A new study released on Friday by the USDA and featured in the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program came to the somewhat horrifying conclusion that about half of the food grown in the United States has been treated by pesticides at some point during its growth.
A sample of fruits and vegetables with the highest concentration of pesticides include celery, peaches, nectarines, and raspberries. Pesticides were found heavily used not just in exported foods, but imports from other countries. Some pesticides that have been banned in the United States showed up in imported food from other countries.
In a statement, the USDA said:
“A majority of the foods sampled contained some level of pesticide residue. While the levels found were mostly below ‘tolerance’ levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for many pesticides health impacts in children can occur at such low levels.
For example, testing was done for the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos in 18 different types of food (mainly fruits and vegetables or products). While only a small number of samples contained the chemical, detections were in 12 of the 18 types of food.
The chlorpyrifos residues were nearly all below EPA’s tolerance levels; yet it is worth noting that very small amounts of chlorpyrifos are associated with adverse effects. Epidemiological studies on children exposed to the insecticide have indicated associations with lowered IQ and effects on brain development at low doses.
In October, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report recommending that both FDA and USDA disclose limitations in their pesticide residue monitoring. One limitation that USDA should clarify regarding the sampling methodology is that the samples taken are not nationally representative. Because of these limitations, GAO reported that “users of the data may misinterpret information in these reports and draw erroneous conclusions based on the data.”
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