If you trust your government they are!
While it is good to always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, the pesticides that farmers use are strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they are allowed to be conventionally used.
Walking through the EPA’s website on pesticide registration can be tricky, so I am going to try to boil down the important facts. First off, what are pesticides? The EPA states that, “a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest.” Pesticides can include baits, repellents, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, bactericides, and rodenticides, used to kill harmful insects, fungus, weeds, or anything else causing harm. These different methods of pest control work by interfering with the normal behaviors of the pest and can be lethal or non-lethal.
While these pesticides are intended to rid a crop of its pests, they are first assessed on their human health and environmental effects. They are evaluated on their potential to harm humans, wildlife, fish and plants. They are also tested on their potential to contaminate surface or ground water from leaching, runoff and spray drift. The potential human risks that are looked at include short-term toxicity, such as the residues on fruits and vegetables, as well as long-term effects such as cancer and reproductive system disorders.
When a company is looking to register a new pesticide, or alter an existing pesticide, they must submit an application for registration of that pesticide. This application includes service fees; labeling to include the contents of the product, directions for use, and appropriate warnings; data on potential risk to human health and environment, including potential for pesticide residues on foods (if applicable); and evidence of meeting all legal and financial obligations.
Once the application has been completed, it goes through an evaluation process performed by the EPA. These different pesticides are tested on a number of risks including:
• Human health risks including food, water and residential uses; cumulative risks from pesticides with the same effects; and occupational risks for those applying the product.
• Environmental risks including potential ground water contamination, risks to endangered and threatened species and potential for endocrine-disruption effects.
• Risk assessment peer review: health and environmental risk assessment undergo a process of peer review by scientific experts.
After these risks are reviewed, the EPA then considers the results of the risk assessments and scientific peer reviews. They research and compare alternative pesticides that are already registered, and discuss any modifications to the product or labeling that might need to be made.
Although there may be pesticide residue detected on a fruit or vegetable, this does not mean it is unsafe to eat. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the EPA must ensure all pesticides used on food in the United States meets the FQPA’s strict safety standards. FQPA requires a clear determination that pesticides used on food is safe for infants, children and adults.
Pesticides are not here to cause harm to humans or the environment; they are here to help make farming, gardening, landscaping, and many other jobs easier and more productive. All pesticides are under strict safety regulations.