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If I buy some vegetables and take them home, is there any way to determine if the vegetables contain dangerous levels of pesticides?

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closed as off topic by mfg, Jefromi, TFD, derobert, Aaronut Mar 18 '12 at 15:46

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What makes you think that there is any positive relationship between "organic farming methods" and fewer/less dangerous pesticides? In many if not most cases, the organics are worse. –  Aaronut Mar 16 '12 at 3:38
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Maybe a handy-dandy Home HPLC system? e.g. iconsci.com/worldssmallesthplc.html –  Ward Mar 16 '12 at 6:46
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@Aaronut: The article to which you link does say that more organic pesticides are required than synthetic and the organic ones wreak more havoc on the ecosystem. However, the article doesn't make a claim about which is more harmful to the humans that eat the produce, and that's with what I think this question is concerned. –  ESultanik Mar 16 '12 at 14:27
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@ESultanik: That's just one study among many. Even if we were all to just assume that organic pesticides aren't more dangerous than the regular kind, the clear implication in the question title/phrasing that organic produce is safer is a highly objectionable claim of the sort that we try very hard to discourage here. –  Aaronut Mar 16 '12 at 18:01
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Last I checked, the FDA has been trying for decades to determine what "dangerous levels of pesticides" are. I doubt you're going to determine that at home. –  FuzzyChef Mar 17 '12 at 21:14

1 Answer 1

No, there is no (reasonable) way to check it for yourself.

There are thousands of toxins in the world, and any of them could land on your vegetables. Some of them might be easily discovered, but most of them would require a complicated lab test. Even if you had the knowledge required to conduct such a test, and the equipment needed, you would have to run hundreds of tests on each batch of veggies. There are attempts to develop easy tests (full text behind paywall) for consumer use, which cover a few common pesticides, but I don't think they have been turned to a commercial product yet.

This is why there are regulations, and government organs which enforce these regulations. Sure, they don't have the capacity to test each tomato field for pesticides. Their control is based on levels of risk - for example, each slaughtered pig should be tested for parasites dangerous for humans, but for organic vegetables, they are only taking random samples. It is expected that the risk of fines and other financial loss will deter farmers from using pesticides on vegetables labelled as organic. Additionally, independent eco organisations run their own tests and expose producers who sell contaminated vegetables. This results in a functioning system, where only a small fraction of organic food is actually contaminated.

If you have reasons to suspect the vegetables you aren't in fact organic, you could always pay a lab to run tests for you. It would probably cost a lot more than the price of the vegetables, so I can't imagine a situation where this would make sense.

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