I'm asking only about fruits and vegetables on the EWG's 2018 Dirty Dozen List which advocates buying organic for these fruits and vegetables, because they are likely to contain pesticides when conventionally grown:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Potatoes

The Clean 15 and Dirty 12 lists are listed together, more readably, here.

I've been abiding by this list, but are there reasons not to? What are the counterarguments?

  • Assume that cost isn't a difficulty, and I can pay for conventional and organic varieties (or is the correct term form?)
  • Assume that both conventional and organic varieties are equally available.

I buy organic:

  • to try to dodge harmful pesticides, but I know organic foods still use pesticides),
  • because some organic fruits and vegetables taste better.

2 Answers 2


I've read a lot about the costs and benefits of conventional farming versus organic farming, so I just wanted to share these two credible sources. They address some common myths about organic farming in the US (I apologize if you live elsewhere, as I'm not familiar with these practices in other countries):

Scientific American: Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture

The Washington Post: Five myths about organic food

Just to summarize:

  • Organic farms do, in fact, use pesticides. They just use those that are labeled "natural". The FDA doesn't even have a definition for the word "natural", as they admit on their website.

  • Organic foods have a very similar nutritional profile to conventional foods, so there's no advantage there.

  • Regarding environmental impacts, while organic farming does use some beneficial techniques like crop rotation, it also requires much more land area than conventional farming. So again, no net benefit.

  • Organic foods are much more expensive than conventional foods. Some people are so afraid of purchasing conventional foods that, because of budget limitations, they eat fewer fruits and vegetables total. This could have a negative impact on their health.

I hope this information is helpful!

  • Personally, I'd like the FDA to have a definition of natural and a list of pesticides that qualify (not by brand, but by what the stuff is, because it's my understanding that most if not all of the natural pesticides are plant extracts.) I know of at least one, and I'm fine with it, but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable with everything in this currently undefined class.
    – Ed Grimm
    Feb 20, 2019 at 5:27
  • Re nutritional profile: Nobody reasonable would argue that organic apples are more nutritious. That's just not the point of organic farming. Re land use: Organic farming uses more land, but much less intensely. Thus, the the diversity of bygrowth and insects on organic farms is orders of magnitude larger than on conventional farms.
    – henning
    Mar 2, 2019 at 19:22


Perhaps organic and conventional are both equally available at the point of purchase, but if the organic variety has to be sent by air freight from thousands of miles away then perhaps it's better for your health than pesticides but it's still pretty bad for the environment compared to the locally available option.

Personally I consider quality to be a combination of nutrition, taste and freshness. A wrinkly organic tomato from South America compared to a pesticide sprayed one from a local farm, which is better quality? Tough one.

Luckily local and organic tend to go hand in hand, and the wording of your question sounds to me like you were trying to explore all the angles, so, there's one.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.