If there was a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win, says Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.

Why? As apples are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don’t develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful.

Kastel comments that it’s just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers,” he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson’s disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples. If you can’t afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them first.

To be organic, apples must come from orchards in which no pesticides have been used. One major producer has launched a scheme to have as much as 1,000 acres of old traditional orchards registered as organic with the Soil Association in the UK.

Read 7 foods experts won’t eat at Shine


  1. Conventional method apples are sprayed very infrequently. Growers cannot afford anything more than the most essential sprays.

    Our organic orchard neighbour sprays every 10 – 14 days with soil association approved pesticides including Copper sprays which are considered harmful to soil fauna.

    Our conventional orchards are sprayed up to 5 times in a season, as opposed to 20+ for organic orchards. No wonder organic apples are more expensive – just consider the amount of extra fuel required for the tractor and sprayer, and think about the damage to the soil through compaction.

    See Ben Goldacres piece:
    for details of why it is hard to get to the truth about organic farming.

    And this report from the Food Standards Agency:
    about the nutritional and health differences between organic and conventional.

    We looked long and hard at both methods and chose to use a minimalist “Integrated Pest Management” system to reduce inputs, reduce costs, and reduce carbon emissions.

    We run a Community Supported Agriculture scheme (actually promoted by the Soil Association) and promote local food producer – supplier links, which we feel is much more honest and sustainable long term.

    I have no problem with organic producers – let the consumer have a choice, but I also like consumers to be fully informed, and not scare mongered into thinking organic is necessarily better.

  2. Thanks very much for your comments Simon. Appreciated. That gives a nice balance to keeping people informed about the pros and cons of the 'organic' label.

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