Beyond the Dirty Dozen: Strategies to Defend Against Pesticides & GMOs

Beyond the Dirty Dozen: Strategies to Defend Against Pesticides & GMOs

It is stressful to think about, but it has become a hard truth of modern-day living — pesticides are negatively affecting our health in a big way. We are surrounded by damaging chemicals and toxins all the time. When we are not breathing them in through the air, we are ingesting them from our food and beverages, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.  

When you start to understand the magnitude and severity of our problem with pesticides, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead of dwelling on the bad news, focus on the good: There are savvy ways to protect yourself! Try these proactive strategies to safeguard your health.

Shop Smarter with the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” Guides

When shopping for fresh fruits and veggies, use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists from The Environmental Working Group as your roadmap.

These annual guides name 12 crops (non-organic) most likely to have the highest levels of pesticides and 15 ones considered to have the lowest levels.

For 2024, strawberries again took the top spot on the Dirty Dozen list. EWG researchers detected 22 different pesticides in one strawberry sample! Blueberries and green beans were added to the list — residues of acephate, a toxic pesticide banned by the EPA over 10 years ago, have been found in green beans.

The data are based on testing done at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At the USDA, produce samples are washed, peeled, and scrubbed prior to testing; however, the FDA only removes dirt beforehand. Even with that, traces of 251 different pesticides were present.

EWG’s 2024 Dirty Dozen

Even after washing, removing dirt, scrubbing, and/or peeling, these fruits and vegetables had the highest percentages of pesticide residue. EWG researchers recommend avoiding non-organic versions of these foods — you can still enjoy them but buy the organic versions.

  1. Strawberries  
  1. Spinach  

  1. Kale, collard & mustard greens  

  1. Grapes 

  1. Peaches  

  1. Pears  

  1. Nectarines  

  1. Apples  

  1. Bell & hot peppers  

  1. Cherries  

  1. Blueberries  

  1. Green beans

EWG’s 2024 Clean Fifteen

1.With lower levels of pesticide residue, these fruits and vegetables (non-organic) pose less of a risk to your health than the Dirty Dozen foods. Keep in mind that the USDA does not test for every pesticide used in farming — this includes the weed killer glyphosate. To minimize your exposure to glyphosate, go 100% organic (glyphosate is not allowed to be used at certified organic farms).

  1. Sweet corn* 
  1. Avocados  

  1. Pineapple  

  1. Onions  

  1. Papaya*  

  1. Sweet peas  

  1. Asparagus  

  1. Honeydew melon  

  1. Kiwi  

  1. Cabbage  

  1. Watermelon 

  1. Mushrooms  

  1. Mangoes  

  1. Sweet potatoes  

  1. Carrots

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce. 

Rinse Your Fruits and Veggies — But Know the Limitations

Washing your produce can help cut down your exposure to some pesticides, but not the most popular one — glyphosate. This ubiquitous weed killer is not just on the outside of plants — it is absorbed into plants — and glyphosate contamination cannot be removed by washing or eliminated by cooking or baking.

Even still, you can use a homemade pesticide wash to rinse off other toxins in fresh fruits and veggies: Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and ⁄ organic lemon juice in a spray bottle. Spray produce and let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. 

Keep Roundup & Other Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Out of Your Garden

Even though Bayer (owner of Roundup) is removing glyphosate-based weed killers from the U.S. residential lawn and garden within the coming year because of glyphosate-related lawsuits, the products are still in circulation. Instead of using commercial weed killers, hand-pull weeds or leave them alone — many plants considered by some to be “weeds” are therapeutic plants, such as dandelions!

If you feel you must get rid of weeds, make a homemade weed killer by mixing white vinegar, table salt, and dish soap and spraying onto unwanted plants. Better yet, learn how to make your lawn organic, free from the use of harmful pesticides, with The Lawncare Toolkit: The Basics of Eco-Friendly Lawncare by Sunday and Stonyfield Organic, two organizations with a joint mission to help transition all fields and lawns to organic maintenance. 

Peel Your Produce

Sprayed pesticides and other environmental chemicals accumulate on the outer skins, peels, and layers of fruits and vegetables. Removing peels, cutting off skins, and getting rid of the outer layers of fruits and vegetables can help you avoid the parts that have the most residual chemicals. Be sure to rinse your produce again after peeling. 

