Why You Probably Shouldn't Worry About Eating Organic

The Truth About Pesticides and Mortality

Does eating organic fruits and vegetables make you live any longer than eating nonorganic foods? Here’s the actual science.

Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables lowers all-cause mortality. People who consume a wide variety of them are far less likely to suffer from various chronic diseases. And science figured this out long before organic produce was being mass consumed.

But Isn’t the Organic Stuff Free of Harmful Pesticides?

Organic fruits and veggies are supposed to be grown without the commonly used pesticides, but they can still contain some, albeit at a much lower frequency than conventional produce (1,2).

Perhaps more importantly, there’s no good evidence that the amount of pesticides in conventionally grown produce harms humans. According to the toxicologically based risk assessments performed, the amounts present are well below worrisome levels. And based on the available data, pesticide levels are rarely detected at a level that would be of health concern (2-4).

Fine, Produce is Good Regardless, but Isn’t Organic Even Better?

Let’s look at the receipts (a few interventional studies). The studies comparing organic vs. nonorganic fruits and vegetables largely failed to find significant differences between the evaluated endpoints, although they’ve all been relatively short-term (5-9).

Some fruits and veggies may contain higher levels of certain phytochemicals if organically grown, but those studies aren’t consistent. More importantly, no good evidence exists that it translates to superior health effects.

Observational studies – which are a weaker form of evidence and can only show associations, not causation – show some potentially positive associations (like higher fertility with organic consumption versus nonorganic), but these may be due to confounding variables related to lifestyle or diet that are unique to those folks who consume organic foods. In other words, people who are health-conscious enough to buy organic are probably doing other healthy things, like exercising.

A Recent Study—High Vs. Low Pesticide Residue and Mortality

While this study didn’t evaluate organic versus nonorganic fruits and vegetables, it did attempt to evaluate associations between high and low pesticide consumption and all-cause mortality (10).

The study found that the fruits and veggies frequently associated with having higher pesticide residues failed to produce the typically seen reduction in all-cause mortality risk seen with produce consumption after adjusting for other variables. Conversely, consumption of fruits and vegetables frequently associated with having lower pesticide residues did, in fact, have an inverse relationship with all-cause mortality.

The authors speculate that exposure to pesticides may offset the beneficial effects of eating fruit and vegetable on mortality. However, such a conclusion contradicts a large body of evidence showing an inverse relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and mortality that would’ve consisted largely of conventionally grown foods.

This is an incorrect and dangerous conclusion. It implies there’s no point in eating fruits and veggies unless they’re on the authors’ list of “low” pesticide residue produce. But there are several issues with this.

First, the authors didn’t measure the pesticide residues of the fruits and vegetables consumed. Rather, they merely categorized previously sampled individual fruits and vegetables and determined whether they had relatively high or low pesticide residues based on a rating system that included:

  • How frequently pesticides were detected.
  • If they were over the tolerance level (an indicator of whether the pesticide was applied appropriately or not).
  • How often three or more pesticides were detected.

More importantly, all they ultimately found was a rich source of confounding evidence based on the self-reported consumption of fruits and vegetables in the high and low pesticide residue categories.

For example, in the high pesticide group, they had nutritional powerhouses (I’m being sarcastic) like raisins, apple sauce, and green beans. Yet, in the low pesticide group, they had foods like blueberries, broccoli, and cauliflower. Stop and think about how individuals self-reporting what they THINK are healthy food choices (raisins and apple sauce) versus those who are actually making healthy food choices. I’m certain you’ll notice a major difference in their overall health and lifestyle.

Interestingly, there are also data showing that in contrast to the results of this study, some foods deemed as having a high pesticide residue were individually found to be associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality in other studies.

Strawberries, for example, despite being listed as the most pesticide-laden food by these researchers, were inversely associated with all-cause mortality in another study (11). The same with peppers. Conversely, in that same study, grapefruit, despite being rated as having the lowest pesticide residue, was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

Green leafy vegetables were also in the “high” pesticide category, yet they’ve also been associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality (12).

Considering how incongruent the authors’ conclusions are with other data, it’s obvious their proposed explanation is untenable.

How to Use This Info

Like your mom said, eat your fruits and vegetables! It lowers all-cause mortality… and it doesn’t matter if it’s organic or not.

If you get fresh produce, run it under the faucet and enjoy it, but don’t sweat whether it’s organic. (If you’re still worried, try this baking soda trick.) And don’t worry about eating only certain fruits and vegetables; enjoy a variety.

If you can afford it and prefer organic produce, go for it, but don’t be the douchebag at the family barbecue asking if grandma’s fruit salad is organic.



  1. Benbrook CM et al. “Perspective on Dietary Risk Assessment of Pesticide Residues in Organic Food.” Sustainability. 2014;6(6):3552-3570. Sustainability | Free Full-Text | Perspective on Dietary Risk Assessment of Pesticide Residues in Organic Food

  2. Winter CK et al. “Organic foods.” Journal of food science. 2006 Nov;71(9):R117-24.

  3. Jara EA et al. “Safety levels for organophosphate pesticide residues on fruits, vegetables, and nuts.” International Journal of Food Contamination. 2019;6(6). Safety levels for organophosphate pesticide residues on fruits, vegetables, and nuts | Food Safety and Risk | Full Text

  4. Winter CK et al." Dietary exposure to pesticide residues from commodities alleged to contain the highest contamination levels." J Toxicol. 2011;2011:589674. doi: 10.1155/2011/589674. Epub 2011 May 15. PMID: 21776262; PMCID: PMC3135239.

