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What I’ve Learned about Strawberries and Pesticides

Since eating in season is what Spring Vegan is about, and strawberries are a late spring treat, I thought that it would be important to talk a little more about this wonderful California fruit that we all love.  Due to concerns I previously had with the cultivation of strawberries, I usually pass them by at the market.  It was not until a box of strawberries came with one of my vegetable boxes that I did a little more digging.

I had recalled receiving an email in February from the the Environmental Working Group (EWG) regarding approval of use of a pesticide, methyl iodide, which would replace the current pesticide being used, methyl bromide.  The decision to use methyl iodide was met with great opposition as it is considered “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth” by some.  The company finally pulled it from US distribution and we no longer have to worry about its use on produce grown here.

During my research I found more information regarding how strawberries are grown and that most if not all organic strawberries are started on a non-organic farm.  I then emailed the farm where my vegetable box came from to inquire on the growing method of their strawberries.  It took almost 5 days (I usually get responses from them in a day) and the farmer (never received an email from him) finally responded.

His email did not directly address my question regarding use of pesticides, but did confirm that the root stock did start at a conventional farm.  He did not provide specifics of the pesticides used at the conventional farm, but assured me that once they were transplanted they were not treated with pesticides.  I was confused…

You see, whenever I picture my organic produce growing, I always see it starting and ending on an organic farm.  It never crossed my mind that the plants could start off conventionally grown.  Since this was new information for me, I thought to share with you so that you could make an informed decision when purchasing strawberries.

Eating Organic Strawberries

The first thing that you should consider before purchasing strawberries is the growing method.  According to EWG, some tested conventionally grown strawberries had more than 13 pesticide residues making them #3 on their dirty dozen list.  One pesticide, methyl bromide, which is widely used in the production of California strawberries is known to have affects on the ozone as well as toxic effects on the body.  Due the affects on the ozone, methyl bromide has been on a phase-out plan and was to be completely phased out by 2005 in developed countries and by 2015 in developing countries.  Unfortunately, countries can apply for a critical use exemption which extends use of the pesticide.

Pesticides are linked to causing toxicity in the body affecting the brain and nervous system, hormones, skin, eyes, lungs and potentially cause cancer.  More risk is involved when eating conventionally grown fruits or vegetables with higher concentrations of pesticide residue.  Due to the health and environmental issues of most pesticides, it is safe to say that reducing pesticide exposure is important. The best way to reduce exposure is by eating organic.  Since strawberries are #3 on the EWG list for high pesticide residue then it is suggested that only organic strawberries are eaten.

Are Organic Strawberries 100% Safe?

This is the question of the century!  Technically, yes, they are organic since the farm that you buy them from does not use pesticides when growing the strawberries.  But there is one caveat.  Strawberry root stock or starter plants are not organic.  Actually, they are grown conventionally.  Based on my research and discussions with local farmers, it is very difficult and near to impossible to grow organic root stock.

Now, I cannot attest for the safety of the final product, the organic strawberry.  I do find it difficult though that by even purchasing organic strawberries, support is going to conventional growing and use of pesticides such as methyl bromide which directly affects the environment and the health of the people who work with the pesticide.  Unlike most fruits and vegetables that start off at the organic farm, strawberries start off in pesticide treated soil.

I had a conversation with an organic farmer and he said that his supplier provides an affidavit that they use the least amount of pesticides needed to grow the strawberry starter plants.  He also mentioned that he knew of a farm that grew their own root stock organically but could not compete due to the high cost and low yield.

With this information, I have decided not to purchase strawberries until I can find a farm that grows from organic root stock or until I grow my own.  I would love to hear what you think.  Was this information that you were aware of?  What are your thoughts, will you continue to buy strawberries?  Will you start buying organic if you were previously buying conventional?

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2 comments

  • Debby Bishop 5 years ago

    This is very disheartening. What a grand deception. There was just a segment on CNN with Dr. Sanjay Gupta informing the public that non-organic strawberries had tested with 13 pesticides and recommended not eating them. I was feeling good that I ate only organic. But now THIS!? I wish that someone would test what the organic strawberries have in them.
    Thank you for the info.

  • Kandie 3 years ago

    HELLO. IS THERE A REASON YOU DO NOT GROW YOUR OWN STRAWBERRIES FROM SEED?

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