I was visiting a small farm near my hometown and the farmer told me that he uses pesticides on his plum trees. I asked him why and he told me that the return on his crop is too small without them. I find this troubling because, as a retired teacher farming for fun, he doesn’t need the income so why use the pesticides?

This got me thinking about products with the highest pesticide levels and which products are best to buy organic.

The 2011 “dirty dozen” list reflects testing data from the 2010 harvest. However, pesticide use is weather-dependent and often varies by farm, so the list may not wholly reflect the pesticide residue content of the products in your grocery store. Keeping this in mind, The Daily Green article “The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic” by Dan Shapley, includes both fruits and vegetables cited in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) current list as well as products that have made the “dirty dozen” list in the past.

Below is the New Dirty Dozen list (in reference to The Daily Green):

Apples: Once again topping the 2011 dirty dozen list: apples. Apples are by far the worst offenders. I would never feed my own kids non-organic apples, as the arsenic levels are, simply put, crazy. Fungus and insect threats prompt farmers to spray various chemicals on their orchards; more than 40 different pesticides have been detected on apples. Not surprisingly, pesticide residue is also found in apple juice and applesauce, making all apple products smart foods to buy organic.

Peeling apples may reduce the pesticide residue but you could also be peeling away the fruit’s most beneficial nutrients. If you can’t find organic apples, safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas and tangerines.

2. Celery: