Why My Family Eats Conventional Produce

I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had that go like this:

Me: Let’s go apple picking!


Mom-friend: Yes! Let’s find an organic or spray-free orchard, though.

Me: Why?

Mom-friend: I want to avoid pesticides; I just don’t think the government does enough to guarantee our produce is safe.

Me: Really? Do you know what they do during that process?

Mom-friend: Um, no. Do you?

Me: Um, no. But I bet it’s a lot.

When I hear that line of argument against conventional produce (“I just don’t trust the EPA/USDA/FDA”) I want to drag that mom over to the computer and pull up the EPA’s website and walk her through some of the information they have on their website. But, believe me, it’s not very fun. I could write a whole post on why I think the EPA, USDA and FDA need serious help organizing and clarifying the information that’s on their websites. I’ve recently looked through a lot of it, for this and some future articles, and it’s almost as fun as trying to get your toddler to find the shoes they’ve hidden somewhere in your house when you’re late (never mind, you don’t need shoes, let’s go.) Perhaps this is why few consumers actually take the time to look into what the USDA and the EPA do. It’s tedious and science-y.

I thought it would be useful to actually investigate some of the things that I don’t think parents really think about when they toss aside the extensive work our regulatory bodies do to help reassure us that conventionally grown produce (those that are sprayed with synthetic pesticide) is safe. If you don’t read any further in this article (because I am going to talk about studies and use words like “tolerance level s” and “toxicology”) I will try to sum it up for you here: They do a lot. It’s extensive and exhaustive. At the end of the day, I feel very confident that they have looked at it from all angles and have put regulations in place that err on the side of caution to reassure us our produce is safe.

getting rid of weedsBut don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a look at what happens when a company wants to start selling a pesticide. Those companies have to do both an environmental and human health assessment, but I’m going to focus here on the human health assessment. It’s a three pronged approach: toxicology studies, establishing a tolerance level and dietary risk assessment.

First, the company (who is really called the registrant) must do toxicology studies. The goal of these studies is to show what effect the pesticide could cause, and to establish a level at which there is no adverse effect in animal testing. The studies systematically expose different mammalian species (such as rats and mice) to the pesticide at varying amounts and measure the effect. The EPA outlines extensively how this must be done; it’s not left up to the registrant. They must measure toxicity arising from acute exposure, chronic exposure, and sub-chronic exposure. They measure inhalation toxicity, oral toxicity, dermal toxicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity, just to name a few. Look here for the full testing requirements.  The goal of these studies is to literally uncover the worst possible outcome from exposure to the pesticide. They take extensive tissue samples, analyze them all and determine the dose level at which there are no observed adverse effects, called the NOAEL. Then, because the studies aren’t actually done in humans, and because sensitivity can vary across individuals, a safety factor is applied to the animal NOAEL, which lowers the dose level anywhere from 100-1,000 fold less than the observed level. Using the NOAEL and the safety margin, the EPA establishes what is called a reference dose. A reference dose is an acceptable amount of exposure to a substance that has reasonable certainty it will cause no harm (also known as the safe exposure level).

