Monday, February 10, 2014

Organic vs. Con... who has fewer and safer pesticides?

A friend sent the following article, Organic Shmorganic, 

 ~Mark, I can see why the article disturbed and confused you. It was crafted to do just that. This looks not to be a mom sharing her truth but a mercenary piece paid for by chemical/Bio-tec Agriculture. It was in the news a few weeks ago that Big-Ag had hired PR people to “fight back’ against bad press. The recent Anti-GMO campaigns, headlines of bees dying off in large numbers, tests that show higher levels of pesticides in the urine of children who were fed conventional produce has all been taking a toll. This looks to be the first wave, so learning to navigate the misinformation is important. I’ve made comments that may help in seeing through the illusion. 

It begins…
“When my son was a baby, organic was a synonym for edible. If the apples I found at the grocery store weren’t certified, I wasn’t buying them. I knew that conventional produce could harbor traces of pesticides, and I’d read that pesticides could affect brain development. Sure, the details of this association were hazy ~the set-up~ I didn’t know how many pesticides my son might ingest from Shoprite strawberries, nor did I know whether that amount would do him any harm. But in a way, it didn’t matter: Shelling out a bit more cash to minimize the risks, whatever they were, seemed worth it to me.
Fast-forward two years and my son is eating Shoprite strawberries for breakfast. I support the principles of organic farming, for sure, but it can be hard to consistently pay $7 for a pint of something he’ll go through in two days.”  

~We pay about $3 to $4 at Trader Joes~
~Tests in 2012 showed thirteen different pesticides were measured on a single sample of conventional strawberries. 52 pesticides were detected on sampled conventional peaches, including residues of highly toxic organophosphates. She could switch the child to seasonal organic fruit, which is usually on special, but be it $7 or $3, if my kid was eating a half a pint a day I’d buy organic. ~
She continues, Plus, I can’t help but wonder whether giving my son organic food really makes a difference to his health, considering that he’s been known to lick the bottom of his shoes, kiss my poop-sniffing dog, and eat crackers -- someone else’s -- off of the preschool floor.” ~Intent; to equate chemical pesticides with germs, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” runs through…only chemical pesticides and herbicide can be accumulative and build up over time in brain tissue and vital organs.~
Instead of continuing to wonder, I decided to dig into the literature and talk to toxicologists, horticulturists, risk experts, and nutritionists to find out whether the chemicals in conventionally farmed foods could truly pose a risk to my child. What I’ve discovered has totally surprised me~ Substitute; the story I’m going to spin will make you wonder if conventionally farmed produces is not safer and more environmentally friendly than organic~ “- let’s just say I’m going to be a little more relaxed about what I serve kid No. 2”.
“I want to start off by saying that this column is not about whether organic agriculture is worth supporting for its environmental benefits (I think it is) or whether we as a society should care about the chemicals found in our foods and household products (I think we should). This column is about whether it’s worth buying organic produce for your kids specifically because you think the pesticides on conventional produce could harm them.. (If you’re curious about the importance of feeding your kids organic dairy products, meats, and eggs, you’ll have to wait because I’m going to tackle that in another column).
 ~Oh joy! ~
I’m also not going to spend much space addressing the recent debate over whether organic produce has higher concentrations of beneficial nutrients than conventionally-farmed produce does. James McWilliams already did a good job of discussing the nuances of that issue in Slate; from the research, it seems fairly clear that organic fruits and veggies don’t hold a major nutritional edge over conventional ones except in that they may contain fewer nitrates and more vitamin C, but there’s little evidence that these differences translate into actual health benefits”.

~The link leads to an article from the same publication that published this article. It’s written by a Texan who also wrote; “Just Food- Where Locavores Get It Wrong”. He does his best to look impartial while writing to neutralize or downplay the benefits of organic. They could just as easily linked to other studies and articles with finding of organic superiority in some produce with higher vitamin C, anti-oxidants and trace minerals, but no- they went with the anti-locavore. - (*Locavore- Eating local food= fresher food, lower carbon footprint, supporting your local farmer rather than big-Ag., and increased food security).~
“ It’s also difficult to broadly compare the nutrients found in organically versus conventionally grown foods because geography and individual farm practices can impact growth drastically”. ~ Disclaimer after legal reviewed of the article? ~
“So let’s focus on that other major claim about organic food -- that is it’s healthier, particularly for kids, because it contains fewer pesticides. First, let’s start with the fact that organic does not mean pesticide-free. As scientist and writer Christie Wilcox explains in several eye-opening blog posts over at Scientific American, organic farmers can and often do use pesticides. The difference is that conventional farmers are allowed to use synthetic pesticides, whereas organic farmers are (mostly) limited to “natural” ones, chosen primarily because they break down easily in the environment and are less likely to pollute land and water. (I say “mostly” because several synthetic chemicals are approved for use in organic farming, too.)”