Soak and Rinse Wheat, Rice, & Other Grains

Whole grains like wheat, rice, and oats often contain elevated levels of pesticides that are sprayed right up until harvest. For example, glyphosate is used as a pre-harvest drying agent on non-GMO crops (including wheat, oats, and legumes). Surprisingly, the highest levels of glyphosate have consistently been found in these non-GMO foods. Some research shows that pre-soaking and then rinsing grains five times before cooking can significantly reduce pesticide levels in non-organic grains.

Use an Activated Carbon Water Filter

Pesticides, including glyphosate, seep into groundwater and get into the water supply. Even water used for baths and showers can pose a problem, as pesticides may be absorbed through the skin. The chance of pesticide exposure through water is especially risky if you use well water near an agricultural area. To help remove pesticides from household water supplies, use an activated carbon filter. 

Place HEPA Air Filters Around Your Home

Studies show that the average American home has up to 12 different pesticides circulating inside, detectable in air samples. HEPA-rated air filters help remove these and other chemicals and microbes from indoor air, reducing your pesticide exposure and creating a safer, cleaner indoor home environment. 

Wash New Cotton Bedding and Clothing Thoroughly

Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the U.S., and pesticide residues can end up in new cotton clothing, bedding, and other textiles. Be sure to wash new cotton items at least twice to help remove pesticides, as well as other textile chemicals that can harm your health. Even better: Buy clothing and bedding made with organic cotton whenever possible. 

Try a “No-Shoes” Policy in Your Home

Studies show that pesticides tracked into your home on shoes from nearby lawns, gardens, and other sources can stick on floor surfaces for years — despite regular cleaning. Having a no-shoes policy at home protects your indoor environment and helps keep your home free of pesticides. This is especially important for anyone with babies or pets. 

Supplement with a Natural Toxin Binder Formula

Certain compounds — such as fulvic acid, alginate, and citrus pectin — act as “binders” within the body. This means, they attach to pesticides (including glyphosate) and provide broad-spectrum removal of and protection from these toxins. Fulvic acid and other natural binders heal the body and are not associated with side effects. One trial involving four people in areas with high exposure to glyphosate found dramatic decreases in glyphosate residues in their urine samples after six weeks of taking a fulvic acid-based supplement.

Say No to GMOs

Glyphosate use in the U.S. skyrocketed after the introduction of herbicide-resistant, Roundup Ready genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 1994. But glyphosate is not just sprayed on GMO crops. It also is used as a pre-harvest drying agent on non-GMO crops such as wheat, oats, and legumes.

GMOs are plants that have had their genetic material altered through genetic engineering techniques. This manipulation of DNA allows scientists to add desired traits into these organisms, such as increased resistance to pests and toxic herbicides.

GMOs are created in laboratories using various techniques such as gene splicing, gene editing, or genetic engineering. Gene splicing involves cutting and recombining DNA from different sources, while gene editing techniques like CRISPR involve precise changes to the DNA sequence.

One of the main concerns is the potential for allergic reactions. It is believed that the introduction of foreign genes into crops trigger allergies in some individuals. This is particularly concerning for those with known allergies, as they may unknowingly consume GMO foods that could cause adverse reactions.

Another concern is the impact of GMOs on our gut microbiome, which plays a crucial role in our overall healthany disruption to its balance can have far-reaching consequences. Some studies have suggested that the consumption of GMOs may alter the composition of the gut microbiome, potentially leading to digestive issues and other health problems.

Furthermore, there are concerns that GMOs may contribute to the development of chronic diseases. While conclusive evidence is still lacking, Studies have suggested a link between GMO consumption and health issues such as cancer, infertility, and organ damage.

 To truly defend your health, you need evidence-based strategies that keep pesticides like glyphosate out of your body — while supporting key organs and systems in the process. Buying organic, non-GMO versions of your food — especially for those items on the Dirty Dozen List — are two ways to protect yourself and your health.

Also, don’t forget about the body’s innate natural wisdom. Your body has an amazing ability to heal itself when you take important steps to avoid glyphosate and use holistic remedies designed to bolster natural protection against inadvertent exposure to all types of toxins. You can feel confident knowing your precious health is safeguarded. 




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