Over the past few years, movies like Food, Inc. and Fast Food Nation have been featured at mainstream theaters and all of Michael Pollen's books (Cooked, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food) are flying off the shelves. With these shifts in how we entertain and educate ourselves, people are becoming increasingly interested and aware of the dangers of factory-farmed agriculture and the high levels of pesticides and other toxins in our food system. This increase in awareness a positive trend, and one that seems to be steadily increasing every day.
It's easy to decrease the level of toxins in your body - just eat more organic food. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program if one is available in your area. CSA farms produce local, seasonal food that tastes great! The farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public, and people become "members" (in some instances). The farmer then delivers boxes or bags of delicious produce to a central location and members pick up the goods on a specific day. The fresh vegetables and fruit that appear in the boxes each week are bright and colorful, and oftentimes still have dirt on them, since they don't need to go through a process to look pretty and sit on a shelf or bin at a store. Some CSAs also distribute a newsletter with the boxes, which provides news from the farm. We see photos taken the day the baby chicks arrived to the farm, learn when certain seedlings are planted, and read stories about the lives of the farmers. It's a wonderful way to be intimately connected to the food on the table! (Photo from a box of produce from Eatwell Farm, located in Dixon, CA.)
Overall, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, even if there are some pesticides, is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. While it's not always convenient, possible, or affordable to have an entire diet of organic food, there are a few foods to avoid when it comes to conventional foods. A great resource to use is the Environmental Working Group’s list of the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen Plus.” The Clean Fifteen is a list of foods that are acceptable to eat even if they’ve been exposed to pesticides. Usually, these foods have a thick skin or possess properties that naturally protect them from insects, so chemicals don’t need to be used. The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that are most important to eat organic because they have a higher concentration of pesticides. These lists aren’t conclusive at all. They’re both quite simple lists and there are many other fruits and vegetables that are safe to eat out there.
My suggestion: if you live in an area where there is a limited supply of organic food, try to ensure that you eat at least organic eggs, and milk and strawberries. Either way, make sure that your diet gets nutrients from many different sources. Try new things, research if there’s a CSA in your area and enjoy the summer harvest!