  5. Briviba K et al. “Effect of consumption of organically and conventionally produced apples on antioxidant activity and DNA damage in humans.” J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Sep 19;55(19):7716-21. doi: 10.1021/jf0710534. Epub 2007 Aug 16. PMID: 17696483.

  6. Vigar V et al. “A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health?” Nutrients. 2019 Dec 18;12(1):7. doi: 10.3390/nu12010007. PMID: 31861431; PMCID: PMC7019963.

  7. Rempelos L et al. “Diet, but not food type, significantly affects micronutrient and toxic metal profiles in urine and/or plasma; a randomized, controlled intervention trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 Aug 30;116(5):1278–90. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac233. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36041176; PMCID: PMC9630859.

  8. Hoefkens C et al. “The nutritional and toxicological value of organic vegetables: Consumer perception versus scientific evidence.” British Food Journal. 2009;111(10):1062-1077. The nutritional and toxicological value of organic vegetables: Consumer perception versus scientific evidence | Emerald Insight

  9. Smith-Spangler C et al. “Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review.” Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348-66. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-157-5-201209040-00007. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2012 Nov 6;157(9):680. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2012 Oct 2;157(7):532. PMID: 22944875.

  10. Sandoval-Insausti H et al. “Intake of fruits and vegetables according to pesticide residue status in relation to all-cause and disease-specific mortality: Results from three prospective cohort studies.” Environ Int. 2022 Jan 15;159:107024. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.107024. Epub 2021 Dec 8. PMID: 34894487; PMCID: PMC8771456.

  11. Ivey KL et al. “Association of flavonoid-rich foods and flavonoids with risk of all-cause mortality.” Br J Nutr. 2017 May;117(10):1470-1477. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517001325. Epub 2017 Jun 13. PMID: 28606222; PMCID: PMC7233415.

  12. Li N et al. “Green leafy vegetable and lutein intake and multiple health outcomes.” Food Chem. 2021 Oct 30;360:130145. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2021.130145. Epub 2021 May 18. PMID: 34034049.


Great article. One of the concerns I’ve read about is how pesticides can be endocrine disruptors and have a negative effect on growing children’s hormones. So I buy whatever is cheaper for myself, but only organic fruit/veggies for my kids. Any thoughts on this?

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Not worried at all

Thank you, I’m glad you found it useful. As far as pesticides acting as EDCs, I’m fairly skeptical that they have the potency and concentrations necessary to cause adverse effects except for those directly involved in their manufacturing and application. Having said that, children often are more sensitive than adults. I can certainly see taking a more cautious approach and definitely don’t fault anyone for doing so. Having said that, I have two children myself (ages 11 and 9). I consider them my purpose for living and I’ve never given them organic fruits or vegetables unless they happen to be on sale or gathered from their grandparents’ gardens. They eat the same fruits and vegetables as I do.

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I’ve always felt organic food is a rip-off (and might not even actually be organic, or do you want to trust labels while paying 2-3 times as much?). Stressing out over whether you are eating organic food or not is probably FAR worse than eating conventional food.

Food for thought on Organic… Farmers are incentivized to produce Organic… they can sell it for more than conventional. Now, ask yourself how “Organic” is regulated. Well, by our hapless government. So you know from the start there will be a problem. The Government will certify LAND as organic once it’s gone a number of years w/o having artificial pesticides / herbicides / fertilizer added to it. They can run their tests on the land to verify it… all is good right? Now plant it in your chosen crop.

When harvest comes, and your yield is crap because it is organic, not a problem, you have a field with the exact same crop across the road grown conventionally. ALL harvesting of this crop in the Northern Hemisphere is taking place at the exact same time across the globe. You really think our government has an organic cop out there tracking the trucks going to the market from field A vs. field B and making sure they tell the drop-off point that it came from the correct field? You really think that’d be possible even if they wanted to? With all the trucks looking alike and the fact there are hundreds of them and it’s all going down at the same time across the entire country? Any idea of how insanely easy it is to send a few trucks from Field B to market, saying they are from field A? How insanely easy it is to track your yields from both fields to ensure nothing looks out of order?

Those of you who are buying organic… you are not getting what you think you are getting. Sorry. Common practice: all farmers have fields that produce better than others… why not take the field that never produces all that well and get it certified as organic and then subsidize it’s crap yields from your conventional fields? Why not indeed. Especially when, as the article above admits… you can’t find a difference between the two.

I prefer to buy my veg from the farmers market, that way you’re giving the money to the people doing the work and getting fresher produce. I may buy organic and would prefer where possible but this may depend on pricing as it can be much more expensive.

My main reason for looking for it isn’t to reduce my intake of harmful chemicals, god I’ve taken soo many dodgy powders at night clubs in my youth I’d be a bit silly to try and save my soul now, no its mainly as farming organic, and less intensive farming is better for the environment and pays (after the fallow period where they aren’t certified) a better price to people doing a hard job that would kill me.

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