~The next few paragraphs will infer that organic food has more pesticides, and is grown with more dangerous pesticides, neither of which is true. It’s an artful bit of toxic smoke-and-mirror illution.

~Before being led down the rabbit-hole, let’s establish some reality. - "Organic fruits and vegetables, have a 30% lower risk of contamination with pesticide residues compared to conventional produce," said Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler of Stanford University, lead on the study.

~ …And the organic industry has new residue testing in place to check high risk crops, If crops test positive for pesticide residue the buffer zones can be adjusted or other measures taken to better protect organic integrity! So, while Organic strives for industry improvement, Conventional Ag is hiring people to write misleading articles. ~

“The assumption, of course, is that these natural pesticides are safer than the synthetic ones. Many of them are, but there are some notable exceptions. Rotenone, a pesticide allowed in organic farming, is far more toxic by weight than many synthetic pesticides. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency sets exposure limits for the amount of a chemical that individuals (including kids) can be exposed to per day without any adverse effects. For Rotenone, the EPA has determined that people should be exposed to no more than 0.004 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day”

~Rotenone falls under 205.206 (e) natural pesticides that can be used when the pest hierarchy is found to insufficient. It’s occurs in nature, ONLY SMALL QUANTITIES ARE NECESSARY, and it has only minor and transient environmental side effects. Rotenone rapidly biodegrades under warm conditions, (about 6 days) so harmful residues are minimal. ~
Let’s compare this toxicity to that of some commonly used synthetic pesticides, like the organophosphate pesticide Malathion. The non-profit Pesticide Action Network calls organophosphates “some of the most common and most toxic insecticides used today.” (Sarin, the nerve gas used in two Japanese terrorist attacks in the 1990s, is a potent organophosphate.) Yet the EPA has deemed it safe, based on animal tests, for humans to be exposed to 0.02 milligrams of Malathion per kilogram of body weight per day. This is five times more than the amount deemed safe for Rotenone.”

~ This is where the writer(s) looses all credibility.  Malathion and similar pesticides have been banned or restricted in 23 countries, Organophosphates are tied to numerous health issues and are illegal to import in a total of 50 countries. By comparison, Rotenone, is a naturally derived pesticide made from plants (like jicama).  It breaks down quickly and is not easily absorbed through human skin or the gastric intestinal track. Linking the two pesticides in any way other than as polar-opposites is deliberately misleading. As for the weight argument: Imagine using weight as comparison of BBs to hand grenades. Both have warnings and are dangerous to children; a BB could be swallowed or shot from a tiny gun. It takes many many BBs by weight to equal one hand grenade… both have safety warnings, better to give the infant one hand grenade? ~

  In other words, by weight, the natural pesticide Rotenone is considered five times more harmful than synthetic pesticide Malathion. The EPA’s recommended exposure limit for Glyphosate, another widely used synthetic pesticide -- you might know it as Round-Up -- is 0.1 milligrams per kilogram per day, which means it’s 25 times less toxic by weight than Rotenone. The synthetic pesticide Captan is 32.5 times less toxic than Rotenone, and another one, Pyrimethanil, is 42.5 times less toxic than Rotenone. Rotenone is also not the only natural pesticide that out-ranks synthetic pesticides in terms of toxicity. The pyrethrins, a class of pesticides derived from chrysanthemums that are approved for use in organic farming, are more toxic by weight than Round-Up, Captan, and Pyrimethanil, too”.

 ~* Synthetic pyrethroids, are prohibited by NOP for use in organic crop production. Pyrethrum, a natural pesticide found in chrysanthemums, is a restricted material.
 ~ As for the Round-up mentioned above…Just in~ (Gilles-Eric Seralini's, whose earlier work found that rats exposed to genetically modified maize and the pesticide Roundup developed tumors and other health problems, before his findings were questioned, and retracted by the powers-that-be. This week published that follow-up tests, this time using human cells, showed that Roundup and other pesticides were "between two and 1,000 times more toxic than their main, active ingredient" This was problematic, said Seralini, as the toxicity of the active ingredient is what determines product guidelines for accepted exposure levels to the pesticide being used. “There has been a miscalculation of the real toxicity of pesticides," the professor said, claiming his research showed "cells begin to commit suicide" in petri dish experiments after exposure to the chemicals.)  ~ One must understand, the chemical manufacturers have influenced the legislation to define the criteria of safety testing. Everyone who ever took chemistry knows that combining chemicals will generate altogether deferent results that the chemicals would individually.  Until we have sensible testing we really wont know the human limits of the chemical brews. ~

