Ancient Rice in a Modern World: Biopiracy and Bioengineering

by Michele McKay

In the course of 8,000 years, innovative Asian farmers have bred over 10,000 varieties of rice, each suited to different growing conditions and tastes. Today, centuries-old practices of traditional rice cultivation are threatened by corporate financial interests and technologies known as "biopiracy" and "bioengineering."


Basmati rice, bred into many strains over thousands of years by Indian and Pakistani growers, is prized in the world market for its quality and fragrance. Approximately 80 percent of India’s Basmati rice is grown for export, and thousands of farmers depend on it for their livelihoods. In 1997 the Texas-based corporation RiceTec, Inc., was granted a U.S. patent on the name Basmati, giving it commercial ownership of the name for rice seed, rice plants, and rice grain. This case of “biopiracy” raised global outrage, as Indian rice growers and exporters would have to pay royalties to RiceTec if they sold their traditional product under the familiar Basmati name. International organizations launched a challenge to the patent, and in 2001 their effort was successful. In addition to forcing RiceTec to drop its Basmati venture, the campaign raised awareness and understanding about biopiracy and the issues associated with patenting living organisms.


Although the Basmati patent was struck down, biotech giants Monsanto, Syngenta, and others are moving forward with genetic research and are patenting “bioengineered” rice. One controversial example is Golden Rice, a genetically modified organism (GMO) created by adding genetic material from flowers and bacteria to the DNA of rice. The resulting rice grain contains vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, and is touted as a solution to childhood blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency. Scientists and activists who are opposed to the GMO-related corporate control of agriculture argue that vitamin A deficiency in developing countries is not caused by deficiencies in crops themselves, but by the loss of diverse sources of food. Golden Rice provides only a minimum percentage of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, while a varied diet including leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and fruit would provide families with plenty of vitamin A. If the money spent on developing Golden Rice could be spent instead on distributing seed for safe, naturally vitamin A-rich crops, a serious health issue would be addressed, while fostering biodiversity and sustainable traditional agriculture.

What you can do:

  • Vote with your dollars by purchasing GMO-free products.
  • Visit for information on global biopiracy and bioengineering issues.

Visit for information on GMO-related cultural and agricultural issues in Hawaii.

Feed the People... Organically

by Michele McKay

The concept of sustainability is taking root in Hawaii as citizens and government officials awaken to the benefits of self-sufficiency. Growing food organically is both a “natural” step toward sustainability and a profound opportunity to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, shipping, and agricultural chemicals.

Corporate agribusinesses have long argued that farming without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers produces low yields; they maintain that chemicals and genetic engineering are necessary for production of food on a large scale. However, research published in July, 2007 shows that worldwide, organic farming can compete with standard agricultural methods.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed several published studies on the yields of organic farming, reviewing 293 samples. Their report, published in the Cambridge University Press journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems states that “Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base.” They went on to say, “Data from temperate and tropical agro ecosystems suggest that leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use. These results indicate that organic agriculture has the potential to contribute quite substantially to the global food supply, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of conventional agriculture."

Ivette Perfecto, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, said in a statement, "My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can't produce enough food through organic agriculture." She added that "Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted . . . with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies, all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food.”

What you can do:

  • Consumers vote with their dollars, so cast your vote for organic farming and a cleaner, safer environment every time you shop. By buying local, organically grown products, you will be supporting Hawaii’s own organic growers and retailers, and helping our islands move toward sustainability.
  • Visit the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) at their website: or phone them at (808) 969-7789 to learn about issues and opportunities. Get involved in helping to spread the good word for organic agriculture in Hawaii.

Supporting a Healthy Planet with Organic Cotton

by Michele McKay

When you say "organic" to someone, the natural response is for them to think about food. Most conversations and discussions on organic are about fruits and vegetables, but the scope of organic products does not stop there. You can also purchase organic clothes. “Why should I buy organic cotton?” you ask. “I don’t eat my clothes!” Good point... but the answer is more serious than most people think.

Eating organic food makes common sense, of course – if we don’t want to be around toxic chemicals, we certainly don’t want them in and on our food. (See more about what it means to “eat organic” in this month’s feature article) Even though we don’t eat our clothing and linens, we can understand the importance of organic cotton products when we learn a little bit about what goes into the production of conventionally grown cotton.

Textile labels often describe “100-percent pure cotton” content, leading buyers to believe they are purchasing a natural, chemical-free product. In reality, there is not much that is “pure” about conventional cotton. It is grown with mega-doses of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and defoliants that contaminate the soil, make their way into ground water, and drift airborne into residential areas. They create health hazards for farmers, workers, communities, and wildlife. They kill the beneficial insects and microbes that promote soil health.

