Here’s When Buying Organic Counts Most
What you need to know about the ‘Dirty Dozen’ & the ‘Clean Fifteen’
Do you buy all organic? Sometimes organic? Never organic?
These days, close to 60 per cent of Canadians are buying some organic products every week, according to the Canadian Organic Trade Association.
“The main reason I choose organic is because of what it doesn’t contain,” says Julie Daniluk, a registered nutritionist, health educator and the recipient of the 2012 Organic Achievement Award from the Canadian Health Food Association. Needless to say, she’s a big fan of all things organic and writes about it on her website.
“When we buy certified organic it’s not grown from genetically-modified seeds and there are no fungicides, pesticides or herbicides sprayed on the crop. On the flip side, we also know there are more antioxidants in produce that’s grown organically because it’s picked closer to ripeness and there are also more nutrients in the soil.”
While scientific studies vary in their findings on the human impact of chemicals used in conventional food production – and that debate continues – the market for organic products continues to grow, recently pegged by Statistics Canada as being worth about $3.7 billion.
In March of 2015, 17 experts from 11 countries met in France at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer to assess whether certain pesticides cause cancers. While some studies were inconclusive, the insecticide diazinon (designed by a Swiss company in the 1950s to replace DDT) was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.’ So was the widely-used herbicide glyphosate, which is currently used in more than 750 agricultural, forestry, urban and home use products. Just this April, Health Canada launched a public consultation process on its proposed re-evaluation of products containing glyphosate.
She cites the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) lists as a great place to start. The Dirty Dozen – or the produce that tends to have the most pesticides if not organic – includes grapes, apples, peaches, nectarines, celery, cherry tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers and hot peppers, kale and collard.
The EWG’s Clean Fifteen lists the produce that tends to have the least pesticides (in part because they can be peeled). That list includes asparagus, mangos, avocados, onions, papayas, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, pineapples, sweet corn, eggplant, sweet peas, grapefruit, sweet potatoes and kiwi.
And keep in mind that certain chemicals that were outright banned in Canada are still in use elsewhere. “They’re simply imported back into Canada and consumed here,” she says.