Get rid of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables?
To Gayle -
<<For people who either can not obtain, or perhaps not afford "certified
organic" produce, what is the best way to remove pesticide residues, and
I think there's two levels of answer to your question. First, is to answer
it on face value; the second is to get underneath the premises, stated and
PART I - ANSWERS
<<1. Tablespoon of household bleach per gallon of soaking water. How long
I personally would say NO to bleach on my food! This is a highly toxic
material. Chlorine gas is a weapon in war. Chlorine combines with organic
matter to create very toxic substances. I know chlorine is in water, and I
understand the reasons (delivery mechanism for transport), but even there
they're finding problems with Chlorine + organic matter; anyway, I can't
drink chlorinated water, now that I am conscious of the response in my
body. I also personally believe chlorine is harmful to all the digestion
<<Also, what's the best solvent for that nasty wax. Moderate scrubbing
doesn't do it.>>
I understand there are products for sold washing pesticides food, and there
might be one that can handle wax - I'd ask your health food store, or look
in one of the mail order catalogs (maybe Real Goods?)
PART II - PREMISES
There seems to be a vital premise underlying your question - that the only
problem with pesticides is the residue left on the food, and thus one only
needs to get rid of it and one is pretty close to organic food.
First, I question the premise that you can get all the residues out - many
are systemic and are IN the food.
But second, I would say that the issues with food grown with pesticides go
deeper than just residues in the food, specifically:
(1) organic is grown using different practices, which focus more on
nurturing the plant so they can stand up to any invaders; nurturing natural
ecosystems, that keep "pests" in check; etc. Although there has been some
debate on this list about whether that results in measurably higher
nutrition levels, and there is a scarcity of research on the subject, and
assessing that is very hard for a number of reasons - and there is a range
of competencies in the growers (I think that should take care of the major
Still - I find that, with a competent organic grower, it is likelier that
you will get a healthier, more alive, more nutritious, more delicious
I add more clauses that this isn't always necessarily so, that there can be
organic farmers that don't nurture their plants and non-organic farmers
that do - but I think that non-organic farmers that truly use these methods
will find they need less and less pesticides (I've seen that with farmers
around here); and that organic farmers that don't nurture their plants/soil
just can't stay in business and making food. Generalized statements, but I
think good enough for a consumer level.
But, bottom line, in my experience, I just find quality organic food
noticeably more nourishing, on all levels, and I feel the difference in my
body and my aliveness when I eat it (and the difference when I don't!).
You can't replace that by buying pesticide-grown food and trying to get rid
of the pesticides.
(2) the issues with pesticides are not just the effect on the consumer of
the produce. They are about the whole range of behaviors and impacts. They
are about billions of pounds of pesticides worldwide getting into the air
and water and soil and groundwater and travelling for hundreds and
thousands of miles and being breathed in and eaten by humans and animals
and bioaccumulating (including pesticides used internationally that were
banned here for their harmfulness, such as DDT, but do their harm
elsewhere, and can still get back to us in the food and ecosystem).
They are about pesticides killing and weakening beneficial insects and bees
and birds and earthworms and all the beneficial growing things in the soil
and wherever they hit. They are about a way of relating to nature where we
broadly kill a wide range of target and non-target plants and animals
(which, by the way, includes ourselves, including the farmers, farmworkers,
and people living in ag areas), rather than learning how the natural
ecosystem works and working with it, not against it. They are about toxic
vs. nontoxic ways of being in the world, about us wanting monoculture or
lush diversity of species and interactions.
To choose to buy organic, is to support and reward those farmers who
develop and remember ways of growing food without toxic materials.
Just trying (I think futilely) to rub pesticides off pesticide-grown food
sends to opposite message, supports the continuation of these harmful
practices without examination.
>> This to me gets to your other premise - that it is so impossible to get
organic food that one is forced to try to rub them off pesticide-grown
food. I question that premise. Someone must grow organically in your area.
First I would check to be sure that the food really is too expensive.
Don't assume - sometimes it isn't; or maybe the price difference is small,
compared to the benefits to yourself and society. Otherwise, one might
look into CSAs and farmers markets and other ways to get directly from the
farmer, which reduces your cost (and has other side benefits too, like
developing a relationship with the farmer and the land, and means a higher
percent goes to the farmer). Another option is to grow your own, either
alone or with others. Many people are creating community gardens, sharing
tools and land and comraderie. Or support someone else doing it in your
community - like a school. In San Francisco, there was a great project
having prisoners grow their own garden, which nurtured them and their
recovering their hearts. They were so into it, that after they left the
jail, they wanted to continue. Other gardens were started there, and as I
understand it the food both goes into the community (those who grow it) and
to local restaurants.
Being connected to alive healthy food is more than about "getting this
eating thing taken care of". It can bring us aliveness and community and
reconnection to the earth. If it looks like we don't have time for it, it
can be useful to ask what we're spending our time on that brings those
benefits? Perhaps watching TV is not as great for the family as doing a
shared garden together, watching things grow, being connected to our food
and our life.
Well, you'll find your own path. But I don't think you can get all the
pesticides off, or even most of them; even if you could, that still
wouldn't make it organic food, in so many ways; and I think finding ways to
get organic food into your life will ultimately bring you much more joy and
Just my thoughts- hope they're useful!