The registrant also has to do field trials to establish a tolerance level. A tolerance means, assuming farmers use the pesticide according to the legal label (EPA-approved pesticide use instructions), we shouldn’t find produce with pesticide residue exceeding that amount. I don’t think the term “tolerance” is a great one, because I feel like it implies an impact to your health, like how much your body can tolerate. Tolerance is really talking about the maximum anticipated amount of residue on produce. Think of it like a speed limit, only one that you rarely even reach, and even if you go over by a teeny bit, it does not mean certain death. The EPA establishes that level by reviewing extensive registrant-conducted field trials in which the pesticide is sprayed at the maximum labeled rate and the produce is sampled at the shortest interval before harvest. For example, if pest control requires that the pesticide can be sprayed at a maximum of two pounds per acre and no later than seven days before harvest, the field trials will use those conditions. In practice, most farmers will likely not use the full two pounds (pesticides are expensive, they’ll use as little as possible to be effective). The scientists collect all the produce samples from the field trials (done over  one or two seasons throughout the US growing region) and they establish a method to measure the pesticide residue (parent compound plus any metabolites that the pesticide may have been turned into as a result of its interaction with the soil and plant.) The samples are analyzed to determine the concentration of the pesticide residue in the samples collected from all the trials, which may range for example, up to four parts per million (ppm).  Lots of factors affect the residue levels (rainfall, temperature, crop variety, etc.) and they often vary up to 10-fold across all the trials, due to these factors.  The EPA then uses these results in a statistically-based calculation to establish a tolerance, such as five ppm in this example.  The intent is to set a tolerance that is high enough so that it won’t be exceeded if the pesticide was used properly, but is still close to the maximum level measured in the trials.

So now we have the tolerance level (the pesticide shouldn’t occur in the produce above this amount) and the reference dose (people shouldn’t consume more than this in one day.) The only unknown is how much produce do people actually consume? How many apples, for example, do people eat on a daily basis? The EPA uses something called the Dietary Exposure Evaluation Model to figure that out. This database contains survey information for different age groups (infants, young children, teens, elderly, etc.) over different periods of time documenting how much of different foods they ate. The initial dietary risk assessment assumes that everyone is eating the produce for their whole lives that contain residues at the tolerance level. This means that they’re assuming every single acre of apples has been sprayed at the maximum rate and the shortest interval before harvest, and that there is no residue reduction from processing, apples 2-1washing, or cooking. They make the very conservative assumption that every apple you eat has the highest allowable pesticide residue on it, which the USDA knows from the Pesticide Data Program doesn’t happen (more on that in a future article on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List.) Assessments are made for both acute risk (a single day’s consumption) and chronic risk (a lifetime’s consumption). Acute risk assumes that you eat a very large (95th to 99.9th percentile of surveyed consumption) amount of apples in a single day. Chronic risk is based on average daily apple consumption over a lifetime. The amount of apples eaten under both scenarios is multiplied by the tolerance level to give the worst-case pesticide exposure, which is compared to the relevant reference dose (acute or chronic) to determine if the potential exposure is safe (below the reference dose; don’t forget that the reference dose incorporates a 100-1,000 fold safety margin). It’s especially important to note that these dietary risk assessments are not limited to exposure from a single food (e.g., apples) but are for aggregate summed exposure from all approved food uses of that pesticide, plus any potential exposure from drinking water. Total exposure must fall below the relevant reference dose (with its conservative safety margin) before a pesticide can be approved for use.

It’s also important to understand that the decisions of the EPA are legally binding.  It is a federal crime to promote or use a pesticide in any manner that is not approved by the EPA and printed on the label. When a pesticide use is approved, the EPA reviews the exact text of the label that will be printed to describe its proper use, which cannot be changed without prior re-approval.  States also have authority to review and approve pesticide labels. The residue tolerance levels are enacted by the EPA through rule making, and are printed in the Code of Federal Regulations; food containing residues in excess of the tolerance is adulterated and may not legally be sold or distributed. Only after both federal and state approvals of all these documents are complete is a pesticide “registered” for use.

Whew.  See? Not as flippant as you might think.  Not just one or two studies, not conspiracy theories about pesticide companies hiding data, not just someone from the EPA having dinner with someone from the chemical company and shaking hands about money-making over some scotch while they cackle ominously about the fate of our children’s health. I hope no one actually thinks that, but it would make a good caricature for the op-ed section, no? Real scientists doing real studies that actually try to guarantee safety. This is why I feel confident feeding my family conventional produce, and why I’m calling momsense on being afraid of conventional pesticides.

