GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. An environmental group recently released a report that has consumers’ attention. It's called the "Dirty Dozen" and it gives produce buyers an idea of what foods have the most pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit focused on public health, based their list on pesticide reports from the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture.
The list is celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach cherries, potatoes, grapes and lettuce. Most of these fruits and vegetables are in the top 12 because their skin is softer and absorbs chemicals easily.
One Palisade farmer says he used to be a commercial pesticide applicator, but now he has been growing organically for over 20 years.
"I remember a gal going over the hazards of different pesticides,” Brant Harrison said. “What we don't know is how much a little bit of this over a long length of time will do."
Buying organic produce is an easy way to limit chemical exposure and lucky for Grand Valley residents Mesa County is an ideal climate for organic farming. Farms in moist climates have to worry about spraying for bugs often as well as increased disease spread.
"We're really, really blessed by the low humidity and lack of rain around here as far as organic growing," Harrison said.
Harrison says some fruits and vegetables are harder to grow organically, but preparing for problems and a little extra time with the crop makes it possible.
One organic shopper, Heidi Ihrke, says buying organic food is a priority for her and the extra cost is a sacrifice she’s willing to make.
"It's cheap health insurance,” Ihrke said. “Health insurance is pretty expensive and knowing what goes into my body every single day is a choice that I can make."
She says even when she does buy organic she takes other precautions to avoid chemicals, like thoroughly washing her produce. The foods listed on the “Dirty Dozen” can contain up to 67 pesticides per serving.
"I'm pregnant and expecting in August,” Ihrke said. “I feel that this is one of the best gifts I can give to my baby it’s a very healthy start early on."
Some farmers try and follow organic practices, but they aren't considered legally organic until they become certified. It's easiest to identify actual organic products by a specific sticker.
"I still think it's the integrity of the grower that's going to make a difference, as far as if they're really following the guidelines and regulations,” Harrison said.
He said technology has played a huge part in making his job as an organic farmer much easier because he now has natural products that he can use to keep bugs away from his crop.