Camire discusses pesticides, produce with NBC News BETTER

Mary Ellen Camire, a fellow at the Institute of Food Technologists and a professor of food science and human nutrition in the School of Food and Agriculture at the University of Maine, was quoted in an NBC News BETTER article about risks posed by pesticides. The article was written in response to this year’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists of the most and least affected produce released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Camire discussed changing practices in food production that could reduce the amount of pesticides on produce from small local farms, regardless of whether it is organic. These include the use of protective insects to control harmful ones as a substitute for synthetic pesticides, and hydroponic technology used in greenhouses where pesticide use is rare. Organic produce is not free of pesticides, but is grown with natural pesticides instead of synthetic chemicals. The EWG’s lists reflect the average and maximum numbers of different pesticides found on fruits and vegetables, but not the levels. The amounts are probably not harmful, and it is still better to eat conventionally grown produce than skip it entirely because the health benefits of a diet rich in produce outweigh the health risks of pesticides, according to the article. And while Camire maintains an organic garden herself, she says the label has not been the primary influence on her choices of how to feed her family.