Malathion is an ingredient in shampoos designed to kill head lice in humans and fleas in pets. Where else it shows up: in your toast. The chemical is an insecticide that kills bugs that typically feed on grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. In one study, the FDA detected malathion on bread and flour-based foods including biscuits, tortillas, muffins, crackers, pasta, and cereal. Research shows malathion may be associated with cancer and changes to the immune system, and can be transferred from a pregnant mother to the developing fetus.
Flip over a bottle of salad dressing and one of the first ingredients you’ll see on the label is canola oil. Unless it’s organic, chances are the canola oil is a genetically modified variety since 90% of canola in the U.S. is genetically engineered, according to the Institute for Responsible Technology.
Pesticides are also an issue with this crop. Canola is genetically modified to be tolerant to one of two different types of herbicide, glyphosate and gluphosinate. This means they can be sprayed with higher doses of the chemicals to kill nearby weeds without affecting the plants. Scientists have also found varieties of canola growing in the wild that are tolerant to both types of weeds, meaning the GMO crops have bred and spread on their own.
Americans consume 75% of their tomatoes in processed forms such as ketchup, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Each year, tomatoes appear on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. In studies, a single sample of cherry tomatoes tested positive for 13 different pesticides. When you buy organic, you’re not only avoiding all of those chemicals, you’re getting more nutritional bang for your buck. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organic ketchup contains higher levels of antioxidants than its conventional counterpart.
Meatless burgers often pack in a slew of different soy-based products including soybeans, soy flour, soy protein, soy sauce, and soy lecithin, a soybean oil extract. Today, 93% of soybeans in the U.S. are genetically modified, compared with a mere 17% in 1997. Soy is genetically engineered to be resistant to weed killers like Roundup, which is a health concern as well as an ecological one. We’re seeing more herbicide-resistant weeds, so farmers have to use larger quantities and more toxic chemicals to fight the weeds around the plants that we eat.
Non-organic dairy cows are often treated with the genetically engineered hormones called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). They’re injected into the cows to increase milk production. According to the American Cancer Society, milk from cows treated with rBGH has higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone that stimulates cell growth. Some studies suggest it could contribute to prostate, breast, colorectal, and other cancers in humans.
Apples regularly appear on the Dirty Dozen list, and this year they earned the top spot. Unless you buy organic applesauce, it’s likely to be filled with several different pesticides. According to a report by the FDA, nearly every one of the 19 pesticide residues they tested for appeared in jarred applesauce. Keep in mind that many fruit-based squeeze pouches start with an applesauce base, so look for organic varieties of those, too.