Pesticides on Our Plates: Is Our Food Safe to Eat?

A new report looks at the amount of pesticides that are making their way to our plates. Nutrition Diva examines the results with toxicologist and pesticide expert Dr. Carl Winter.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
Episode #499
image of pesticides being sprayed on crops

CW: At the tiny levels of detection of these pesticides, it is extremely unlikely that potential synergistic effects, resulting from the presence of one pesticide making another much more toxic, could occur. All toxicological effects require a “threshold” level of exposure before any adverse health effects would be anticipated. It goes back to the first principle of toxicology: "the dose makes the poison."

Pesticides often enable food producers to grow more food on their land, resulting in greater food abundance and lower costs to consumers.

ND: If the levels of pesticide residues that we are exposed to are considered safe, does taking steps to reduce our exposure to these compounds have any benefit?

CW: Given the extremely low theoretical risks posed by pesticide residues, further reduction in residues would not result in any measurable improvement in public health. One of my biggest concerns is that consumers, due to their concerns over pesticide residues, might reduce their consumption of fruits and vegetables, which is the worst thing they could do if they want to improve their health.

ND: Some might ask “How can any level of exposure to a toxic substance be safe/acceptable? Why use them at all?” What do we gain from using these chemicals in agriculture? What would we lose if we didn’t use them?

CW: Pesticides often enable food producers to grow more food on their land, resulting in greater food abundance and lower costs to consumers. It is likely that they will continue to play an important role in food production as the world braces for a population of 9 to 10 billion people by 2050.

ND: Thanks Dr. Winter for helping us make sense of this very complicated data set and to understand what this report really has to say about our food supply and our exposure to pesticides.

Additional Resources:

Pesticide Residue Calculator

Chronic Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues in the U.S.

Image of sprayed pesticides © Shutterstock


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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