It’s only fair to directly compare toxicities if people are being exposed to similar amounts of these synthetic and natural pesticides
 ~ It would be fair if the natural and the synthetics were equally in toxicity~  
Many organic farmers use pesticides as a last resort—so in theory, exposures to natural pesticides should be low. (Conventional growers don’t use pesticides unless they have to, either, though; spraying is expensive.) The problem is that farmers often “have to use a lot of the natural pesticides because they break down faster,” explains Linda Chalker-Scott, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Washington State University. “One of the benefits of some of the more traditional synthetic pesticides is that they have been manufactured to be more effective at lower doses.”
~ The author will next quote a 1989 report, in which there is no mention of an established pest hierarchy because there isn’t one.  The study only proves;
·       Conventional growers using the environmentally responsible pesticide should first establish a sustainable pest hierarchy.
·       If when digging through archives for a study to makes your point… and a test does not exist in the time frame of the actual rule… there may not be a point to be made.  There was no NOP rule in 1989 and there wasn’t much being developed for organic pest control… because THERE WAS NO RULE! A scientist writing about organics would have known that. The reader on the other hand might not. 
·       FYI- The majority of our farmers use little to no pesticides because uses of predator bugs, varietal plant selection and other pest hierarchy measures drastically reduce pest stress. And unlike conventional GMO producers, organic farmers do not spray Glyphosate on your food. ~
“Indeed, in a 1989 report, researchers at McGill University grew apples using either a mixture of organically approved natural pesticides, including a mixture of Rotenone and pyrethrins, or a synthetic pesticide called Imidan. They found that, using the natural pesticides, they could achieve a 75 percent yield on their apples only if they sprayed the fruit at least six to seven times throughout the growing season; using the synthetic pesticide, they could get a 90 percent yield with just four sprays. Another more recent study compared the efficacy of two natural pesticides to two synthetic pesticides and found the organic ones to be much less effective against aphids (plant lice) than the synthetic ones. Since organic farmers may have to spray crops more frequently with natural pesticides, it’s not crazy to think,”
~Creating doubt without blatantly lying…~
 “that organic produce could sometimes have just as much, if not more, pesticide on it -- natural pesticide, yes, but remember that natural isn’t intrinsically safe -- compared to conventional produce.”

 ~ I will agree that there is no comparison. The author clearly tells us that the chemical pesticides are more lethal and last longer… and as a result they are more likely to show up at your table? Hmm.~
“Ah, but what about all those studies that suggest that organic fruits and veggies harbor fewer pesticide residues than conventionally farmed produce does? Those studies only tested for synthetic pesticides. In the few studies that have also looked for natural pesticides -- the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program tested for them on organic lettuce in 2009, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation tested a handful of organic fruits and vegetables for certain natural and synthetic pesticides in 2010, and the USDA did an analysis of organic produce in 2010 -- scientists have found that between 15 and 43 percent of organic produce samples harbor measurable traces of either natural or synthetic pesticides or both. far as I can tell, however, no one has published a comparison of the overall amounts of both types of pesticides on organic versus conventional produce, so it’s hard to conclude much from these findings other than that, yes, organic produce can be pesticide-tainted, too“
~There are different ways, (most of them tedious), like pulling a similar test for conventional lettuce… (Google; What’s in my food? ).  Rather than offering up more statistics to show that organic produce has measurably less pesticide residues, let’s go in a different direction.  ~A client called our office last week to ask about taking a huge swatch of neighboring land organic. It seems his beekeeper friend houses some of his bees on our client’s organic orchard, with the rest were working conventional groves in the Central Valley. This year he had a 95% loss of bees in conventional groves. The organic bees were all good, no collapse, just happy bees. The beekeeper was emotionally and financially devastated by the loss and was exploring ways to protect his future operation from such disaster. Organic or Conventional, which would appear to have the more dangerous and toxic pesticides? ~
So now the question is: Are these pesticides harmful to your kids? As any toxicologist will tell you, it’s the dose that makes the poison. In other words, just because both conventional and organic produce are sometimes laced with pesticides doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing anyone any harm. And an analysis of the numbers suggests they’re not. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Toxicology, Carl Winter, a pesticide and risk assessment specialist at the University of California-Davis, and his colleague Josh Katz took a close look at the fruits and vegetables that topped the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list -- a top 12 list of what the non-profit group considers the most highly contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables sold in the United States. (This year, apples, strawberries, and grapes topped the list.) Winter was concerned that the EWG’s methodology was flawed; among other things, the non-profit group does not compare actual pesticide levels on fruits and vegetables to the EPA’s exposure limits to estimate true health effects of consumption.”

