Saturday, September 6, 2014

A favorite summertime pesticide

Posted By on Sat, Sep 6, 2014 at 9:11 AM

click to enlarge DANIKA CARTER
  • Danika Carter
We are in the midst of peach season, and Palisade peaches are one of the gems of Colorado agriculture. Due to the hot days and cool nights Palisade peaches are said to be the best, and people wait all year for them to come into season. Since they travel a much shorter distance to our tables, they don’t have to be picked when they’re still green, so they taste better than peaches that travel to us from California and other states. Their golden flesh and sweet juice just seem to epitomize summer.

However, what you might not know is that peaches are some of the most heavily sprayed crops. They get more than 50 different pesticides or pesticide combinations, sometimes in excess of Environmental Protection Agency rules, and some imported peaches are sprayed with pesticides that aren’t approved for use in the U.S., according to a 2008 study. This has landed peaches on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of pesticide-laden produce.

Pesticides are used on peaches to help prevent mold, to which they are very susceptible, and also to prevent pests. But conventional peaches absorb a lot of the pesticides that they are sprayed with which means that you’re ingesting them, too.

While the EPA still claims many pesticides used in agriculture are safe, why take any chances? Many pesticides were once considered safe, until they weren’t. More and more studies are showing pesticides’ link to diseases like Parkinson’s and cancer, as well as birth defects and learning disabilities.

Pregnant women should avoid pesticides because some residues are known to cross the placenta and can interfere with the baby’s development. A 2005 study tested the cord blood of newborns and found traces of 287 industrial chemicals.

Children are exposed to more pesticides and other chemicals than adults pound per pound, and do not have the fully developed detox system that allows their bodies to eliminate harmful chemicals. While the effects of ingesting pesticide residues may not be immediate, they can contribute to your body's chemical burden.

On top of all that, pesticides pollute the soil and local water supplies — Western Slope agricultural water, for example, eventually runs into the Colorado River — and affect pollinators, birds and other local wildlife.

But there is good news; you don’t have to give up Palisade peaches to avoid pesticides. I’ve seen beautiful, naturally grown Palisade peaches at the farmer’s market in Old Colorado City, and you can also find them at Hunt or Gather, the local-food hub at Ivywild School. Mountain Mama doesn’t have Palisade peaches but they do have others that are locally grown and pesticide-free, and even King Soopers has organic, Colorado-grown peaches. I’m sure I missed other places that are selling organic Palisade and local peaches. If you have seen them somewhere that I missed, please post in the comments so that readers can find organic peaches near them.

Buying organic Palisade (or other locally grown) peaches allows you to avoid unwanted pesticide residues and to support local growers and our local food system — all while enjoying that famous flavor. It also helps protect the water shed along the Western Slope, local wildlife, and the health of the farm workers who provide us our food.

While we can’t prevent exposure to every chemical we come in contact with, it’s certainly worth eliminating exposures where we can, especially when it tastes this good.

Danika is a Green Living writer, educator and social media consultant living in Colorado Springs. She has been living here with her husband and two children for the past nine years. Follow her on Twitter at @YourOrganicLife and join her weekly #EcoWed (Eco-Wednesday) Twitter party every Wedneday evening at 8 p.m. featuring a different topic related to sustainable, nontoxic and holistic living. You can also find her at her soon-to-be-launched blog at YourOrganicLife.com. Contact danika@YourOrganicLife.com for more details.

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