Scientists at Washington University conducted an extensive study that showed that people who eat organic food consume half the pesticides compared to people who eat conventionally grown produce.
In the study, which is the largest of its kind to date, researchers examined the exposure to pesticides on foods of more than 4,400 people, and found that participants who consumed conventionally grown produce ingested double the amount of pesticides compared to those who ate organic foods.
“If you tell me what you typically eat, I can tell you how high your pesticide exposure is likely to be,” said Cynthia Curl, an assistant professor in Boise State University’s School of Allied Health Sciences and the lead author on this study. “The study suggests that by eating organically grown versions of those foods highest in pesticide residues, we can make a measurable difference.”
The findings however, do not resonate with Dr. Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, who isn’t convinced the difference is meaningful. Dr. Musgrave says that even though the level of pesticide found in urine is double, it is still significantly lower than the safely levels.
“If you look at how much these people are being exposed to, it’s about 1000-fold less than the estimated safety levels of pesticide exposure,” he says or those who eat mostly or all organic produce.
Disagreeing that risks are negligible, Adam Willson, chairman of the Organic Federation of Australia, said: “The testing of chemicals for human safety has been historically based on the LD50 test. This is the Lethal Dose at which 50 percent of rats die. It is an oversimplified toxicity test and completely misses the effects that chemicals have on humans and the environment.”
Most of the pesticides entering human body are broken down quickly, Musgrave considers. He added that safety levels “are considered to be our lifetime exposure”.
Despite the reassurances, organic food consumption continues to grow since 2008 with approximately 15 percent annually, reaching a worth value of $1.72 billion, Willson says.
“Eighty percent of consumers buy organic food because it is chemical free,” he says.