~Smoke-and-mirrors, but they are wearing me down~

To estimate how dangerous the pesticide exposures from the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” actually are, Winter and his colleagues analyzed USDA data to determine the average levels of the 10 most commonly found pesticides on each of the 12 conventionally farmed fruits and veggies. They then used other USDA data to estimate the average amounts of each pesticide that individuals typically ingest from each of the 12 fruits and vegetables in a 24-hour period. Finally, they compared those daily exposure estimates to the EPA’s exposure limits for each pesticide.
What did they find? Well, let’s start with apples, which the EWG considers the most pesticide-laden fruit or vegetable out there, and look at the pesticide that is most commonly found on them, called Thiabendazole. Winter and his colleagues found that, each day from conventionally-grown apples and apple-based products, Americans typically consume a dose of Thiabendazole that is 787 times less than the EPA’s recommended exposure limit. Put another way, you’d have to eat as many apples and apple products as 787 Americans eat in a single day combined in order to be exposed to a level of this pesticide that approaches the EPA’s exposure limit.
For other fruits and vegetables, Winter and his colleagues found even less reason to worry. For Captan, the synthetic pesticide most commonly found on conventionally grown strawberries, Americans are exposed to 8,180 times less of the chemical per day than the EPA’s limit. Overall, Winter and his colleagues reported that the EPA’s exposure limits were more than 1000 times higher than the daily exposure estimates for 90 percent of the fruit and vegetable comparisons they made.”
~Things we know~
·       ~The tests for limits are done on the active ingredient only- not the brew being applied to the crop.
·       Chemicals can be cumulative; some are stored in the brain and organ tissue for years.
·       When combined with other chemical exposure, the limits of a single chemical can multiply down to smaller amount being acceptable, less or none is the target for parents.
·       Chemicals are not germs- what doesn’t kill us today can effect our future health or the health of our children. ~
Granted, we’re exposed to pesticides through other means, too, and some pesticides may have cumulative effects -- but Winter says that even so, Americans won’t be ingesting anything close to the EPA’s limits for any of the pesticides used in U.S. agriculture. (And if you ever did ingest a pesticide at or above the EPA’s limit, you wouldn’t suddenly keel over and die. The agency sets pesticide limits at least 100 times lower than the lowest dose that caused any sign of harm, however minimal, to animals when they were fed that amount every day for most of their lives.) “We have a tremendous amount of data showing that what we’re exposed to in the diet for pesticides is very, very low, and certainly much lower than what would be required to have any even minimal health concern,” Winter says. And by the way, in none of these studies were the fruits and vegetables rinsed with tap water before they were tested, yet research suggests that doing so can reduce pesticide exposures significantly. Rubbing the food during rinsing helps, too”. ~Most fruit is washed at the packinghouse, pesticide tests are run from the point of sale; if the packinghouse wash didn’t do the job more washing?~  For more information go to:  ~~~~
In light of all this, what should we make of some of the research suggesting that kids exposed to pesticides are more likely to develop ADHD, lower IQs, and autism? Importantly, the latter two studies did not link pesticide exposure from food to these problems; what they found was that pregnant women who were exposed to high levels of pesticides, either occupationally or because they lived close to farms, were at an increased risk for giving birth to babies who went on to have lower IQs or develop autism. The study linking ADHD to pesticides is potentially more concerning: It found that kids ages 8 to 15 who had 10-fold higher concentrations of a pesticide break-down product in their urine had about 1.5 times the odds of having ADHD. It’s important to note, however, that the study only took a single urine measurement in the kids, so it’s hard to know whether it accurately reflected the children’s usual pesticide exposure or whether the day of testing could have been anomalous. Ideally, for a study like this, you want to track urine pesticide levels multiple times to make sure they’re consistent. One scientist critiqued the study because it did not control for the fact that ADHD often runs in families; if the researchers had done this, he argued, they probably would have found no association between pesticide exposure and ADHD. Finally, the ADHD study focused on the organophosphate pesticides, which are becoming less and less commonly used by U.S. farmers every year.

