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USDA pesticide data show startling differences in produce residue levels

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To keep pesticides out of food, water, and off farms, choose organic products

Consumers wishing to avoid pesticide residues in food, water and on farms have a simple choice: choose organic products, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) pointed out today.

The annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP) summary released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service shows significant differences in pesticide residue levels measured on organic fruits and vegetables compared with their chemically grown counterparts. As to be expected, organic fruits and vegetables, on a whole, have far fewer levels of pesticide residues than conventionally grown produce.

“Organic production is the only system that uses third-party inspection and certification to verify that no toxic and persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers have been used,” Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO, pointed out. USDA’s pesticide testing program clearly shows organic is the gold standard for consumers wishing to avoid produce containing pesticide residues.

While the entire organic sector is growing at over 8 percent, organic fruits and vegetables are the fastest-growing category of U.S. organic products, growing by 11.8 percent in 2010 to reach nearly $10.6 billion. Organic represents nearly 12 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable purchased. Data collected by USDA’s Economic Research Service show that although organic cropland and pasture accounted for only about 0.6 percent of U.S. total farmland in 2008, this percentage was far surpassed by organic carrots, representing 13 percent of U.S. carrot acreage, and organic apples, representing 5 percent of U.S. apple acreage.

“We want to make sure consumes know of the availability and abundance of fresh organic produce, especially going into the summer season. There is no shortage of nutritious, tasty, safe and affordable organic produce for families across the nation,” Bushway said.

In addition to not allowing the use of toxic and persistent pesticides when growing organic fruits and vegetables, organic producers also must comply with U.S. food safety and other food regulations as well as the exacting standards of USDA’s National Organic Program. As recently as last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged that organic food is no more susceptible to food-borne pathogens than conventional produce.

Consumers wishing to learn more about the benefits of organic produce and how choosing organic products is easier and more affordable than ever can check out OTA’s consumer website, and its Savvy Organic Shopper blog.