Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dirty Dozen

"Your choices will change the world" - consumer choices influencing the way our food is grown? (photo from web)

This morning I did a radio interview about the garden, permaculture and growing one’s own food, with a little bit of a focus on the “Dirty Dozen” – the 12 fruit and veg we should either avoid or only eat if they are organically grown. It was for a new online radio station that was developed along with a creative industries precinct just down the  road from where we live. The sound of is it a little bit hippie/alternative (something that seems to be ‘in’ these days and I therefore studiously try to avoid and ignore) but I’m keen to go and take a squiz at the markets they run.

It’s a scary thought when you read up on the internet, reliable or otherwise, and realise how many litres of pesticides one eats during a lifetime, particularly if the fruit and veg isn’t washed properly and/or access to organic food is restricted. Last week the ABC Radio National programme ‘By Design’ had an interesting segment on living in the city and the implications of this for food consumption and energy expenditure. Apparently Australians use so much energy each day (e.g. cars, electricity, etc) that it’s the equivalent of each of us having 8,000 personal slaves. Eight thousand. I’m sure a lot of that is also used for shopping, during which we spend more money on junk food and takeaway than we do fruit and vegetables. 

Even less again is the amount of money we spend on organic fruit and vegetables. And there are some things that you really should buy organic, no matter what. Here are the 12 worst offenders (as released earlier this year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)):

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries 
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Capsicums
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens
Conversely, there are some fruit and veg that we can eat without worrying too much about. The items that feature on the “Clean 15” list contain traces of no more than 5 different chemicals or pesticides… although I’m not exactly sure how that’s supposed to be reassuring.

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

Although these lists are based on US agriculture, conventional farming methods in Australia are similar so the list can probably be applied in exactly the same order over here. The EWG recommends that, if it’s not possible to buy organic, that most of the fruit consumed comes from the ‘Clean 15”, reducing one’s pesticide consumption by up to 92%. More about the EWG and the compilation of the two lists can be read here.

Food is probably the most obvious example when we think of chemicals we are exposed to, but it’s also important to remember they are not the only things present in our daily lives that are potentially killing us from the inside out. Household products (e.g. cleaning products, air fresheners), cosmetics, pet products, lice shampoo, town water and swimming pools are but a few examples. It’s therefore important that we make informed choices when purchasing such products. Knowledge is powerful and by making a little bit of an effort and doing some reading we can influence the way food we eat is grown - and we even save our own health at the same time. 

- Matilda


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! Also, thank you for sharing it on facebook - your support is really appreciated :D Hope you have been looking after yourself and keeping well x