WHAT IT MEANS: One more reason to buy organic. While it is unlikely that methyl iodide injected into strawberry fields pre-planting will wind up on or in the nonorganic strawberries you buy at the store, rest assured those conventionally grown berries could be teeming with other toxic compounds. That's because many chemical farmers rely on a cocktail of pesticides to help compensate for chemically destroyed soil quality. For example, according to Pesticide Action Network's What's on my food? tool, which uses U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program numbers, 55 percent of conventional strawberries contained residues of the fungicide Captan, a probable human carcinogen, according to the EPA. In total, tests turned up 54 pesticide residues on strawberries, including eight known or probable carcinogens, 24 suspected hormone disruptors, 11 neurotoxins, and 12 developmental or reproductive toxicants.
Here's how to ensure safer strawberries for you and your family:
• Buy organic. The gold standard is to buy local strawberries that are organic. But if you're choosing between conventional local and organic from farther away, choose organic. That sends a message to your local producers to stop using toxic pesticides, keeping their chemicals out of your water and soil (and theirs). Also, be wary of local farmers who market their strawberries as "no-spray." They may not have physically sprayed the berries, but they may have fumigated or applied another broad-spectrum weed killer before planting the crop. If you'd like to urge Gov. Brown to reverse the California decision allowing methyl iodide use starting in 2011, you can sign Pesticide Action Network's petition.
• Grow your own. Planning your 2011 home garden? Why not incorporate some organic strawberries? Organic Gardening magazine's strawberry growing guide can help you get started.