Pesticides found in Canadian organic produce

CBC news obtained records by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that showed nearly 24 per cent of the organic apples tested between 2009 and 2010 contained pesticide residue.

In an email, CFIA officials told CBC News that “Based on the limited data we have, we can also say that it appears that these pesticide residues are being found in ‘organic’ products less frequently and at somewhat lower levels than ‘conventional’ produce.”

Dr. Walter Krol, who tests produce for the State of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection noted in an interview that pesticides can come from a variety of sources such as spray drift, post harvest processing, or the soil it is grown in. “Pesticides are ending up in produce somehow and it’s not supposed to happen so there are flaws in the integrity. If they are concerned about pesticide residues, I don’t think it does a very good job of meeting those expectations,” said Krol.

Many of the samples obtained contained more than one type of residue, according to CFIA documents.

The data shows that the organic apples were found to have pesticide residue of an average of 0.03 parts per million (ppm) of the fungicide thiabendazole, while regular apples contained 0.4 ppm of the same substance.

Of the 112 samples, only one was investigated because it violated the maximum pesticide residue limit, posing a potential health risk. The other samples were allowed to be sold as organic.

The CFIA sets the regulations on what can be called organic, but does not certify products as organic. Instead it uses certifiers outside the government to ensure producers are complying with the set rules.

In order to be certified in Canada, producers must prove their crops have been grown and processed according to CFTA regulations. Just having the presence of pesticides on their produce does not mean they didn’t follow the organic process.

The CFIA does not have enough information at this time to track down individual certifying bodies to figure out how the pesticide got on the produce, but they are working on correcting this.

Michel Saumur, the national manager of the CFIA’s Canada Organic Office said, “Unfortunately, because there’s information missing, that information at this time could not be used to link to a certification body at this time … It’s not possible. We feel that most of this presence is based on non-intentional contamination.”

The CFIA’s Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards document noted that some pesticide exposure is beyond the farmer’s control, stating that “Organic practices and this standard cannot assure that organic products are entirely free of residues of substances prohibited by this standard.”



Keep healthy food healthy

The Zoomer Report: Organic Standards