Andrew J Green, writer
Articles > Why we should eat organic … and why ‘washing’ fruit & vegetables will not remove the pesticides
Why we should eat organic
… and why ‘washing’ fruit & vegetables will not remove the pesticides
'You can't just wash it off!
I tweeted recently about the heavy use of fumigant fungicides on the Californian strawberry crop
I wrote: “CA: strawberry industry routinely uses highly toxic fumigant. Answer: buy organic, or grow your own!”
I received a reply to my tweet: “wash all fruit before eating. Organic doesn't taste as good doesn't last as long and costs more”
There is a lot going on behind that bland statement: “wash all fruit before eating” - naivety; misplaced trust; self-delusion.
I had thought that what I said was pretty much self-evident, but I am constantly pulled up by the fact that many things which I think are pretty obvious instead actually serve to inflame a large proportion of people. Unfortunately, of course, it’s difficult not to reach the depressing conclusion that this is actually what the majority of people think – nature is pretty good, but man, with his oh-so-wonderful grasp of science and technology, can always better nature. And this will be for the ultimate benefit of humanity.
The most commonly used fungicide on these 40,000 acres of strawberry plantations (which produce more than 80% of the USA’s crop) is chloropicrin. This chemical is described as a “broad-spectrum antimicrobial, fungicide, herbicide, insecticide, and nematicide”. Chloropicrin was manufactured by Germany during WWI as a poison gas (ie a chemical weapon), which is severely irritating to the lungs, eyes, and skin. It is injected into the soil prior to planting and will kill just about any pest or fungus in the soil stone dead. It’s also a carcinogen.
Surely any reasonable person would agree that is not a safe chemical to be anywhere near food we eat, let alone actually injected into the soil which crops are grown in! Obviously, governments classify chemicals like this as safe to use with various required safeguards but the links between government agencies and the manufacturers of these chemicals are too close for me to take any comfort from that.
The bottom line is that chemical and pharmaceutical companies need to sell these products in order to make money. That’s what they do: they manufacture chemicals and they sell them. If they sell less, they make less money. These companies are not charities and they are not in business for the good of mankind, only for the good of their own profit.
I’m not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with making profit. I run a small business myself: if I didn’t make a profit, I wouldn’t be able to pay our rent, or our electricity bill.
But capitalism used to be a deal – a company makes money and, in return, it provides a living for its workers. On a local scale, it still mostly works like that. But these are not local-scale companies; they are vast multi-national mega-corporations. They are essentially answerable to nobody: not to you or me; not to governments.
The deal has broken down. Its proponents would argue that it was capitalism which created our Western economies; it was capitalism which provided the majority of us in the supposedly ‘developed’ world with what we would recognise as our modern, comparatively comfortable lifestyle. But, if it ever was like that, it certainly isn’t any more! Isn’t it just common sense to wonder whether the making of profit isn’t a good enough reason to do something?
So my view is that, if a large company, or a Government ‘health’ department, says something – anything – about your health, you would do well to choose scepticism as your default position.
And this includes the ‘advice’ that pesticides can be simply “washed” off fruit and vegetables. Taking this advice as something valid, sound and truthful displays a quite breath-taking naivety and an extremely misplaced faith that those in government or big business, who we have willingly allowed to have power over us, really do have our best interests at heart.
They want us be ‘useful idiots’, as Lenin is attributed as saying: people behaving as (often unwitting) propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of that cause.
It is our duty to see through the deceit. It is our duty to not be useful to them and to not be idiots for their causes.
But I digress.
Now, we are pretty much self-sufficient in organically grown vegetables in our large garden here in Dorset, in southern England. I have been growing here for 20 years, so I think it would be fair to say that I have gained some knowledge about growing.
I know, for example that:
- all plants use their root secretions to break down the soil and absorb the resultant dissolved compounds through their roots;
- sometimes plants will benefit from a foliar feed: spraying, for example, a seaweed solution on their leaves. They will take up the nutrients via their leaves;
- ‘systemic’ pesticides are sprayed onto a plant’s foliage and are then absorbed by the plant and distributed in their sap system (no, I don’t use them!);
- most house plants are very effective at absorbing air-borne pollutants and thereby acting as natural air purifiers: spider plants (chlorophytum), for example, absorb carcinogens like formaldehyde and styrene and decompose benzene and nicotine in tobacco smoke.
So the idea that you can somehow get rid of chemicals sprayed on plants by “washing” them before eating is fundamentally wrong and very seriously mistaken! Plants are not made out of non-absorbent, inert plastic, but are living, breathing organisms which absorb everything which is in the air, liquid, or soil with which they are in contact.
Post-harvest dusting – yes, you might be able to remove some of that, but not by “washing”; you’d have to scrub. Good luck with scrubbing strawberries.
This ridiculous idea that pesticides can be removed from non-organic food by simply washing them really has to be one of the most idiotic lies put out by the chemical-based food industry and lapped up by the general public. It’s about time it was laid to rest for ever.
I think that in the UK I might be classified as an out of touch New Age hippy. In the US, maybe that, or maybe a gun-toting survivalist nutcase. Well, I’m not. I have a degree in Maths & Computer Science, have worked in IT all my working life and my main business until recently was as a self-employed web designer, so I am not averse to technology per se.
But just how much more technology do we need, in order to live a - supposedly - happier, safer, healthier and more satisfying life? How many more chemicals do we need sprayed on, or added to, our food, to make it look nicer or last longer? How many more environmental pollutants – and I am including mobile (cell) phone radiation here – should we put up with, as the inevitable cost of making our lives supposedly better?
So, fundamentally, I do think that, in general terms, if Nature/God made it, it’s probably OK for us to eat. But if man made it (or tampered with it) it probably isn’t.
And, please, don’t tell me that organic food “doesn’t taste as good” and don’t tell me that I can “wash” off the chemicals. Just come to my garden and taste it for yourself … but you might have to wash the dirt off the carrots first!
© Andrew Green, November 2016