Conventional strawberries top the Dirty Dozen list of the Environmental Working Groups 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, displacing apples, which headed the list the last five years.
Nearly all strawberry samples – 98 percent – tested by federal officials had detectable pesticide residues. Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides and some had residues of 17 different pesticides. Some of the chemicals detected on strawberries are relatively benign, but others are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption, and neurological problems.
Strawberries were once a seasonal, limited crop, but heavy use of pesticides has increased yield and stretched the growing season. In California, where most U.S. strawberries are grown, each acre is treated with 300 pounds of pesticides. More than 60 pounds are conventional chemicals that may leave post-harvest residues but most are fumigants – volatile poison gases that can drift into nearby schools and neighborhoods.