Did you know:

  • 25 percent of all the insecticide used for crops worldwide is applied to cotton.
  • 8.5 million tons of pesticides are sprayed on cotton crops annually in the United States.
  • Cotton is grown on only 1 percent of U.S. agricultural land, yet it accounts for 10% of all agricultural chemicals used annually.
  • 1/3 pound of chemical pesticide and fertilizer is required to produce one pound of conventional cotton.

In contrast, organic cotton is grown with sustainable, time-proven methods that include the use of organic fertilizers, cover crops, crop rotation, ecological pest management and beneficial insects. These methods foster soil fertility and ecosystem diversity rather than dependence on the chemical industry.

Organically grown cotton products are becoming more available as public awareness and interest increases. Leading names in the clothing industry are including organic cotton in their lines, and as demand and production rise, the costs go down. Everyone wins when more acres go into organic production.

What you can do:

Consider the toxic toll of conventional cotton, and help support the long-term health of the planet and its inhabitants by choosing organic whenever possible. You don’t need to eat your clothing to make a positive impact.

Organics Rid Your Body of Pesticides, Study Shows

Common sense suggests that fruits and vegetables grown without the use of hazardous pesticides and insecticides are safer to eat. This is particularly true of organic produce, which is grown without using conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.

While this is a very important point of differentiation with conventional produce, it is one of the least understood and most important considerations in choosing healthy food. A recent study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science shows why parents should be concerned about this difference.

The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from their local grocery stores contained traces of organophosphates (this is the family of pesticides derived from nerve gas agents created in World War II—including malathion and chlorpyrifos). According to Chensheng Lu, the principle author of the study, "It is appropriate to assume that if we are exposed to (this class of) pesticides, even though it's a low-level exposure on a daily basis, there are going to be some health concerns down the road."

In light of this study, it is undeniable that organic produce is a safer choice. When the same children ate organic fruits, vegetables and juices, signs of pesticides were not found. And when switching from conventional food to organic, the pesticides that were previously measured in the urine disappeared within 36 hours. Not surprisingly, the pesticide levels immediately returned when the children went back to the conventional diets.

While the EPA insists that "dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos are below the level of concern for the entire U.S. population, including infants and children," others beg to differ. Chuck Benbrook, (chief scientist of the Organic Center, a nationwide, nonprofit, food research organization) says that this statement by the EPA is simply "not supported by science.” Pointing to “the almost daily reminders that children are suffering from an array of behavioral, learning, neurological problems,” he questions, “doesn't it make sense to eliminate exposures to chemicals known to trigger such outcomes like chlorpyrifos?"

So what’s the solution? The gut reaction of some parents might be to limit the consumption of fresh produce, but that would be a big mistake. According to Lu, “It is vital for children to consume significantly more fresh fruits and vegetables than is commonly the case today." While it may not be practical for some people to switch to a 100% organic diet, parents should at least avoid conventional produce with high levels of pesticide residue (peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries and cherries are among those that most frequently have detectable levels of pesticides).

For over 30 years, Down to Earth has been offering our customers a wide selection of organic and locally grown, fresh produce. While many of you already know that organic foods are safer, tastier and more nutritious (not to mention better for the environment), we hope that you’ll share this information with your family and friends.

At the end of the day, most people are very sensitive to the safety of the food they and their families eat and want to be confident that the food they consume is wholesome and will cause no harm. Going “organic” is an important step in the right direction, and they will appreciate information to help make healthy choices.


Tips for Growing Your Own Garden

Photo: Garden with Fresh Lettuce

by Manjari Fergusson

One of the best and most rewarding ways to live sustainably is through gardening and growing some -- or even all -- of your own produce, even if it’s just on your lanai or in a backyard garden.

Some tips to get you started:

  • Start small with pots or a 4’x8’ box bed.
  • Don’t plant too much! Just what you can handle, as you first get going. You can always add later.
  • Start composting in earnest to get your soil as healthy as possible. Also, pick up soil from a home improvement store or from a soil company – the dirt in your back yard may not be the most nourishing.
  • Make sure your plants will be in a spot where they can get at least 8 hours of sunshine each day.
  • Plant seeds that will grow well in our island climate: radishes, onions, lettuce, bok choy, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, kale, kabocha squash, taro, chayote, katuk, cabbage, green onion, Chinese greens, and daikon are some examples to get you started.
  • If you only have a small space to grow things, try to plant vining crops such as squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans. You can use a trellis or a stake to optimize space and production.
  • Water regularly.