~Those individuals who are being exposed to high amounts of pesticides were exposed while growing chemically farmed food for someone’s table. No amount of scrubbing ones veggies will safeguard the conventional field-worker, their future, their child and health.  We know we can grow food organically. We have seen that the more popular organic becomes the more the cost comes down. The purveyors of GMO and the chemicals that are used to farm them see trouble ahead in the form of shrinking profits. Articles to confuse consumers are cheap insurance to help maintain market share. ~
~The rest of the article is an advisement to eat more conventional veggies. ~

There’s another important thing to keep in mind about fruits and veggies: They are chock full of many naturally-occurring toxic compounds—things like flavonoids, hydrogen peroxide, and formaldehyde. Research conducted by Bruce Ames, director of the Nutrition & Metabolism Center at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, has found that Americans consume about 1,500 milligrams of natural toxins from plants a day, which is approximately 16,000 times more than the 0.09 milligrams of synthetic pesticides we get from food every day. These natural toxins are for real, too: According to Ames’s work, the natural chemicals that are known to cause cancer in animals and are found in a single cup of coffee are about equal in weight to a year’s worth of our exposure to synthetic pesticide residues that are known to cause cancer. In a 1996 report, the National Research Council, a non-profit institution that provides expert advice to the government, noted that “natural components of the diet may prove to be of greater concern than synthetic components with respect to cancer risk,” in part because “synthetic chemicals are highly regulated while natural chemicals are not.”
If you ask Ames or the National Research Council what all this means, you won’t hear anyone say OMG don’t eat plants; they are trying to kill us. It’s Ames’s belief that plants are exceptionally good for us in spite of the fact that they contain high levels of natural toxins -- and that we certainly shouldn’t be worried about the minuscule differences in pesticide levels between organic and conventional foods. Indeed, if the research literature is clear about anything regarding fruits and vegetables, it’s that eating more of them -- conventional or organic -- does good things for the body. Onereview concluded that the quartile of Americans who eat the most fruits and vegetables, organic or not, are about half as likely to develop cancer compared to the quartile who eat the least. Fruits and veggies may also prevent heart disease anddiabetes. A fascinating 2012 study used research-based models to predict what would happen if half of all Americans increased their (conventional) fruit and vegetable intake by a single serving each day; it predicted that doing so would prevent 20,000 cases of cancer a year. When the authors modeled whether this increased intake might pose risks due to the greater pesticide exposure, they concluded that yes, there might be 10 additional cases of cancer every year in the U.S. Put another way, the benefits far, far outweigh the risks.
What all this means for parents is that we should stop worrying so much about whether the apples we buy are organic or conventional -- we should just start giving our kids more apples. (And, sure, wash them when you can.) The Environmental Working Group agrees: In the first sentence of the executive summary of its 2013 Shoppers Guide to Produce, the organization points out that “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” What’s more, irrational fears over conventionally farmed produce can introduce dangerous trade-offs. As University of Michigan decision psychologist Brian Zikmund-Fisher put it to me, “If you don’t feed your kid the ‘right strawberry,’ what do you feed him?” I’ve walked into markets with a hungry kid and been so afraid to buy the conventional apple that I’ve gotten him a snack pack of Annie’s Crackers instead. And I know there are parents who buy the Peter Rabbit Organics Fruit Pouches at Starbucks because they don’t know whether the bananas on display are organic. These aren’t smart moves. It is far, far better for your kids’ long-term health to get them in the habit of eating whole fruits and vegetables, regardless of what type of farm they came from, than to give them pretty much anything else to eat, no matter how organic or all-natural it may be.”

~The intelligent parent would know that a banana could be peeled. Never the less I don’t know anyone who eats 100% organic especially when traveling and/or dining out. The system isn’t fully in place to support all-organic but it’s getting better with more affordable organic food choices turning up in markets and restaurants.

Organic producers are getting better results using safer pesticides, few if any herbicides and environmentally sustainable farming practices. Meanwhile conventional agriculture is lobbying to get stronger brews legalized as the weeds and bugs have adapted. Please understand the biggest difference is MONEY. There are some super-cool people making a living selling beneficial bugs and Bio-flora Crumbles to organic farmers… Then there is Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and DuPont, who can’t get rich from organic and can afford to buy people to write confusing articles.

Like the plants we eat, we are a product of our environment. Our health, our future, and the future of our children are intrinsically tied to the health of the environment. In the time of Camelot it was said: The land and the King are one. Holistically speaking, the land and the people are one. ~ 

The article was written by;
Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science writer based in Cold Spring, N.Y. and is DoubleX’s parenting advice columnist. Follow her on Twitter.
In addition to the sources mentioned, The Kids would like to thank Jeff Gillman at Central Piedmont Community College.

~The map was offered by Ro Elgas~
***Please share liberally!