Yes, There Are Pesticides on Organic Lettuce

The "organic" label doesn't always guarantee that something is pesticide-free.

Last week, the Environmental Working Group released its 2011 Shopper's Guide, which lists the produce with the highest pesticide residues, or its "Dirty Dozen." Of the fruits sampled, 98 percent of apples came back with pesticide residue, followed by celery, strawberries, and peaches.

The list isn't intended to scare you away from fruits and vegetables, but to help you decide when it might be best to go organic. While you'll find fewer pesticides on certified organic produce, organic doesn't always guarantee "pesticide-free." As Maureen Langlois explained recently on NPR’s Shots blog, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that one-fifth of organic lettuces actually tested positive for spinosad, a naturally occurring soil bacterium that's manufactured by Dow Chemical and is one of about 40 synthetic chemicals permitted under the USDA's National Organic Standards.

All things considered, the responsible use of synthetic herbicides might be less of a risk than the irresponsible use of spinosad. As Jeff Gillman, a professor at the University of Minnesota and organic practice expert, told Langlois: "I'd rather buy food from someone who used Roundup once than someone who uses organic pesticides all the time."

So, it's worth taking the time to find farmers or produce managers you can really trust.