Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of the "dirty dozen" — that is, twelve fruits and vegetables that they highly recommend people should buy organic, as opposed to conventionally grown.
The list, which is based on the pesticide residues found on 48 popular fruit and vegetables, has similar findings this year to past releases. However, two notable additions for 2015 include hot chili peppers and kale/collard greens, which are highlighted because of the types of pesticides being used on the produce.
"Residue tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found these foods laced with particularly toxic pesticides. Among the chemicals at issue are organophosphate and carbamate insecticides." These types of pesticides attack the nervous system, according to National Geographic, so even though they're used in small doses in North America, people who eat a lot of these types of foods are advised to seek out organic options.
Although pesticides used in Canada, particularly on food, are highly regulated, there are still potential ill effects from ingesting these chemicals, particularly for people with compromised immune systems, according to Prevention magazine. And there are other reasons to consider buying organic produce as well.
As Director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada Andrew Hammermeister pointed out in an email to The Huffington Post Canada, eating organic food is not just a matter of reducing pesticide intake.
"Organic foods are an excellent option for consumers that want to reduce exposure to synthetic pesticides, genetically engineered organisms, growth hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, food colouring, flavours etc.," he wrote. But it also benefits ecological sustainability, biodiversity and animal welfare, and reduces environmental exposure to nanotechnology and antibiotics.
Meanwhile, a study reported last year by the CBC noted that half of all organic produce in the country was found to contain pesticides. The reasons ranged from pesticide residue in water or soil, contact with non-organic produce, and of course, the possibility that some farmers are using pesticide when they claim they aren't. From the sample, 1.8 per cent of produce exceeded the allowable limits by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
So what is a consumer who wants to avoid pesticides to do? First of all, eat from the "clean" fruits and veggies on the list below — they have the least amount of pesticides, thanks to their thicker (and more protective) skins. Secondly, for the "dirty" produce, consider buying organic. Even though it is possible they'll contain some pesticides, it will be far less than conventionally grown foods.