Chemical Strawberries

Strawberries are fixtures on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of the twelve produce items with the highest amounts of pesticide residue. According to the 2015 report, samples of conventionally-grown strawberries showed residues of thirteen separate pesticides.

But if the prospect of eating 13 varieties of pesticides isn’t enough to convince you to avoid chem-ag strawberries, consider this:

Not only do conventional strawberries contain high levels of pesticide residue (they appear on both a recent list from the Consumers Reports, and the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list), but their production also requires chemicals that don’t directly impact consumers, such as methyl bromide, a “multisystem toxicant” used to fumigate the soil before the fruit is planted. Once the soil is treated, farmers often then apply a whole list of chemicals, including Chloropicrin and Malathion.

Roman Pinal, the Southern California regional director for the United Farm Workers (UFW), says strawberry pickers are more susceptible to pesticide exposure than the average farmworker because the fields are more densely planted than other crops, meaning chemicals are being sprayed or are drifting closer to farmworkers.

What’s more, compared to crops that are harvested once a season, strawberry plants produce fruit every two days—creating a situation where chemical management and harvesting occur “right on top” of each other, he says.

And yet, little has been done at the policy level to protect strawberry workers from these chemicals. For instance, almost all California strawberry farms are exempt from an international treaty banning methyl bromide because of its role in depleting the stratospheric ozone layer.

While the use of methyl bromide is set to end everywhere by 2017, it will likely be replaced by an equally toxic alternative on many farms. And the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to rule on its proposed protection standards for farmworkers and pesticide handlers.

Meanwhile, Glorietta and her fellow farmworkers often feel they can’t leave a job that is making them sick in the short term and increasing the likelihood that they will suffer from cancers and other illnesses down the road. Jesús Lopez, a community worker with California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit legal firm that has been taking negligent farms to court for decades, says he hears from many farmworkers in Glorietta’s situation on a regular basis. They almost always show noticeable symptoms of pesticide exposure, he says, but would rather endure untenable conditions than risk their jobs.

“Everybody is afraid to speak up,” he says. “Some people don’t have documents. Other people don’t have enough money to pay rent. Others live near the farm and don’t want to move. Maybe the school that their kids go to is nearby.”

So when we buy strawberries that weren’t grown organically, we not only risk poisoning ourselves, but we contribute to the profits of companies that are poisoning their workers.

The article from which the excerpt was taken can be seen HERE.

The Environmental Working Group “Dirty Dozen” can be seen HERE.

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20 comments on “Chemical Strawberries

  1. Leslie McConachie, Miami says:

    I would love to repost this on social media. I will definitely share it with my family. Thanks. I just bought the last 6 containers of organic strawberries from Whole Foods which came from Plant City, FL, to freeze and enjoy after our season. Thanks for helping me be convicted to not eat chemically treated strawberries again (although I just did this weekend, buying a strawberry sundae from our local growers).

    Like

    • I’m reposting too. Excellent info, thanks Bill.

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      • Bill says:

        Good! We’ve been handing out a print out of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” when we speak to groups, to help people now what they should prioritize if they’re not going to buy everything organic. Our experience has been that people are glad to have the information.

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    • Bill says:

      Feel free to share widely Leslie. I think most people want to do the right thing when it comes to food choices. It’s important to spread the information people need in order to make the right choice.

      Like

  2. Sue says:

    Great post!
    Though I was aware of how “chemical strawberries” and other produce was damaging MY health, I guess I didn’t think of how it was afftecting those forced to work around that stuff.
    I watched a great TedTalk this morning by Ali Partovi discussing organic food. I’m glad to see a lot of people “waking up” to the horrible truths of our food supply.
    Keep spreading the word and hope you have a fine week

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    • Bill says:

      I’m encouraged by the growing awareness and concern.

      I’ve picked plenty of strawberries in my time, and it’s sobering to think of that woman (and many like her) picking them to make a living for over 20 years, while having to breathe all that poison. I’m sure most people don’t realize how much of the food we eat is harvested by hand.

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, dog gone it. Now I have to give up strawberries as well. It’s a good thing I planted strawberries last fall so I can have my own. It’s really sad that even mid west farmers feel the need to endanger their health with chemicals that they have to be certified to use. Row crop farmers have to attend classes on how to handle the chemicals that go on their crops and show proof of certification before they can buy the chemicals. However, those farmers now drive tractors in their sealed up cabs high above the ground from where the chemicals are applied.

    I’m hoping to get out to Terra Nova Gardens today and continue the never ending fight with weed control. My weed control is mechanical and has a handle. I’m still working on the sweet corn patch and will hopefully have it done in a couple more good days. So onward toward the prize of finally picking a fully developed ear of delicious sweet corn.

    Have a great organic strawberry day.

    P.S. My absence yesterday was due to Jury duty. I didn’t get picked as a juror so I’m done for ever with that. After 65 in Nebraska, a person is not required to be on a jury. Almost every one of the 60 people that were called up, really didn’t want to be a part of the very back bone of this country. It does put inconvenience on working people but it should be considered an honor but most don’t see it that way. Any way that’s a discussion for another day.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks for being willing to serve on a jury Dave. I can attest to how important it is to have responsible people willing to do that.

      The amount of poison we pour onto our food every year is almost hard to believe. I’m hopeful that the tide is turning on that way of growing food.

      Good luck with the sweet corn. We had a decent crop last year and I’m hoping our luck holds out for another year.

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  4. Joanna says:

    It is disconcerting to see strawberries for sale at this time of the year in these parts. I’m just pleased I am never tempted by these chemically drenched, flavourless things. I will wait for them to be in season properly around the end of June, beginning of July or I will dip into my freezer stash for the flavour

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Leigh says:

    You convinced me! Glad I’m growing my own and I’m now firmly committed to expanding the beds!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Fresh homegrown strawberries are wonderfully delicious. We grew them for years, but eventually quit because I was spending a disproportionate amount of my time weeding them and because we have so many wild blackberries growing around here. If I was going to try them again I would only do it in raised beds.

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  6. EllaDee says:

    The EWG and it’s list is very useful, I have a blog post WIP that mentions it as well… Strawberries in supermarkets are truly overpriced, because they are marketed as convenient or healthy or perceived as somewhat of a luxury food… a la Wimbledon strawberries and cream. When in fact they are none of these things…

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    • Bill says:

      Strawberries are one of those items that shouldn’t be purchased in a supermarket unless you have a high degree of confidence about the source. I have a post on the way soon inspired by your post about olives. I haven’t written it yet, but I plan to soon.

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  7. This is absolutely eye opening! Thank you for sharing.
    Living in the city, I’m not able to grow my own, but I’ll be looking for organic strawberries this summer.

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  8. Thank you for this reminder. I’m showing it to my husband as well, so he won’t be asking me for those 2 for $5 boxes of tasteless strawberries….

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    • Bill says:

      I believe strawberries are one of those items best enjoyed when in season. There are people these days who don’t even know what a strawberry is supposed to taste like.

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  9. shoreacres says:

    Everyone confirms what I’ve found: store-purchased strawberries tend to be tasteless, hard, and edible only with a lot of added sugar. I need to get out to the farm and pick some to freeze before the season ends, and I need to be eating a lot more of them now. There’s just nothing better — unless it would be the peaches, blackberries and blueberries I’m trying to clean out of the freezer now to make room for this year’s crop.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s great that you have a good local source for real food. Maybe the best way to cure someone of a taste for store-bought strawberries is to let the try the real deal. 🙂

      Like

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