Since I started seriously gardening a number of years ago I have repeatedly run across a certain myth in regards to organic food. That myth would be that there are no pesticides used on organic produce and this is simply not true, at all. About a year ago NPR did a piece on it and people went crazy claiming that they had been infiltrated by Monsanto. Just today I saw a news report from an ABC affiliate attempting to expose Whole Foods for their organic products from China. The reporter kept repeating that organic foods are pesticide free, once again, not true.
The difference between organic gardening/farming is that if they choose to use pesticides on their crops it is not synthetic, rather it is derived from natural sources. The claim set out by the organic community is that these natural pesticides break down in the environment much quicker than synthetics. There is also an illusion that they are "healthier" pesticides because they are natural in origin. Berkeley listed some interesting results and it turns out that about 50% of synthetic pesticides are known carcinogens. When organic pesticides were put under the examining glass it turned out that about the same amount were actually carcinogens.
There are a few methods that tend to employee healthier methods than organic. There is the permaculture technique which has been gaining popularity. http://permaculture.wikia.com/wiki/Permaculture There is also the biodynamic method which has been around for some time but seems to be gaining some notoriety as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodynamic_agriculture Both of these techniques embrace the idea that there are beneficial insects and plants that can help eliminate disease and pest rather than killing off your helpful population along with the pest and potentially contaminating yourself.
My attempt is not to squash the desire to eat healthy. I truly believe in eating local and supporting local agriculture. I do believe that the majority of gardeners and farmers who work their land in an organic fashion have their heads and hearts in the right place. To take it a step further a lot of them are probably actually using a method closer to the permaculture or biodynamic method without even realizing it. But I simply want to point out that organic does not mean pesticide free in fact organic farmers are allowed to use a wide variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops and some do. When faced with the choice of losing their crop and potential income they have to make tough decisions.
At the end of the day growing your own in a responsible manner is the way to go because you have a solid idea of what is or is not on your food and eventually your plate.
Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead https://www.facebook.com/seedtoharvestbossyhenhomestead/ which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here https://amileinhershoestalesofastayathomedad.wordpress.com/