Pesticides 101: Another reason to eat local

The end of July marks the beginning of berry season in BC. Whether you’re heading to the supermarket, the farmers market or packing up the kiddies to go berry picking at a local farm, chances are, berries are on your mind. Who can blame you? Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries… limitless snacking possibilities (and dessert potentials) come to mind. With the recent movements toward eating organic and local, our curiosity has been sparked to find out more about the state of our BC berries.  Are these delicious little morsels as innocent as they look? We’ve heard that California berries are heavily sprayed- what about our berries? Is BC’s pesticide regulatory system different from the American system? With all these questions stewing about, we turned directly to the source, our very own BC Berry Industry Specialist, Mark Sweeney. Below, we hear it straight from the horticulturalist’s mouth.  


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There’s no doubt about it, the word 'pesticide' doesn’t have a great connotation. At least not for the average consumer. Berry expert, Mark Sweeney, began our pesticide 101 with an overview of pesticide use in BC, explaining that when it comes down to it, growers really can’t produce fruits and vegetables without pesticides. Even organic producers use organic pesticides, but, he said, consumers need not be alarmed: “All pesticides are thoroughly tested to minimize residue on fruit. The result is that there are very low pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables in BC, and these are considered by toxicologists not to have any adverse health effects.”


That’s good news to the average consumer, who may be concerned that if they can’t afford organic, they or their children aren’t getting the best nutrition. Mark was quick to let us know this is simply not true and that the most important thing in terms of nutrition is to encourage people to eat as much fruits and veggies as possible.


Hmmm. So what actually makes berries organic vs. non organic? In reality, is there much difference in BC?


There is a difference, Mark explains: “The word ‘organic’ technically means it has been produced without the use of any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, and has been grown in a production system that is sustainable. Many organic farmers have certification, in which case an inspection is required. But there are also many organic farmers who are not certified (mostly because it costs be certified). “


Very interesting.


After reading US-based books like To Eat or Not to Eat Organic many people in BC are out there wondering what the difference is in pesticide content between buying berries from the US and buying local? Especially because we see so many California berries in our supermarkets.


According to Mark, there are important differences, “Many pesticides are used on shipped products to protect against rotting, etc. so fruits and berries that are shipped have higher pesticide levels. The rule of thumb is that the closer you get to the producer, the less pesticide use you’ll encounter. For example, strawberries in BC are grown for local consumption, so way less pesticides are used. This pretty much goes for any crop in BC. And the bonus is that they are fresher, harvested when ripe (vs. picked greener when shipped), tastier and have better nutrition.”


Farmers Market, here we come! And berry farms, here you come! Let us know which berry farms or farmers markets you’ll be visiting this summer, we’d love to share this info on our FB page. This week, we’re giving away the deliciously inspiring Rebar Modern Food Cookbook to one of our lucky FB fans! 

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