If you’re interested in the real data, and want to follow the registration of a pesticide from start to finish (ala “How a Bill Becomes A Law” only not animated, and not really fun to watch) follow the below progression. I’ve arbitrarily chosen the pesticide fluazinam, which is a broad spectrum contact fungicide often used on potatoes.

  1. Click here to view the CFR entry for fluazinam tolerances
  2. Open the PDF file at this link to see an example of an EPA dietary risk assessment for fluazinam
  3. Click here to see the Federal Register Rule arising from the fluazinam dietary risk assessment
  4. Click here to see the EPA approval of the fluazinam label based on the above decisions
  5. Click here to view the final printed label translating these regulatory actions into a real pesticide use label

* I have to give extensive credit to my dad for helping me with this article. He spent much of his career working on pesticide label registration and has expert experience navigating the regulatory websites and databases.

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49 Responses to Why My Family Eats Conventional Produce

  1. Tiffany Marx

    This is outstanding. Thank you so much for explaining the process!

  2. This is a very thorough description of the process – nicely presented. One thing to not is that the pesticides allowed for organic (yes, organic farmers use pesticides) also have to be tested and scrutinized by the EPA. This is because the limitation on what pesticides can and cannot be used on organic is strictly up to whether or not they are considered sufficiently natural. That says nothing about whether or not they are safe. The testing required for EPA registration is what determines that

  3. Heather

    This was fascinating. I was born and raise in Portland and I totally understand what you are saying about it being difficult to share a different opinion. I don’t buy organic but have always felt guilty about it. I can’t stay on our budget and give my kids the same amount t of fruit and veggies we enjoy. So thank you for giving facts!!

    • itsmomsense@gmail.com

      I’m so glad you found it useful, Heather! You shouldn’t feel guilty, you should feel proud that you’re choosing to feed them lots of fruits and veggies. That’s a great decision. Thanks for reading.

  4. Aimee

    Thanks for the education. You explained it very thoroughly and I feel better about not buying organic. I relate to the previous comment about the guilt for not buying organic and staying on a budget. My family goes through nearly 10 pounds of produce a week and it’s hard to keep up with my fruit monsters;)

    • itsmomsense@gmail.com

      Good for you! I commend moms who are committed to feeding their kids fresh fruits and veggies. Thanks for reading!

  5. Well said. Love the approach to tackling the notion that food not {organic, pesticide free, natural} is bad and thus must be avoided.

  6. Ann

    Can I just say, you are awesome!!!

  7. Ann

    Great article. I am like you…I buy ‘regular’ produce at the grocery store & don’t stress about organic v non-organic. Here’s why: my husband, who is a environmental scientist, started off as a bench chemist who tested fresh produce. He worked in an independent lab running assays testing for detectable amounts of pesticides/chemicals/bad stuff in samples pulled from local grocery stores. He reported on major grocery chains & small grocers. His reports went to the EPA. And 99% of the time, the lab found that the produce they tested fell within the allowable amounts. He always felt comfortable with the results he reported. And with allowing us to eat said produce. I think as a society we have to have a healthy respect for our food, but can’t allow ourselves to become too paranoid or buy into the latest food fad.

  8. Ken Teeter

    Thanks for bringing better insight to the registration process and the good science that actually goes into it!

  9. Megan

    You sound like you work for Monsanto. My dad worked for the EPA as a toxicologist and was the NC senior toxicologist for 20 years and would totally disagree with your blatant enthusiasm for pesticides. Your article is written about studies that are conducted BY Dow and Monsanto, do you know ANYTHING about how these companies operate?? Have you ever seen any of the kabillion documentaries about the shadiness of these corporations before? How much they are spending on lobbying in Washington or the fact that the chairs of these corporations also happen to sit on the boards of the FDA and the USDA?? So glad you took time away from being a parent to read through all the thorough information on the EPA’s website. Good for you. And really solid effort trying to make parents that go out of their way to feed their kids organically feel like suckers, but I think you are being incredibly misled. I’m sure you probably think Common Core is awesome, and everything that the FDA claims about prescriptions and vaccinations is okay too, because, well, the government would NEVER not have our best interests at heart….

