When deciding what to buy organic in the produce section, I try to keep in mind both the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and the list of Genetically Modified vegetables and grains. Apples are one fruit that I always buy organic because of their high load of toxic pesticides.
Today’s apples are vulnerable to pests because of the lack of bio-diversity in our apple orchards. The reason for this has to do with the way apple trees are grown and cultivated.
Apple trees are grown from clones where cut branches that are grafted onto a living tree to take root. This is why the apple industry can offer us the same varieties year after year. See, when you grow an apple tree from seeds, it is unlikely the resulting tree would produce anything like the apple that supplied the seeds. Cloning produces the same apples over and over. In one of my favorite tales, Michael Pollan explains the history of the apple in fascinating detail in The Botony of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World.
Farmers repeatedly spray apples during the growing season to keep the pests away and produce blemish-free apples. These pesticides are designed to be sticky and not rinse off in water. A 2004 study by the CDC found that 100% of the subjects tested had pesticide residue in their blood and urine that were 4.6 times higher than the FDA approved. Pesticides have been linked in humans to poisoning, infertility, birth defects, nervous system problems, and cancer.
No matter how well you wash it, every time you eat a conventionally-grown apple, you also ingest some of that pesticide residue. And that’s only from one source. Many other processed foods and produce we eat also carry pesticides into our bodies.
The good news is that organic apples are not usually hard to find, and the organic Honeycrisp apple season is in full swing! I look forward to the Honeycrisps every year – my favorite kind of apple!