Organic strawberries sell for 50% to 100% more than conventional berries, but apparently, they are not what we expect them to be.
Namely, in the initial stage, they are fumigated with toxic chemicals, such as methyl bromide. This chemical is used to sterilize the soil before their planting, but this fumigant destroys everything it touches.
“The soil is, as a matter of fact, full of live organisms. It is essential to conceive of it as something pulsating with life, not as a dead or inert mass.”
– Albert Howard, The Soil, and Health, 1947
“For most of the agriculture’s 10,000-year history, farmers have succeeded or failed based on their ability to nurture life within the soil. The microorganisms and earthworms that thrive in healthy soil metabolize nutrients and make them available for crops.
They also convert animal and vegetable waste into humus, thus regenerating their own habitat and maintaining that thin layer of topsoil on which all terrestrial life depends.
In modern agriculture, however, soil operates as a medium, not a habitat: It exists to transfer synthetic, pre-metabolized nutrients from factories to crops.
In this regime, any life form found in soil is at best innocuous — and at worst, a threat. When a vast crop is planted in the same field year after year, its pests concentrate in the soil, waiting to strike.”
All strawberries are treated with toxic chemicals and pesticides before the stage of the fruit-bearing stage, regardless of if they are conventionally or organically grown, as they are particularly subject to pests.
The U.S. is the biggest producer of strawberries worldwide. California exports even 75 percent of the fresh and processed strawberries, and 90 percent of US-grown fresh strawberries come from there.
California is the home of most of the world’s strawberry nursery plants, but none of them is organic.
A really organic approach to growing these berries is to rotate them with other crops such as broccoli, which acts as a natural fungicide and protects them. This method prevents pathogens from setting up the house and multiplying.
“Most fungi attack in summer, survive the winter as spores in the soil or plant litter, then attack again in the next growing season. So planting the same crops in the same fields year after year allows pathogens to build their populations.”
The owner of Driscoll made an attempt to clarify things, and this is his explanation:
“Wow, that’s a total lie. We at Driscoll’s have an organic nursery, but it’s only for Driscoll’s growers. Only methyl bromide was never registered.
There were a few trials and they took it out of production 5 years ago. Secondly, call Santa Barbara County 805 934-6200. You cannot fumigate with methyl bromide and call yourself organic.
California has the toughest control on Organics and is crazy. You cannot go back to back on Organics, you need to let the ground rest. There is a two-year rotation to go back and plant berries and to make a farm organic.
You need to transition your ground for 3 years farming wheat or mustard plants to get certified organic. This guy is lying out his teeth. Organic is more regulated than conventional berries.”
Methyl bromide is linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer in farm workers, so in 2010, as part of the U.S. agreement to the Montreal Protocol, its commercial use was supposedly banned, and yet, strawberry field fumigation and some other common agriculture applications are exceptions to this ban.
Every year, over 9.5 million pounds of pesticides, including more than 3 million pounds of methyl bromide, is used to keep pests away from strawberries.
Even its substitute, Methyl Iodide, is not a healthier alternative, as even though the FDA approved its restricted use in California in 2010, numerous experts, including five Nobel laureates, claim that it has detrimental effects on our health and environment.
With the goal to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from approving its use,: “More than 50 scientists, including five Nobel laureates, stated in a joint letter, “As chemists and physicians familiar with the effects of this chemical … we urge you to do whatever is possible to prevent this chemical from ever becoming a registered pesticide.”
Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, science director at Science and Environmental Health Network says:
“Everyone agrees, without exception, that methyl iodide is a very toxic compound. It’s very reactive. That means it interacts with living tissue in very toxic ways, causing cell damage and damage to cell structures, DNA, or chromosomes.
The upshot is it can cause a lot of health effects, including cancer and damage to tissues that are developing. In animal studies, it killed the fetuses of developing animals. “
For more than three decades, at his 75- acre Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, Jim Cochran has been growing real organic strawberries, so he is the first one to grow organic strawberries in California.
Yet, he purchases the starter plants from a nursery in northern California, where they use toxic fumigants on them in the pre-fruit phase. He says that:
“There’s a gray area in the rules,” as organic farmers are allowed to buy non-organic starter material by the Federal and state organic regulations, and still claim their produce are organic.
However, the NY Times claims that California “doesn’t have a single organic berry nursery — hence the practice of relying on plants that grew on fumigant-using nurseries.”
“The multi-crop organic farm is vastly more complex than the single-crop chemical strawberry farm. It requires much more management. Crop rotation and organic methods are expensive and the yields are generally a little lower.
“It’s not easy. What we’re up against is people who use chemicals and produce strawberries at $2.50 a basket and can still be quite profitable. What we are trying to do is have it be organic from the very beginning, but it’s going to take some time to get to that point.”
Therefore, these findings and reactions reveal the fact that pesticides are definitely used, but is the situation the same with truly organic strawberries?
Hence, the best way to be sure you consume organic strawberries is to grow them on your own.
You should buy organic, heirloom strawberry seeds. Also, a popular strawberry variety is Everbearing, which produces strawberries during the whole year. You can transplant the seedlings in a garden tower, on a sunny place, in a well-drained soil.