    • Isaac

      I’m pretty sure the government made up that whole “moon-landing” thing too!

    • itsmomsense@gmail.com

      Thanks for your comments, Megan. Just to be clear, this blog isn’t meant to make any one feel bad or “like suckers”, and that includes me. It’s about looking for information and cutting through the misinformation. I think good parenting includes getting informed. My kids are old enough that there are times (albeit not that many) when I have some time to myself. Sometimes I use that time to do research. Sometimes I use that time to take a shower. I guess that’s my prerogative. As it is yours to make your own decisions about what food you buy and what documentaries you watch. Additionally, the about section of my website discusses my employment history with Monsanto. So I am, actually, familiar with how “those” companies operate. Thanks for reading.

      • Megan

        So, I don’t generally make a habit out of reading mom blogs…in fact, up until about a month ago, I didn’t even realize such a thing really existed, but one of my FB friends posted your ‘produce’ article , so I felt compelled to read it. Afterwards, I read one other of your articles about the mom culture of Portland versus wherever you moved from, and how it has the potential to make one feel guilty about using conventional methods of parenting, but I’m feeling strongly that there is a trend as of late for conventional moms to frown upon the likes of moms adhering to alternative parenting methods, which really gets on my nerves. I thought your article came across as a little judgy, so, in turn, I felt a bit defensive about it. I wasn’t told this at my OB appts, but apparently, getting knocked up gives women permission to be judgy and pretentious about how everyone else is doing everything else wrong with their kids — but wth for?!? Shouldn’t we all just stop battling between who’s right and wrong and be more supportive of a community?? I only have 1 13-month old son, who I hear is really laid back (I don’t have anything to compare him to) , and I’m 6 months preggers with a daughter, and I still have NO idea what I’m doing. While it has been incredibly rewarding in so many ways, parenting also presents a new struggle every day and life is tough! There are WAY too many things that I should be making priorities for my child, but the fact of the matter is, there are just not enough hours in the day. Period. So, I pick my battles with vaccinations, screen time, organic food, and I read the hell out of Weston A Price and Dr. Weil’s websites to try my best to raise a family based in homeopathics. What I do my best not to do is press this upon any other mom because there needs to be that level of respect between us (particularly w/vaccinations — good Lord, things get personal QUICK). I totally respect that you have, based on your individual and thorough research, come to the conclusion that organic is not that big of a deal. Because, unless your kid is bullying my kid, why would I EVER have an opinion about how your raise your child?? That’s up to you and your significant other, and the fact that we’re not all raising our kids the exact same way makes for a pretty diverse and colorful population. PS. On a side note, another study re: autism has just been brought to light today now stating that 1 in 68 children have some form of ASD, a 30% jump from 2 years ago (!!!). I’m certain more awareness is a contributing factor for these much higher numbers, but there’s no way a 30% jump can be the entire reason. It’s information like this that makes me feel like environmental factors must play a key role here…on par for the validity of my reasoning to spend those extra dollars on organic food for my family.

        • The problem is that many Organic companies market their product by bashing conventional farming in some way. Often false or exaggerated facts are used to make Organic seem like the obvious choice, when the truth is there is no nutritional differences, conventional farming is often more sustainable and both farming methods use fertilizer pesticides and different type of crop sprays to protect their crops because they have to. The great thing about living in our country is that we have a CHOICE, the bad thing is many Mommy bloggers and marketing companies are doing damage to the credibility of our food system and putting those choices at risk. That is why some of us blog about conventional VS organic, because the facts aren’t always available and we are trying to help people understand that organic isn’t the clear cut winner and (personally anyway) GMOs are not going to hurt us, only help us. We are not funded by Monsanto, but simply open minded enough to look past the hysteria and look at the science and the facts. If anyone is going to have an opinion about anything they should take the time to read info. on both sides of the story.

