Well, here’s a bit of news guaranteed to make shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop a little less smug: Turns out that even organic produce can contain commercial pesticides.
That joyous tiding comes from NPR, which reported late last week that a U.S. Department of Agriculture produce survey found that 20 percent of organic lettuce tested positive for pesticide residues. Much of the reside was of spinosad, a pesticide marketed by noted friend of the environment Dow Chemical.
The reason spinosad and certain other pesticides are permitted for use in organic crops is because they occur naturally — in the case of spinosad, it comes from a soil bacterium called Saccharopolyspora spinosa. The EPA considers it, as well as some other substances on the USDA’s official list of substances that can and cannot be used for organic farming, “slightly toxic.”
Whether naturally derived pesticides are any better for you than their synthetic counterparts is open to interpretation — one expert notes that it depends on the dosage. But however you interpret it, it’s probably still better than growing produce from soil tainted by illegal dumping.