12 foods to eat only if they're organic

Is the thought of going totally organic daunting? Start off easy with these 12 foods that have the highest pesticide residue.

1. Strawberries
Some organic growers joke that conventionally grown strawberries are so full of chemicals, you could grind them up and use them as a pesticide. But pesticides are no laughing matter. Sixty-five different pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are registered for use on strawberries in the US.

Strawberries are the most chemically intensive crop in California. Most commercial strawberry growers use methyl bromide, a toxic, ozone-depleting chemical, to eradicate all fungus, nematodes, microorganisms and weeds, effectively killing every living thing in the soil where strawberry plants are grown. For the remaining growth cycle, the berry plants are drip-fed chemical fertilizers. Because methyl bromide can cause poisoning, neurological damage and reproductive harm, the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) classifies it as a Toxicity Category I compound, which is a classification reserved for the most deadly substances it regulates.

Nonorganic strawberries are highly likely to contain pesticide residue after harvest. When the PDP (the USDA's Pesticide Data Program) releases its annual list of produce samples with residues that exceed tolerance levels, strawberries appear more often than any other fruit or vegetable.

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Excerpted from To Buy or Not To Buy Organic, copyright 2007 by Cindy Burke. Used by permission of Avalon Publishing Group.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.

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