        • Linda Tock

          The trouble with the GMO-Autism link – it’s making an ecological fallacy. Correlation does not equal causation.

          If you want to compare autism rates, they pretty much parallel the sales of organic food. So, by your logic, organic food causes autism.

  10. Heather

    Well, I don’t want to be labeled a hater, and I certainly wouldn’t end any friendships over it, 😉 but maybe we can agree to disagree? Actually, I think we do agree on this point: Benefits of feeding your kids fresh fruits and veggies far outweighs the risk of ingesting pesticides. So not buying fresh produce for your family because you can’t afford organic is just plain silly.
    But we are lucky in that while we aren’t rolling in the dough, I can usually afford to buy organic or at least from farmers at the farmers market who are not organic certified, but don’t spray (this is often cheaper than conventional produce at the grocery). Here why I think it’s important: Pesticide is a poison. The government may say that x amount is safe, but why put any in my body or the bodies of my kids if I don’t have to? There are all sorts of things the government says is safe like butyl cellusolve (a neurotoxin) found in Windex or nitrilotriacetic acid (a carcinogen) found in Tide, or Dioxin (an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals) found in disposable diapers. This is why although it’s considered “safe” at some level why would I have it in my home if I have an alternative? My mom sense tells me that if you have to do so much extensive testing to discover at what level a bad thing can be tolerated by your human body, why not just not avoid it altogether?

    • itsmomsense@gmail.com

      You can avoid it, and it’s awesome that we have that choice. And as you said, as long as you’re choosing to feed your kids fresh fruit and veggies, you’re making a good choice. I’m actually working on a post about this exact issue, so I will expand on this, but the bottom line for me is that some things only impact you: whether you buy Windex or use Tide. The problem with agricultural practices is that they impact more than just your family. If we had unlimited resources, I’d be with you, the risk is not worth it. But unfortunately we don’t, and I’m in favor of practices that make the most of our shared, limited resources. Organic isn’t that. We could be feeding more people with that acre if we used conventional processes.

    • Heather,
      You can’t say that all pesticides are “poison.” They differ from one another in terms of toxicity to animals by a factor of 1000 or more. Also, lots of things are “poisons” including chemicals that our food produces. Many vegetable crops contain nicotine (eggplant, tomatoes, cauliflower…). Nicotine, gram for gram, is every bit as toxic as the most toxic old organophosphate insecticides that have not been sold for a long time. It is all about dose. You don’t need to worry about feeding your family the produce that makes its own nicotine, and much less the produce that has been responsibly sprayed with either conventional or organic pesticides (for which there is a big overlap by the way).

  11. Steve

    There are many poisons that we ingest, even when it’s organic. Plants did not evolve to become safer food sources for animals, they evolved to survive. Survival meant defense mechanisms against pathogens, insects, and other plants. There are many, many naturally occuring chemicals that when concentrated and fed at high doses cause effects in lab animals. Dr. Bruce Ames discovered that when testing manmade chemicals and then natural chemicals. Paracelsus, considered the father of toxicology, wrote “The dose makes the poison”. I wish to have science on my side when deciding what is safe and what isn’t. If I eat healthly and avoid large amounts of foods known to be bad for us, our bodies can handle the rest.

  12. Steve

    Agree with you about the word “tolerance”. In most of the rest of the world, the term MRL (maximum residue level) is used, which is more intuitive I think.

  13. Steve

    I just read the autism study too, and here is some info directly from the news release: “Autism experts believe the increase reported by the CDC is more likely due to improved detection of the disorder, particularly among children at the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

    For example, almost half of children identified with autism spectrum disorder in the new study have average or above average intellectual ability, compared to one-third of children a decade ago.”

    The experts don’t appear to understand what causes autism, so surely us amateurs have no insight. Guesses perhaps, but no evidence.

