Most Pesticides Are Natural

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Today's topic: natural pesticides.

At Nutrition News Focus, we were recently questioned about a statement in NNF that 99.99 percent of the pesticides we eat are natural. This has been known by scientists for many years, but some activists try to give the impression that man-made chemicals must be bad while natural ones must be good. Well, chemicals are chemicals. In fact, all of us are just big bags of chemicals held in by skin.

The famous and highly-respected scientist Bruce Ames wrote in 1990 that plants produce toxins to protect themselves against fungi, insects, and animal predators. Tens of thousands of these natural pesticides have been discovered, and Americans on average eat about 1.5 grams of natural pesticides per day. (See an article on the topic by Ames and others at the website of the National Academy of Sciences:

Likewise, the American Council on Science and Health has published a Holiday Dinner Menu showing how many natural carcinogens are found in foods many of us love.

Here's what you need to know: This story is not meant to scare you away from foods that naturally contain potentially toxic chemicals.

  • Remember that the dose makes the poison.
  • Also remember that natural is not a synonym for safe; cocaine, arsenic, and petroleum are all natural, but you probably don't want to eat any of them.
  • Many of the "carcinogenic" chemicals in food are being studied for their anti-cancer effects.
  • Most of the toxins we eat are naturally found in plants, but the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the healthier you will be.

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