Down to Earth sells a variety of seeds that you can pick up:

High Mowing Organic Seeds brand has sprouting seeds that sell for $5.79 including red clover, alfalfa, broccoli, and fenugreek.

Smaller bags of vegetable seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds go for $2.79, and include basil, beets, broccoli, snow peas, gold rush bush beans, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, sweet pepper, artichoke, cilantro, kale, pac choy, dill, chard, shell pea, snap pea, parsley, spinach, tomato, squash, jalapeno, pumpkin, and radish.

With Hawaii’s year-round growing climate, even just growing a small amount of your own produce isn’t too hard and does a world of good for the planet.

Organic Food: Good for You and the Environment

by Tandis Bishop

When we think about consuming the freshest and healthiest food possible, it is important to consider two questions. One – what makes organic food natural? And the other – what impact do your shopping choices have on the environment?

On Organic food

If you’re reading this article, you are probably someone who wants to become more health conscious and to make healthier choices in your eating habits and lifestyle. You are likely to be interested in foods containing as little chemicals, preservatives, additives, or pesticides as possible. And certainly you would prefer eating foods that are not irradiated or genetically modified. In general, you want to eat food that is by nature’s arrangement, all natural.

Organic food gives you all the things you are looking for, grown naturally the way nature intended it. When you buy organic foods, you don’t have to worry because organic farmers follow strict standards to grow the most natural fruits and vegetables. They don’t use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, hormones, antibiotics, sewage sludge, irradiation, or any genetically modified organisms. Just look for the “USDA/Organic” label, and you can be confident that stringent guidelines have been followed to bring you that wholesome natural product. Down to Earth is proud to offer you an enormous selection of such organic products.

On the Environment

Along with this awareness of wanting to eat healthy foods usually comes a concern for how we treat the environment. As we become more educated about how conventional farming methods destroy top soil and pollute our waters, etc., it is only natural to want to buy food that has been grown by sustainable agricultural methods that avoid the unnecessary pollution caused by chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Genetically Modified Organisms are another concern. Through scientific intervention to “improve” crops, mankind has potentially opened a Pandora’s box by messing around with Mother Nature. The long-term damages caused by these biological experiments could be irreversible. While government agencies argue they are perfectly safe, the jury is still out. One example of the damage that can be done by “arranging” nature is when people brought mongooses to Hawaii to get rid of the rats. It did not work, we still have plenty of rats, and now, unfortunately, there are not as many native birds.

The Easy Answer

If you want to eat healthy and/or help the environment, choose Organic foods.

Healthy Living = Healthy Planet

Photo Illustration: Green Earth

by Michele McKay

If we really want our world to have a cleaner, safer environment the most effective action we can take involves a simple thing we do every day: choosing what products to eat and to use. A healthy vegetarian diet based on organic, natural foods and the use of non-toxic household products work together to promote sustainability and a clean environment in a host of ways. When we make eco-friendly choices we foster clean air, water, and land, which benefit us in return by supporting our good health as individuals and communities. Healthy living and a healthy planet go hand-in-hand.

What you can do

Go veggie

Choosing a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing you can do for the environment. Consider the ecological havoc caused by raising animals for meat:

  • Global warming – Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gas than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Reducing meat production could rapidly lower the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
  • Pollution – In the US, 130 times more sewage waste comes from livestock than from people. The livestock industry causes more water pollution than any other activity and is responsible for the contamination of soils, rivers, and streams with pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, manure, and heavy metals.
  • Water use – Producing one pound of meat requires 100 times more water than growing a pound of soy, and 1,000 times more water than a pound of wheat.
  • Deforestation and loss of biodiversity – 70% of all agricultural land is used for livestock (this represents 30% of the earth’s entire land surface). Forests are burned to create pastures, destroying habitat and causing incalculable loss of plant and animal species. In addition, slash-and-burning releases vast quantities of CO2.
  • Soil erosion – Animal farming is responsible for 85% of the soil erosion in the United States, and contributes heavily to the loss of irreplaceable topsoil.

Buy organic

The Organic Label means organic produce is grown without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; ionizing radiation, or GMOs. Organic dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic products are good for our bodies, they are sustainable, and they promote ecological harmony. Organic farming methods keep toxic agricultural chemicals off the land and out of our water and air, serving to build long-term soil fertility, benefit wildlife, and support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

Use natural, non-toxic personal care and household products

Make earth-friendly choices to keep hazardous chemicals out of your home environment. You’ll also be keeping them from contaminating our planet’s environment via their production, their use, and their disposal. What you do for your own good health will ultimately benefit the Earth’s good health!