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  15. Jessica

    Facts are great and very necessary to make well informed decisions. However, please don’t discount “gut feelings”. I think as parents it is one of the greatest tools we have been given. I remember taking my daughter to the ER for dehydration and they told me she had the stomach bug. And based on their examination it made sense. But I had a “gut feeling” that something else was wrong and come to find out after taking her to the pediatrician the next day she had strep. I’m not saying we should make all life decisions based on “gut feelings” but sometimes we just have to trust it. Our bodies function on food and water. Facts or not , it makes sense to me to put the cleanest form of those things in my body and my children’s bodies. I do appreciate your time and research though. It does take some of the guilt away because I can’t always afford the “cleanest” form of produce. You are doing a great job and again, we really do miss you! And FYI, I’m proud to be the “Super Religious” one 🙂

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  17. megan

    I hope you know that other Megan wasn’t me, lol. When are you coming to KC?

    • Sara

      As administrator of the site, I get to see the email associated with the author, so I knew it wasn’t you. 🙂 Plus, you would never imply that I’m a bad mom for “taking time away from parenting” to do research. We don’t have any immediate plans to come to KC, but we will again soon. Come visit us in Portland, you’d love it! 🙂 So many vegan restaurants…

      • megan

        I am actually thinking of maybe coming in the fall. I am dying to see the pacific northwest. Your beautiful pictures are compelling me 🙂

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  19. proponent for IPM

    You have the facts to support your idealogy about “why your family eats convnetional produce”. We don’t. Not because I don’t think the EPA/ USA does the due dilligence but because of the following:
    1. The data is only as good as the tests and you can’t find what you aren’t looking for. Sometimes the effects of non-natural substances are subtle, arise in places where we aren’t looking, or take generations to become apparent. Endocrine disruptors are an example.
    2. There are others in the world besides just my family. There are the workers who, even under best practices, are exposed to a great extent and also bring residues home, do thier laundry in the same machine as thier babies, and are exposed to other things that in combination can make new and surprising risks. Insects and plants adapt to synthetics with limited modes of action, inreasing resistance to pesticides, and then more has to be applied to maintain the desired levels of control. Natural pest control agents tend to have several modes of action, making resistance much less of a risk. Then there is the whole bird/egg issue. A lot has improved since “Silent Spring”, but eggs are a special case.
    3. Kids are a special case, and our children are special. Brain, endocrine systems, and other development pathways are currently not well understood by the sceintific community. Therefore, it is not possible to design tests that can accuratly predict effects from exposure. One can deduce that synthetics would present a special case since there is no evolutionary pathway for the body to address these compounds. That is why they are effective at killing pests, after all.

    While I don’t dispute the facts that you have laid out very well for all to consider, your stance is very self-centric. Even the companies that were negatively represented here (Monsanto, Syngenta) are pro-active in ensuring that thier products are safe according to the current standards. No corporation wants to be responsible for an environmental or social snafu. But beyond corporate responsibility and government regulations, we as citizens fo the world have to consider how our choices and actions effect the world at large and not just our own families.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Proponent for IPM,
      I’m also pro IPM and that good practice is definitely not limited to Organic. The reality is that you don’t have the option of eating produce that has not synthetic pesticide residues, that has no endocrine-active chemicals or which has no toxins. A recent study by the Canadian government found synthetic pesticide residues in 43% of the organic produce they sampled (mix of Canadian, US and Mexican origin). They were mostly at low levels as is the case with conventional, but some were at levels suggesting intentional usage in violation of organic rules. There are endocrine-active chemicals that are naturally occurring components of many common foods. There are also toxic substances in most common foods including even things like nicotine (eggplants, tomatoes, cauliflower). Some of these relatively toxic substances are what we like (caffeine, capsaicin, vanillin…).

