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Organic Consumers Association

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Can You Taste Pesticides in Your Food?

As I have reported in the past, while fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods you can eat, nonorganic varieties are commonly contaminated with pesticides. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports more than 75 percent of the U.S. population has detectable levels of organophosphate pesticides in their urine.1

In a survey conducted in 2013,2 71 percent of Americans expressed concern over the number of chemicals and pesticides in their food supply. Studies linking long-term pesticide exposure to neurological diseases,3 birth defects,4 endocrine disruptionobesity, cancers5 and more are only growing in number. It therefore follows, if you reduce your pesticide exposure, it would likely improve your health and reduce your risk for chronic diseases.

Unfortunately, while research demonstrates exposure to these pesticides is unhealthy for both human health and the environment, the amount used commercially and in residential areas only continues to grow. According to an analysis done in 2012 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,6 for every 1 percent increase in crop yield there is an associated 1.8 percent increase in pesticide use.

Logically, this is an unsustainable course as the environmental and health ramifications associated with pesticide use and exposure rise accordingly. Even after years of exposure to pesticides in your foods, scientists have found you may well be able to tell the difference between eating organically grown foods and those laced with glyphosate and other pesticides.7

Does Your Food Taste Dry?

In a first-of-its-kind study led by University of Caen Normandy molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini, Ph.D., scientists examined 16 pairs of organic and nonorganic wines produced in seven regions of France and one from Italy. To ensure the best comparison, the wines were produced with the same varieties of grapes grown organically and conventionally, in the same types of soils and neighboring vineyards, as well as in the same climate and in the same year.8

The researchers carried out 195 blind taste tests by 36 professionals from the wine and culinary industries. The wines chosen were tested for over 250 different pesticides in a laboratory. One of the organic bottles was found to contain trace amount of pesticides. In the nonorganic wines, 4,686 parts per billion of different pesticides were found, mostly fungicides and glyphosate-based herbicides.9

In preparation for the test, pesticides were diluted in water at levels present in the nonorganic wines. In 85 percent of the cases, professionals were able to recognize pesticides by taste and 58 percent of the professionals were able to recognize all the water glasses containing pesticides.10 Next, the professionals were asked to taste the wines. Of those who were able to detect pesticides in the water, 57 percent could match the wine with the water containing the exact blend of pesticides.

The wine connoisseurs and culinary experts preferred organic wines 77 percent of the time.11 Participants were asked to describe the taste of the pesticides, offering terms such as "drying" effect and papilla blockade. The latter term described an impaired sense of taste brought on by drinking wine contaminated with pesticides.

The researchers believe their test demonstrated people are able to recognize the taste of pesticides in drinks and potentially in foods. They concluded12 "there is no scientific reason why this is not feasible." Adding:13

"A larger study could also be envisaged, not only to confirm the presence and distribution of pesticides in food and beverages, but also to progress from this primary test of feeling to sensory test on a wider range of pesticides and a larger number of volunteers."

Foods Labeled 'All Natural' Include Glyphosate and Other Pesticides

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is one of the largest in North America, valued at approximately $2 trillion.14 The anti-GMO activist group, Moms Across America,15 tested CPG lunch food products, finding trace levels of herbicide were frequently present in products from Lipton tea to Skippy's peanut butter. The group used Health Research Institute Laboratories to test products, revealing glyphosate in samples of almond milk, veggie burgers and other products.16

Even though the levels fall below the EPA's legally permitted thresholds for pesticides in food, Moms Across America describe the levels as "disturbing."17 What Moms Across America knows, and manufacturers would like you to disregard, is that while the amount of herbicide and pesticide found in a single item may be small, it's compounded daily by the number of products you eat every day, 365 days of the year.

Thus, while the levels of pesticides fall within legally permitted thresholds,18 they may drastically exceed them if you regularly eat a lot of processed foods. Moms Across America believes no level of glyphosate is safe, even in microscopic quantities. The consumer group also argues products claiming to be "all natural," should not contain any level of glyphosate. This same point has been made in a number of recent lawsuits.

In coming months, California's Proposition 65, a list of chemicals believed to be carcinogenic, will include glyphosate. Formerly known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, this initiative was designed to protect drinking water sources from toxic substances by requiring advanced warning of exposure.19

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