Organic Foods: What you should know

Organic Foods: What you should know

"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are"

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Kiran accidentally sprays Baygon, a pesticide used to control household pests, on the fruit basket while cleaning her house. How can anyone eat those fruits now? She has to throw them in the dustbin.

Perhaps it's time we take a closer look at what's on your platter. Cypermethrin, heptachlor, quinalphos, aldrin, chlordane, dichlorvos — these banned pesticides are much more hazardous than the chemicals in Baygon. Tomatoes, okras, leafy green vegetables and fruits like bananas, grapes and apples that you so relish may be overloaded with some of these harmful pesticides.

A study by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India under the Union Agriculture Ministry threw up some unpalatable facts. Common food items contain banned pesticides in quantities a thousand times more than the permissible limits. It's high time that we introduce organic foods in our diet.

"When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be."

Molly Wizenberg

Its all about pesticides in our food

A significant number of current human ailments and diseases are attributed to pesticide residues in the food we eat. Studies show the food we eat contains an alarmingly high amount of health damaging residues. Unfortunately, there is limited awareness of the hazards of pesticides among the farmers and the consumers.

Chandra, a passionate organic farmer says; "Very few farmers understand the lethal dose indicators on pesticide labels or the pesticide waiting periods before harvest - more so in India - and there is no dedicated effort to disseminate this information.
It is a dangerous state of affairs that while no harvest of produce should be done for a number of days after spraying some pesticides, there are farmers who being unaware, dip harvested produce in such chemicals to eliminate pests lingering on the surface of the harvested produce".

  • Some of the chronic poisoning effects from pesticides include birth defects, cancers, blood disorders, neurological problems, reproductive health defects, immune system impairment, ill effect on growth and development etc.
  • mutagenic (causing alterations in genetic material which in the next generations can cause irreversible abnormalities)
  • terato-genic (causing physical defects in fetus which leads to congenital or birth defects), neuro-toxic (alters the normal activity of the nervous system)
  • endocrine-disrupting (chemicals that can lead to sexual abnormalities and reproductive failures by interfering with the body's hormones secreted by endocrine glands, also called as hormone disruptors)
  • Immuno-toxins or immuno-suppressants (pesticides that affect the body's natural defence responses to invading agents/organisms – this might increase the common disease burden in turn)
  • carcinogenic (cancer-inducing, for instance pesticide exposure having a positive association with leukemia), allergic and so on.

Shocking facts on conventionally grown strawberries!!

Image Credit: Jessica Lewis/ Pexels

A US study found 40 different pesticides in strawberries

  • 30 % are neurotoxins
  • 30 % are associated with birth defects
  • 33% are known or suspected HAL endocrine disruptors
  • 40 % associated with reproductive disorders
  • 65% can cause kidney or liver damage
  • 95 % are toxic to birds, bees and/or aquatic life

Which organic foods to buy

  • Organic supplements because of absence of heavy metals like lead, mercury and aluminum in the ingredients that goes in making them.
  • Leafy vegetables- Spinach, methi, lettuce, all greens
  • Foods known to be easily affected by pests, hence higher use of pesticides like brinjals, chillies, capsicum, okra; fruits like apple, strawberries, papaya, guava, mango, grapes
  • Spices like turmeric, red chilly, cumin and coriander powder where adulteration is common.
  • Buy Organic: Milk
    Cows raised on conventional farms are often given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to boost the amount of milk they produce. Organic milk comes from cows that have not been given antibiotics or hormones.
  • Buy Organic: Chicken
    According to the Organic Trade Association, livestock on an organic farm cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones unnecessarily.
  • Buy Organic: Baby Foods
    Because kids' immune systems are not fully developed, they may be at greater risk from some pesticides than adults. Feeding them organic foods provides peace of mind and ensures you give your baby the best start.

Make a list of 3-4 things you eat every day or most days; those are the foods you should buy organic. Choose fruits and veggies which are eaten raw.

Don't stress if these aren't organic foods

  • Fruits and vegetables with an inedible peel: There are exceptions, but in general, picks such as watermelon or corn contain relatively low levels of pesticide. Even produce without a rind or peel (such as broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes) can have low levels of toxic residue.
  • Grown relatively uncared for and hence low in pesticide use: custard apple, ber (jujube), jamun (java plum), figs, tamarind, fruits and veggies grown in the wild.
  • Foods not easily attacked by pests: corn, pineapple, garlic, peas

If you're watching your wallet, these fruits and vegetables have the lowest levels of pesticide residue, so it's fine to buy conventional versions sometimes and ensure they are cleaned well


They say 'you are what you eat'! They also say that "Our food is our best medicine". However, what would happen if the very food that we consume to stay alive and stay healthy becomes toxic?

Say yes to safe food!

Introduce organic foods in your life and usher in positive change for yourself and your family.


FSSAI - Monitoring of pesticide residues in food products

USA Today: Pesticides in food: Strawberries, spinach, kale have the most residue, a new report finds

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