      Buying organic does not allow you to avoid any of these things. Buying organic isn’t always better for the workers. Hand hoeing of weeds is a terrible job to have to do. Small-holder organic coffee growers in Central America actually make less money and now that coffee rust is a much bigger problem there situation is even worse. Organic isn’t always better for the environment either. The conventional grower can “spoon-feed” nutrients through the drip system very close to what the plant needs while the organic grower’s compost releases nutrients on its own schedule and a recent study from Israel documents much greater movement of nitrates into the groundwater below organic greenhouses as opposed to conventional.

      If organic could deliver what you say you are looking for, I’d be all for it. It can’t, and no mom’s should feel guilty or irresponsible if they don’t choose to spend money for it

      • Proponent for IPM

        Steve Savage,
        Your are right as well. But not to say, well, I have to choice so I throw my hands up and stop considering what is the best thing I can do for myslef, my family, the community, or the environment. I think anyone that has considered the options and made a choice should not feel guilty. But the coniderations and some thougth should go into what we eat and why,

    • Sara

      Thanks for your comments. Just to be clear, I am also a supporter of IPM. Simply because I choose to eat conventional produce does not mean I am for unnecessary over-use of pesticides. You may want to read another post I have about the global impact of organic farming. I support a system that responsibly uses all our tools to create high-quality, safe food efficiently. I choose to eat conventional not only because I’ve concluded the risk is low to my family, but also because organic production can’t be applied at a large scale to feed the population, and there isn’t a significant risk that out-weighs the benefits of synthetic pesticides when used properly. So my stance is not self-centric at all, in fact, it is the opposite of that.

      Your argument basically revolves around the precautionary principle when it comes to our children, and I don’t disagree with you that we should pay special attention and be particularly cautious with our children. And to this end, I think the tests registrants are required to perform do pay special attention to that age group. You’re correct, there is a lot in science that isn’t yet know, but there is a whole lot that IS known. Just because we don’t know exactly how the pathways work does not mean that we can’t observe if brain development is disrupted. Following your logic, you’d have to re-evaluate and eliminate almost all technology in our lives because we don’t have a test that is designed to gauge the effect on something we don’t know: VOCs from paint, microwaves, car exhaust, cell phones, sunscreen, etc. How do we know if those things are impacting us negatively if we don’t know precisely how everything in the human body works? We will never know precisely how everything in the body works, but that does not mean don’t know enough about it to make sound, scientific conclusions.

      If we want to talk about the health and safety of farm workers, that’s another issue entirely. Technology has in some ways helped reduce the impact to farm workers: Bt crops, for example, reduce the need for spraying. Glyphosate has encourage no-till practices that both reduce labor and carbon released to the atmosphere. Additionally, organic farmers still apply pesticides and go home with residue on their clothes and use the same washing machine as the rest of their families: streptomycin, boric acid, cobalt, copper sulfate (all approved for use on organic crops.)

      Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean that it’s safe. You mention that the effects of non-natural substances are subtle and may take generations to become apparent. You can make that same argument for natural substances. There are plenty of natural substances that are very toxic. Botox is incredibly toxic, and we still use it. Capsaicin (what makes peppers hot) sends people to the hospital all the time. We could also talk about rotenone… It’s all about the dose.

      Please keep reading and commenting. Part of the goal of this blog is to encourage a smart dialogue about these topics. I appreciate your mention of these issue because if one mom is concerned with them, likely others are as well. Thanks.

  20. randy ryder

    excellent job explaining how the EPA tests our food.

  21. melanie silver

    eating conventional is all well and good for most people. unfortunately my mom nearly went into anaphalatic shock from eating a conventionally grown apple. she cant eat peaches, plumbs and apricots either. if we buy her organic produce and or peel it she can tolerate it better. i too have allergies and intollerances to certain conventional foods.

    • Melanie,
      I sympathise with your situation. My mom started rejecting various foods late in her life. Some of the issues might have been real, but others were probably not. I was sad for her because she ended up with such a self-restricted diet. You’re Mom’s issues may well be real, but its hard to tell.


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