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AGRICULTURE REPORT – July 30, 2002: Chemicals on Organic Food - 2002-07-29

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Farmers who grow organic food do not use chemicals to increase their crops or control insects and disease. However, a new study shows that chemicals can still be found on organically grown food. The study showed that organic crops had far fewer chemicals than other fruits and vegetables. The publication Food Additives and Contaminants reported the findings.

Organic food is one of the fastest growing areas in American agriculture. Industry officials estimate that American stores sold almost eight-thousand-million dollars worth of such food in the year two-thousand. That is a twenty-percent increase in sales from the year before.

Many Americans believe that eating organic food is more healthful than eating food grown with chemicals. Some people are willing to pay more for such food. Yet several reports claim that some organic foods have just as many chemicals as other crops.

Scientists with the American group Consumers Union supervised the new study. Consumers Union publishes Consumer Reports magazine.

The scientists collected and examined information from three earlier reports on chemicals in the American food supply. Consumers Union, the United States Department of Agriculture and the state of California prepared the earlier reports. The combined reports studied more than twenty different crops and more than ninety-four-thousand fruits and vegetables.

The scientists found that chemical pesticides to kill insects were present on almost twenty-five percent of the organic fruits and vegetables. The chemicals also were found on almost seventy-five percent of other crops.

Two of the reports included foods that were not organically grown. They were grown with reduced use of chemicals. Foods in this group had chemical levels between those for organic and traditional crops.

The scientists also examined why organic foods contain any chemicals at all. They found that most of the chemicals in organic foods were unavoidable results of earlier chemical use in the environment. They say other chemicals may have been blown onto the organic fields from nearby farms. They also say some of the food tested may have been sold as organic although it was not organically grown.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.