Deciding whether to buy organic food can be a dilemma. Produce grown without the use of pesticides is frequently more expensive than standard versions, and not everyone can afford to buy it all the time. But does shopping for organic food have to be all or nothing?
No, according to campaigning charity Pesticide Action Network (PAN UK), which says it’s possible to shop selectively for organic produce. Some foods are worse for containing pesticide residue than others, depending on the farming method and other factors, so switching to organic for food most affected by chemicals, and sticking with standard versions of the least affected, makes sense if all-organic shopping isn’t possible.
n the UK, the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (Prif) regularly tests a wide range of fruit, vegetables, animal products, starchy food and grains for hundreds of different pesticides to check they are within legal and safe limits. Before pesticides are approved they are assessed to ensure they don’t pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment, and that any pesticide residues left in food are safe to eat.
But PAN UK’s Nick Mole says little is known about the long terms effects of regularly consuming low doses of pesticide residue. “Around 60 per cent of fruit and vegetables contain pesticide residue,” he says. “Eating an apple isn’t going to kill you of obviously, but it’s the long-term effects of low doses that we don’t know about.“ Foods with traces of more than one pesticide are potentially the biggest concern, says Mole, who suggests anyone considering switching to organic should prioritise these.