Organic is the safest way to go

Mar 11, 2014 by Carol Bareuther

Have you seen YouTube’s latest video for why you should choose organics? A little girl conducts a science experiment to see if a sweet potato in a jar of water will sprout vines. She buys a couple conventionally grown potatoes and after three weeks, nothing. She gets another one, and still, nothing grows.

When she asks the produce man, he tells her it’ll never grow because it’s been sprayed with a germination inhibitor called Bud Nip, and that she should try one of their organic sweet potatoes. She does, and in three weeks, it has a few little vines. She buys another potato from an organic market and in one week, it’s loaded with vines.

Some question whether this video is real. (Some say that sweet potatoes don’t have germination inhibitors such as chIorpropham sprayed on them.) So I dug a little further.

Sure, we know that chemicals are used to grow our foods, but when you put names behind the generic terminology of chemicals, a picture begins to form.

Nip It In The Bud, or Bud Nip as it is called by the “food people”, is a harsh chemical, chlorpropham, that is sprayed on foods such as blueberries, spinach, carrots and onions to keep them from budding on their way to market. Plants need nitrogen to grow, and chemicals like chlorpropham reduce the intake of nitrogen.

You might think, no big deal, right? Well, while chlorpropham is mildly irritant to the skin, ingested it is known to cause mutations in laboratory animals. It’s being sprayed on our food; of course it’s going to be ingested.

Pretty scary to think I ate this stuff growing up. There were no “organic” foods in grocery stores back then and farmland was not dedicated to this way of living and eating.

Organic produce is more expensive but it is definitely worth it, not only for the nutritional value  but also the level of chemicals compared to the risks associated with chemically treated conventional store produce. Worst yet, food imported from other countries can harbor chemicals that have been banned in the U.S. and Europe for years.

It’s good to know what chemicals are sprayed on the fruits and veggies you eat, and which fruits and veggies retain the chemicals in their skins. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a list, which is criticized by many “green foodies.” I found some great information from the Pesticide Action Network (, including a database of chemicals and products.

Some pesticides are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), compounds that despite the moniker of organic resist degrading and remain in the environment for years. These include aldrin, chlordane and DDT. They even become more concentrated with time.

Conventionally grown peaches, apples, grapes, pears, cherries and any fruit with a porous skin will have chemical residue on them, especially copper hydroxide, copper oxide, chloropicrin and dichloropropene, not to mention diazinon. Not exactly what I have in mind when I bite into a juicy peach.

If these chemicals are in the skin, washing them will not remove the pesticides. The best way to eat safely is to eat organically grown produce. Organic farmers can’t spray their produce with pesticides if they want to retain an organic rating. Even their soils are tested.

The chemicals used today to create good-looking produce and keep it looking like that while it travels to our grocery stores have long-lasting repercussions, not only to our own health, but to the health of the environment. So unless you can grow your own sweet potatoes and onions, organic is the safest way to go.

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 20 years. Comments on this column are welcome at