Have you ever been walking through the grocery store produce section and been tempted to snag a grape from the bunch to taste? Have you gone ahead and done it, or do you refrain for some reason or another? Do you cringe at people who do this? What about once you’re home? Do you go straight into the bag to start snacking or maybe you easily grab an apple and bite right in?
There are actually good reasons you probably shouldn’t do this. Among dirt and germs from being left in the open to be handled by just anyone, many of these fruits and vegetables have pesticides on them that you need to remove prior to eating. Agriculture has come a long way in recent years, but there is still important information to learn before diving in and eating unwashed produce.
While this may be the case, there is no cause for alarm or panic if you’ve found yourself doing some of these things. There are quite a few misconceptions about pesticides in our food, and there have been great strides made in more recent years at developing more food safe pesticides for use in crop farming.
Why Pesticides are used in Agriculture
Pesticides are used to fight a wide variety of potential problems for agricultural crops. These include the more obvious such as insects and rodents, but also can help to fight off mold, bacteria, and viruses as well. Plants are very susceptible to targeted microbial hazards, so these pesticides have been developed to keep the plants healthy and immune to these infections.
While this is wonderful for crop production and keeping plants from dying, it is important to understand why washing your fruits and vegetables is essential. There is the potential that pesticides are on the produce, but keep in mind that there’s also a chance that three or four people before you picked up the apple you are buying. Just as we often know too little about pesticides and such, we also don’t know who handled what before we did. You don’t see this as highly debated about, but it goes to show that pesticides may not be as scary as an everyday detail we tend to overlook.
Pesticides in Food
Due to the mass spraying of pesticides on crop plants, there is a trace amount of pesticides that make their way into our grocery stores and ultimately our homes each and every day. Produce can be thoroughly rinsed in the processing and sorting before being shipped to stores, but there will always be remnants of the chemicals left on the fruits and veggies unless washed with soap and water thoroughly. Some produce will even need to be scrubbed to ensure that you’ve reached every nook and cranny to get them clean.
Many people believe that pesticides can leach into the fruits and veggies we are eating, thus still introducing the toxins into our bodies. This is not the case. Most pesticides will not penetrate the crop, allowing washing and rinsing to remove the chemicals from the fruit.
Pesticide Residues in Food
Some may argue that these pesticides are dangerous and can leach into our bodies, causing endless amounts of harm. Again, there is no need to panic. Thanks to the processing system used in crop agriculture, fruits and veggies are thoroughly rinsed before making it to the store. You should always thoroughly wash and prepare these foods to ensure that you are continuing to decrease the amount of pesticide consumption by you and your family.
Yes, it is always good practice to go ahead and rinse them again at home before eating, but rest assured the residual pesticides that may be on your food are not as harmful as some may lead you to believe. Companies work towards ensuring they meet the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) so that they are keeping their products safe for continued consumption.
Food Safe Pesticides
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does regulate the use of pesticides and regularly tests the effects that pesticides can have, testing the safety of each pesticide as regularly as once every 15 years. Our knowledge regarding the safety of pesticides and chemicals is constantly developing, so in theory, the substances used to fight off pests should evolve and constantly be developed. The regulation and testing are done by the EPA ensure this is a regular practice so that food stays safe. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for enforcing these regulations, including the testing for over 700 pesticides and residues.
According to the EPA, however, today’s foods that are grown while exposed to pesticides are safer than ever before. While this may be the case, food-safe options are becoming more sought after and researched, with the hopes to bring entirely food safe pesticides into the agricultural world. Pesticides may not be nearly as harmful as they are often believed to be, but why not continue to make them even safer for long-term consumption?
Rather than fight against the use of pesticides in crop agricultural, the focus should be on developing safer alternatives. Pesticides protect our crop plants, meaning that pesticides are a good thing. There is always room for improvement, but when fighting against myths and correlation over causation, pesticide developers face such scrutiny; they have to fight back just to continue the use as is.
Pesticides Are Practical
If our crop plants are subjected to being produced without the use of pesticides, we face great problems with ensuring the crop plants aren’t killed off by an easily preventable problem. Pesticides are truly not the problem with produce and crops, but the forces of nature they would otherwise face are.
Next time you’re faced with the thoughts about how ‘dirty’ or ‘gross’ fruits and vegetables are – and next think about pesticide residues – remember that they are treated so that they can make it to the store for you and your family to buy and consume. Without the use of ever-changing pesticides, our selection of fresh foods as we know it would not exist.