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Organic

Photo: Person Holding A Seedling in Soil

by Tracy Ternes

The positive environmental benefits of organic farming are well-documented. Organic farming preserves biodiversity and soil fertility, prevents soil erosion and reduces contamination of the water supply from toxic runoff. Anecdotal evidence and common sense tell us that organic food tastes better and is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides. However, when it comes to the assertion that organic food is actually more nutritious than non-organic food, most scientists agree there is a need for more research. Fortunately, studies of this type are increasing and many recent studies are concluding that organic food may indeed have higher levels of some nutrients and antioxidants and lower levels of nitrates and pesticides.1

Three different studies examined the nutrient values of organic strawberries, blueberries and kiwis compared with their non-organic counterparts. The results showed both organic strawberries and organic kiwis as having higher levels of vitamin C and higher antioxidant activity.2,3 The study on blueberries reported that organic blueberries yielded significantly higher levels of fructose and glucose, malic acid, total phenolics, total anthocyanins as well as higher antioxidant activity.4

Similar results were reported from a study on organic oranges. According to research at Truman State University in Missouri, organically grown oranges contained up to 30% more vitamin C than those grown conventionally.5 Furthermore, a study from University of California, Davis found that organic tomatoes contained averages of 79% and 97% more quercetin and kaempferol aglycones (beneficial flavonoids) than conventionally grown tomatoes.6

Further supporting the claim that organic foods in general are more nutritious is a report by Virginia Worthington, M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S. Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, Worthington concluded there were significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These included 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus.7 A 2008 report jointly produced by The Organic Center and professors from the University of Florida Department of Horticulture and Washington State University provides evidence that organic foods contain, on average, 25% higher concentration of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts.8

Research on organic milk has reported such positive findings as higher levels of antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-three fatty acids.9 One of these studies reported that the organic milk actually had 68% more omega-3 fatty acids, on average, than conventional milk.10

While the scientific debate is still out regarding the nutritional superiority of organic foods, research concluding in the favor of organics is certainly growing as evidenced by the above studies. As consumer interest in organic products continues to grow, new studies will continue to shine light on the many possible benefits of eating and growing organically. At Down to Earth, we have always been aware of the value of organics, whether supported by science or simple common sense, and we remain committed to supporting organic farming and providing you with quality organic products.

  1. Organic Trade Association. Nutritional Considerations. 2011. 2 May 2012.
  2. Reganold JP, Andrews PK, Reeve JR, Carpenter-Boggs L, Schadt CW, et al. (2010) Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012346
  3. Amodio, Maria L, et al. “A comparative study of composition and postharvest performance of organically and conventionally grown kiwifruits.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87:1228–1236 (2007).
  4. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 56, pages 5,788-5794 (2008), published online on July 1, 2008.
  5. American Chemical Society. "Research At Great Lakes Meeting Shows More Vitamin C In Organic Oranges Than Conventional Oranges." ScienceDaily, 3 Jun. 2002. Web. 3 May 2012.
  6. Mitchell, Alyson. “Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007 55 (15), 6154-6159
  7. Worthington, Virginia M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S. “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.” Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001 (pp. 161-173).
  8. Charles Benbrook, Xin Zhao, Jaime Yáñez, Neal Davies and Preston Andrews. “Nutritional Superiority of
    Plant-Based Organic Foods.”
  9. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, online (2008).
  10. Ellis, K., Innocent, G., Grover-White, D., Cripps, P., McLean, W.G., Howard, C.V. & Mihm, M. “Comparing the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk,” Journal of Dairy Science, 89: 1938-1950 (2006).

Healthy, Natural Foods are Affordable

by Caitlin Rose

Making healthy food accessible and affordable for everyone has been a focus of Down to Earth since opening its first store at Wailuku on Maui 35 years ago. The idea was that whole, minimally processed foods often cost less than highly processed foods -- those laden with fat, sugar, additives and preservatives--because the cost to produce, package, and market them is much less.

Now, a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that healthy food can be affordable and can cost less than unhealthy food.1 The researchers defined healthy food as food that helps a person meet the USDA nutritional guidelines. This includes vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy. They defined unhealthy food as food which does not help a person meet the nutritional guidelines, or which has high amounts of saturated fat, added sugar or sodium.

But many consumers don't think about the difference, much less care about it. The reality is that fat, salt and sugar taste great! They think junk food is good enough because it takes the edge off of hunger and is cheaper than eating a healthy, balanced meal. Surprisingly, researchers actually confirmed that grains, dairy, vegetables and fruit are all cheaper than most meats or foods high in saturated fat, added sugars or salt. In addition, animal proteins such as meat, chicken and fish are the most expensive foods by portion size, but it is possible to meet protein requirements with less expensive proteins such as beans. So if you’re trying to stay healthy on a limited budget, you’re in luck! The findings of the USDA study confirm that a vegetable stir-fry with rice is cheaper than a burger and fries.

