A new research report commissioned by the European Parliament highlights the trouble with using pesticides on food crops, namely that these pesticides remain on the food to various degrees even after washing. It’s for this reason that many countries, including Europe and the US, have upper limits on how much pesticide can be used on food crops, though such limits are based on what we know about the chemicals’ effects on animals, not humans. Looking at long-term studies monitoring the effects of pesticides on human development, the results are highly concerning.
The three aforementioned studies show harmful results on human brain development, including thinner gray matter in children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of pesticides during pregnancy, as well as the presence of conditions like ADHD and even lower IQs. The mothers’ exposures to pesticides during pregnancy were determined using urine samples. Organophosphates used in pesticides are one big problem.
The EU commissioned this research report specifically to look into the potential benefits of organic farming and consuming organic food. Organic farming, of course, involves very little or no pesticides. Given the developmental problems that may arise from consuming foods grown with pesticides, the report suggests that, at the least, pregnant and breastfeeding women may be well advised to consume organic foods in favor of ones grown with pesticides.
Such dietary measures may help protect a fetus from the development of conditions resulting from the compounds found in foods treated with pesticides (though they were done so within the bounds of what the industry currently considers safe). Looking, meanwhile, at the compositional differences between conventionally grown and organic produce shows that organic crops have lesser quantities of cadmium. This compositional difference is attributed to the different soil and fertilizer used in growing organic crops.
Of course, there are some big downsides to organic crops, and for the average consumer the biggest issue is the higher cost. As well, there are many food deserts and near-food-deserts that don’t offer organic produce, making it difficult to acquire. In those cases, the report suggests that individuals stick to foods that need to be or can be peeled, such as potatoes, apples, and pineapples. Removing the fruit’s exterior will go a long way toward decreasing the presence of pesticides in the individual’s diet.
You can read the full research report here.