By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We try to eat healthier, especially when feeding our families. That can get expensive, so when does it pay to go organic? Good Question.

To get the USDA Organic Seal, crops cannot have any genetically-modified organisms, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or certain pesticides. A short list of pesticides are allowed.

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“Organic is not necessarily a healthier version, but what does healthier mean? More nutrients? Not necessarily,” said Carrie Peterson, director or the dietetics internship program at the University of Minnesota. “Other people will purchase organic items because from an environmental standpoint. There’s less of a carbon footprint we leave in the world when we purchase from and support organic farmers.”

Peterson says when choosing organic produce, she looks to what the Environmental Working Group calls the “Dirty Dozen.” That is produce found with the highest levels of pesticide residue, based on USDA testing. Generally, those are foods that have thinner skins or skins that humans consume.

Research on long-term pesticide exposure has been shows to lead to health problems like cancer, but the research is still unclear and controversial. According to the USDA, pesticide residue have been found on food, it’s nearly always at levels the EPA says are safe to eat.

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EWG Dirty Dozen

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • On the flip side, the EWG also has a list of foods it found least likely to have pesticide residue:

    EWG Clean 15

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  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Cabbage
  • Onion
  • Sweet Peas
  • Papaya
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Eggplant
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Heather Brown