Being a California Native and living here most all my life I often see strawberry fields when driving around California. From the big commercial Farms up near Santa Cruz California to smaller fields all around San Diego. Heck, I even grew a few in my backyard here in San Diego. Simply put, strawberries grow like weeds in California and as a matter of fact, an overwhelming percentage of strawberries consumed by Americans come from California growers-an estimated 75%!
California data show that in 2014, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries – an astonishing amount, compared to about five pounds of pesticides per acre of corn, which is considered a pesticide-intensive crop. Source: EWG
In our household, we always buy organic whenever possible, but with strawberries there is no exception. Strawberries are #1 on a list known as The Dirty Dozen. Dirty, because these 12 foods are sprayed with the most pesticides.
Want To See What Other Fruits & Veggies On That List?
According to The Environmental Working Group (EWG), Americans eat almost 8 pounds of strawberries per year – and with them dozens of pesticides, putting chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive damage. Most of these pesticides are completely banned in Europe.
Personally, I probably eat over 10x that amount of strawberries every year.
I don’t want to make this an article about Organic Strawberries Vs. Non-Organic Strawberries because everyone knows that choosing organic is flat-out better for you. Put in other words, California data show that in 2014, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries – an astonishing amount, compared to about five pounds of pesticides per acre of corn, which is considered a pesticide-intensive crop. Did you get that? 300 lbs. of pesticides Vs. 5 lbs. per acre! Convinced?
So the Jury’s out, non-organic strawberries use a ton of pesticides making them the #1 nastiest food on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List – But, let’s just do a quick recap and highlight what pesticides can’t do for your health.
Just how bad are the pesticides and chemicals used on strawberries?
According to the EWG, some pesticides are fairly harmless. But like we said, some are linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Other pesticides used on strawberries have been linked to developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems. Among the worst:
- Carbendazim, a hormone-disrupting fungicide that damages the male reproductive system, was detected on 20 percent of 2014 and 2015 samples. The European Union has banned it because of its intense toxicity.
- Bifenthrin, found on more than 33 percent of samples in 2014 and 2015, is an insecticide that California regulators have designated a possible human carcinogen.
- Malathion, found on 11 percent of recent samples, is toxic to the nervous system and, according to the International Agency for Cancer Research, is a probable human carcinogen. It is often sprayed to eradicate mosquitos and other insects.
As disturbing as these results are, they do not any break any U.S. laws and regulations on pesticides in food.
It just goes to show that the laws may be too lax set forth by the EPA. Regardless, the people ultimately vote with their dollar and that’s why the organic industry is booming.
Just look around – everywhere on the foods and beverages, you’ll notice an increasing number of products labeled USDA Certified Organic and GMO-Free which leads me to the the next question piqued from a an ‘outrage-based’ headline last week in regards to fumigants used on organic strawberry crops.
Fumigants (typically methyl bromide) are acutely toxic gases that kill every living thing in the soil. Some were originally developed as chemical warfare agents, now banned by the Geneva Conventions.
I’ll post more on fumigants soon! In the meantime, have a look at this video made a few years ago that gives a history of fumigants used on strawberry’s.