Pesticides are a real health threat – Organic products offer a healthier choice

OTA, Greenfield, MA – In response to John Stossel’s show “Is ‘Natural’ Better?” that aired November 18 on Fox Business News, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) alerts consumers wishing to minimize their families’ dietary exposure to pesticide residues that choosing organic products is the only verifiable way to do so.

“How could we argue that produce grown chemically is safer or healthier for human consumption than those grown organically?” asks Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Exposure, Biology Exposure, Epidemiology, and Risk Program in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.

Notably, Dr. Lu’s research has found that pesticide residues, which show up in the urine of children eating conventionally produced fruits and vegetables, disappear in children’s urine when they switched to organic produce. Meanwhile, researchers have shown exposure to pesticides has been linked with higher risk of birth defects, the onset of autism, as well neurodevelopment problems in vulnerable fetuses and young children. Therefore, it is very easy to make the connection: less pesticide exposure, lower disease risk.

In fact, trying to protect American’s health, the President’s Cancer Panel released a report in May 2010 urging consumers to choose food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones to help decrease their exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase their risk of contracting cancer. The report illustrated the contribution of chemicals in the environment to incidence of cancer in the United States. Agricultural chemical use is ranked the third highest risk for cancer in a nation where 41 percent of persons will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.

“Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers… Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications,” according to the landmark report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.”

“Consumers should not be misled. Organic production and processing are the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that these chemicals are not used on the farm all the way to our dinner tables,” said Christine Bushway, Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.

“Consumers should know that organic foods have the least chemicals applied in their production and the least residues in the final products. Thus, those seeking to minimize their exposure to these chemicals and follow the recommendations of the President’s Cancer Panel, can look for the USDA Organic label wherever they shop,” Bushway added.

Note: This is not the first time John Stossel, now an entertainer at Fox News, has gotten it wrong on organic agriculture. In 2000, in ABC Television’s 20/20 program, Stossel used unsubstantiated research to discredit organic agriculture. As a result, he later apologized on air for misrepresenting information on organic agriculture. View the statement here.

About the Organic Trade Association

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy (

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