Deliciously sweet and juicy, peaches are the quintessential way to enjoy summertime — but they’re more than just a sweet treat. Peaches are high in potassium, niacin, vitamin A and C, and they’re a good source of dietary fiber as well, making them just as healthy as they are delicious.
Maybe that’s why it’s so sad to see them on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list. Because of the pesticide residue found on these fruits in comparison to other popular fruits, unfortunately, they made the list.
Does this mean that you should avoid peaches? Even by EWG’s own admission: No, it doesn’t.
However, when we took a deeper look into pesticides and peaches, we did find some surprises…
Generally, domestic peaches expose us to higher amounts of pesticides than imported varieties.
According to a University of California Department of Food Science and Technology study, it’s important to trace not only conventional vs. organic growing practices when taking pesticide exposure into account, it’s also important to track where the fruit was grown in the first place:
Of the 15 pesticides for which quantifiable residues were detected from both domestic and imported fruit and vegetable samples, domestic exposures were significantly higher for 11 pesticides while imported exposures were higher for the remaining four. The five pesticides showing the highest exposures all demonstrated greater domestic exposures than imported exposures.
While these results would disappoint any “locavore” — with the implications for the environment in the transit process — the bottom line is that these results are still important for those who have concerns with conventionally grown produce.
As consumers, when we’re aware that growing methods can differ and result in less pesticide residue, we can then organize and petition for change. If there is room for improvement, we can definitely start demanding it.
Cultivation practices make a huge difference in pesticide exposure
In a study published by the US Library of Medicine, we found an interesting report that compared the results of fresh peaches produced under conventional vs. integrated crop management (ICM) cultivation. The results of this study, which was completed by the Center of Toxicological Sciences and Research, showed that integrated crop management (ICM) had “higher efficiency in terms of product safety and quality”. They also found that, in some cases, levels of the pesticide chlorpyrifos were higher than the maximum residue limits (MRLs) in conventionally grown peaches.
The report revealed the promising results of newer integrated crop management methods vs. conventionally grown methods, but it also showed that because some conventionally grown peaches had residues of pesticides higher than the maximum residue limit, continuous monitoring of conventionally grown produce is necessary.
What is integrated crop management (ICM)?
As more of us are concerned about what we eat and serve our families, pressure shifts as biotech companies are watching the trend shift toward more sustainable growing methods — methods that don’t rely so heavily on synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
According to Syngenta Bioline, a company that focuses on ICM, integrated crop management can include the use of:
- Beneficial insects
- Microbial products
- Plant extracts for disease and pest mitigation
- Chemical controls used as a last resort as opposed to first-line of defense
- Beneficial predators
The good news is that there ARE alternatives for heavy pesticide use that has been the go-to for years in the biotech industry. Syngenta points out the truth, “In recent years, pesticide resistance in vegetables, fruit and flower production has developed very often due to the overuse of chemical controls.”
Translation: Change is coming as synthetic pesticides offer us potential health dangers and more and more pesticide-resistant “superweeds”.
What the Pesticide Data Program found on peaches…
The Pesticide Data Program is an annual summary released by the USDA that catalogs produce and pesticides. When we looked up peaches, we found 25 pesticides. Here are 4 of the biggest players:
- Fludioxonil with 76.5% of peaches having detectable residue
- Propiconazole with 45.6% having residue
- Pyraclostrobin with 37.9% having residue
- Boscalid with 36.8% having residue
Fludioxonil, the most predominant pesticide, is a fluoridated pesticide used as a fungicide. According to the Fluoride Action Network, its adverse effects have been documented in studies to show endocrine disruptive effects for the ovaries and thymus. And although this pesticide is “currently unclassifiable” as a carcinogen, it was shown to statistically increase liver tumors in female rats and other malignant lymphomas in female mice.
Because peaches are such a commonly enjoyed fruit and also have a relatively high amount of pesticides, it’s understandable why they made the EWG’s dirty dozen list. However, as we’ve shown, it really does depend on where the fruit originated and the cultivation methods.
More importantly, despite what was found on peaches, they still offer amazing health benefits, including potentially anti-cancer properties in their own right.
According to Medical Daily, peaches are a stone fruit that offer bioactive compounds. Their many benefits include:
- May reduce bad cholesterol
Additionally, peaches are high in potassium — essential for heart health. According to Medical News Today, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium every day reduced their risk of heart disease by half!
The takeaway: We love peaches — don’t stop eating them! Take a balanced look at the information — look for peaches that were produced organically or with other integrated methods that rely less on synthetic pesticides. Whether you buy conventional or organic, you should always wash your produce. We recommend 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Gently scrub produce in a large bowl with mixture — and then enjoy!
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/
University of California, Department of Food Science and Technology: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19059451
Center of Toxicological Sciences and Research, Medical School, University of Crete, Voutes, Iraklion GR-71409, Crete, Greece: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15370840
Sygenta Bioline, Integrated Crop Management: http://www3.syngenta.com/global/Bioline/en/icm/Pages/IntegratedCropManagement.aspx
Pesticide Data Program: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5110007
Flouride Action Network: http://fluoridealert.org/wp-content/pesticides/epage.fludioxonil.effects.htm
Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274620.php