery storeConventional produce full of vitamins, minerals and, quite possibly, pesticides. Even very educated consumers may have no idea what organophosphates (OPs) are — even though many of us ingest them on a regular basis.  That’s right, while overall use of OPs has declined in recent decades due to increased consumer awareness, according to the USDA, organophosphates are still among the top insecticides used on conventionally grown produce in the United States — blueberries to broccoli, grapes to green beans, and many others.

So what does this mean? Well that depends on how you feel about ingesting toxic residue.

Organophosphates have been shown to be toxic to the nervous system in people who are exposed to them directly, and cause immediate acute adverse reactions when inhaled.  Long term, prenatal and childhood exposure has shown a range of neurological effects in farming families in the communities where OPs are utilized.

But what if you’re not one of those farming families, but rather just part of the general population of the United States? A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found OP residue in the urine of 75% of us. Seventy-five percent. That makes it surprising that so many conventionally grown crops are still treated with this toxic substance.

Washing and/or peeling the produce will remove some residue, but not necessarily all of it, and often, the majority of a fruit or vegetable’s nutrition and fiber content is found in the peel, so you don’t WANT to take it all off! On the flip side, a recent study comparing the urine samples of people who ate organic produce to those who ate conventional produce found organic produce consumers had significantly lower levels of OPs in their samples. The more organic the diet, the less residue found, suggesting that eating organically grown versions of foods highest in pesticide residues can make a dramatic difference.

While it’s true organic produce does cost more than conventionally grown produce, the long term effects may prove worth it.  Eating fruits and vegetables is very important to everyone’s diets. If you can’t afford to go all organic, do what you can. Simply reducing your level of exposure by mixing in organics is better than nothing.  And because some produce absorbs more pesticides than others, educate yourself on which fruits and vegetables need to come from the organic section and which don’t.  For help on this, google “The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen,” or follow this link to the Vegetarian Institute’s lists of most and least contaminated produce pesticides-on-fruits-and-vegetables-vegan.php.