The authors of the study affirmed that it was possible for low-income families to meet the government’s nutritional recommendations. They pointed out that in order to meet the recommendations, fruits and vegetables should occupy half of the plate at each meal. This may mean that people should dedicate a greater percentage of their food budget to buying whole fruits and vegetables, but the amount they spend on food overall does not have to increase.

In addition to the sticker price, the cost of diet-related choices must take into account long-term health care and lifestyle costs associated with eating highly processed foods that contain unhealthy additives. For instance, five of the leading causes of death in the United States are related to improper diet: coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and diabetes. Given the health benefits of a high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian diet, over the course of a lifetime an individual can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on health care.

Besides the savings, eating a healthy diet contributes to a better quality of life all around. Not only does eating healthy food help you avoid disease, but the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes will proactively encourage a state of health and wellbeing. The fact is that eating healthy is affordable. Now, this study by the USDA reaffirms it. Whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products are less expensive than processed, convenient food and animal protein. The message is clear: you don’t have to pay anything more to eat better. In fact you can save now and save later—while enjoying a better quality of life.

  1. Carlson, Andrea, and Elizabeth Frazão. Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It depends on How You Measure the Price, EIB-96, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2012.

Studies Show the Effect of Pesticides on Children

Photo: Children Smiling

by Tandis Bishop

Some of us may not be very concerned about eating organic. Heck, with today’s busy lifestyle, it’s a challenge just to get enough fruits and vegetables in our diet. However, there is a special group of people who may need to eat organic as much as possible. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) infants and children may be especially sensitive to the health risks posed by pesticides.1 One of the reasons for their vulnerability, the EPA says, is that their internal organs are still developing and maturing. Another reason is that in relation to their body weight, children eat and drink more than adults do, which increases their exposure to pesticides. Also, children’s exposure to pesticides is increased because of their tendency to put objects in their mouths, and to play on lawns, floors, etc.

Many studies are showing the effects of pesticides on children. In 2010 the journal Pediatrics published a study by the Harvard School of Public Health which found that children with high levels of pesticides known as organophosphates were twice as likely to develop ADHA (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder).2 The data found was based on the general U.S. population. Which means pesticides could be harmful at levels normally exposed to children. Researchers agree that this is a strong association and that if true, is a very serious concern since these are widely used pesticides. Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare and are known to be toxic to the nervous system.

Beyond infants and children, new studies are also showing that pesticides in fruits and vegetables may be harmful for a developing fetus as well. A new University of California, Berkeley study linked prenatal pesticide exposure to lower levels of IQ in children. The study measured pesticide exposure in the urine of pregnant women in Salinas and found a 7 point IQ deficit in children whose mothers had the highest pesticide levels.3 What’s alarming is that the urinary pesticide concentrations were within the range of levels measured in the general U.S. population. In other words it was an average amount of exposure. This was one of three studies published on April 27, 2011 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, showing the association between pesticide exposure and children’s IQ. The other two studies, one at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and the other at Columbia University, examined inner city populations in New York City. Researchers were surprised by the level of consistency across populations in the studies, which is very unusual.

What do you take home from all these studies related to pesticides and children? The answer is simple. Reduce their exposure as much as possible. How?

  • Choose organically grown fruits and vegetables, or close to it. This in itself can drastically reduce children’s exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. Identify the foods that are more heavily treated with pesticides, known as the “dirty dozen”, which you should always try to buy organic, such as strawberries, apples, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce and other leafy greens, peaches, nectarines, etc. Foods that are least contaminated, known as the “clean fifteen”, are usually safe to buy conventional, such as avocados, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, etc. For complete lists see "dirty dozen" and “the clean fifteen.”
  • Follow the recommendation of researchers by washing fruits and vegetables very thoroughly.
  • Avoid the use of pesticides and insecticides in and around your home. Most hardware stores have natural forms of pesticides and insecticides as a safer alternative. Even then, you should keep children and their toys away from the treated areas. You can also find a lot of tips for natural, home-made pesticides on the internet.
  • Frequently wash children’s hands, toys, and bottles. Keep floors and surfaces clean to reduce exposure to residue from pesticides and other chemicals.
  1. Environmental Protection Agency official website:
  2. Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC,Wright RO, Weisskopf MG. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. PEDIATRICS Vol. 125 No. 6 June 2010, pp. e1270-e1277 (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3058). Available online:
  3. Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, Vedar M, et al. 2011 Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children. Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp.1003185. Available online: