Strawberries :: Health Food or Poison?

If you read no further that this first sentence, do NOT eat non-organic strawberries. More on that later. First, some strawberry lore.

My early associations of strawberries are of a pile of fresh, sweet berries piled onto a crumbly homemade biscuit, sprinkled with sugar and topped with freshly whipped cream, on the lawn of my mother’s parents’ home, on their diminutive estate in Western Pennsylvania, on a warm summer evening. Once, in my tennis days, I had a small Wimbledon party, inviting a few friends to watch the match on TV while devouring fresh strawberries and cream.

Strawberries have always been a favorite pleasure of mine, long before I knew that they were regarded by ancients as an aphrodisiac, favored by Venus because of their heart shape and plenitude of seeds. Everything about strawberries speaks of idyllic summer picnics and evenings of romance. Plus, they taste really good.

Strawberries have been savored for centuries, eaten wild by the Romans, enjoyed by Native Americans and early Europeans. Garden strawberries were first cultivated in the late 18th Century, some say in France, some say in the U.S. Strawberries are not only associated with Venus, the goddess of love, but have been used through the centuries for their medicinal properties.

While strawberries are quite good for you, these delicate, finicky berries are also difficult to grow, as they are prone to many diseases. Conventionally grown berries are covered with highly toxic pesticides, but they are subjected to toxic chemicals before they are ever put in the ground. The ground they are transferred to is fumigated with horrific chemicals, and covered with a layer of toxic plastic, through which the berries emerge. Sound appetizing? Even “organic” strawberries are prepared in chemical-laced nurseries and put into fungicide-poisoned ground. There are a few exceptions, like Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm, just north of Santa Cruz, California, a pioneer in organic strawberry production. I can attest that his berries are among the best I have ever tasted.

Various fumigants have been used over the centuries, from brine, arsenic and sulfur in the 17th & 18th centuries, to the non-organic toxins used by modern farmers. Chemicals used as nerve gas in the second world war were put into service as fumigants and pesticides. The rise of industrial farming roughly coincides with the Industrial Revolution, and the dictates of Capitalism make certain that any innovations that threaten the hegemony of the chemical industry are quashed. Modern strawberry farmers, for example, are worried that if they switch to organic processes, they will lose a great deal of money, and the system is set up to make it difficult to take the kinds of risks that Jim Cochran took a quarter of a century ago on his small California farm.

Until recently, methyl bromide was used as the primary fumigant for strawberries, but was phased out after it was discovered to deplete the ozone layer. Methyl bromide, which also damages DNA, was then replaced with an even worse chemical, methyl iodide, with is more water soluble, and more likely to enter the water supply. It has also been shown to be harmful to farm workers.

California produces about 90% of the strawberries grown in the U.S., and 20% of worldwide production. By switching to organic methods, farmers risk losing money. They spend more on production, but are not able to recoup their losses by selling at a premium price, since they are unable to label berries as “organic” for the three years it takes for certification.

While “organic” strawberries are not as pure as one would like, they are treated with far fewer chemical poisons than their “conventional” rivals. They’re still delicious, and highly nutritious, containing vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also free of fat, cholesterol, and contain few calories, and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than your average orange.

Organic strawberries are still a great way to celebrate summer. And, this writer is convinced, they will be produced with fewer and fewer chemicals as time goes on, and more earth-friendly methods of farming are employed.

(Fifty-)Two Reasons Why You Should NOT Eat Non-organic Strawberries

Fumigants Strawberries are grown in soil that has been sprayed with noxious gases – even most “organic” strawberries. “These fumigants are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and developmental problems in children,” says soil science expert Margaret Reeves, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network.” ( The earth is treated with the chemical, and a layer of polyethylene is placed over the soil to retain the poison (and moisture). The chemical is also used to “fumigate” wild animals’ warrens, in other words, to kill any and all wildlife that might eat the berries – and some that don’t. The fumigant of choice had been methyl bromide, but it was phased out (with some exceptions!) – globally -by 2015, because of its tendency to deplete the ozone layer. Methyl bromide was replaced by an even worse chemical, methyl iodide, but its use was much more restricted, and has been mostly phased out. Syngenta agreed to stop marketing the poison in the U.S. in 2012, but still produces the chemical and uses it around the world. ( One alternative to these fumigants is Choloropicrin, which was used as a nerve gas in WWI. It causes respiratory problems, and, ultimately, death. ( There are other fumigants on the market.

Pesticides A 2008 study by the USDA’s official site list 54 pesticide residues in strawberries. ( This is probably a conservative estimate. According to Katarina Lah of Toxipedia, “Pesticides are designed to kill and because their mode of action is not specific to one species, they often kill or harm organisms other than pests, including humans… Pesticide exposure can cause a range of neurological health effects such as memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills…asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity, and pesticide exposure is also linked with cancer, hormone disruption, and problems with reproduction and fetal development.” (

Some of the effects of these various pesticides:

Captan: Eye an skin irritation
Pyraclostrobin: “27 cases of acute illness among the potentially exposed workers; all illnesses were associated with off-target drift of the pyraclostrobin to an adjacent field.” (
Tetrahydrophthalimide: “Repeated inhalation by rats and mice produced effects including changes in the liver, spleen, lungs, blood composition and nervous system activity, and increased kidney and spleen weights.” (
Myclobutanil: “Workers exposed to myclobutanil have reported symptoms such as skin rash, allergic dermatitis, itchiness, nausea, heachache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, nosebleed, and eye irritation (CDPR).” (
Fludioxonil: Cancer: “currently unclassifiable” – statistically significant trend for malignant LYMPHOMAS in female mice; statistically significant increases in LIVER tumors in female rats (
Bifenthrin: “Symptoms of excessive exposure to bifenthrin are nausea, headaches, hypersensitivity for touch and sound and irritation of the skin and the eyes.” (
Malathion: Malathion is classified by US EPA as having “suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential.” Also, “a 2008 study done by the University of Pittsburgh found that “cocktails of contaminants”, which are frequently found in nature, were lethal to leopard frog tadpoles.” (
Cyprodinil: “Harmful in contact with skin. May cause heritable genetic damage. May impair fertility. May cause harm to the unborn child. Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.” (
Malaoxon: “This compound is toxic by ingestion.” As in strawberries. Also – are you ready? “Symptoms of exposure to this type of compound include cholinesterase inhibition, miosis, frontal headache, increased bronchial secretion, nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, lacrimation, increased salivation, bradycardia, cyanosis and muscular twitching of the eyelids, tongue, face and neck, possibly progressing to convulsions. Other symptoms include hyperemia of the conjunctiva, dimness of vision, rhinorrhea, bronchoconstriction, cough, fasciculation, anorexia, incontinence, eye changes, weakness, dyspnea, bronchospasm, hypotension or hypertension due to asphyxia, restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, drowsiness, tremor, ataxia, depression, confusion, neuropathy (rare), coma and death from depression of respiratory or cardiovascular systems. Exposure to this type of compound may result in giddiness, nervousness, blurred vision, discomfort (tightness) in chest, papilledema, muscular weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of sphincter control, cardiac arrhythmias, various degrees of heart block and cardiac arrest. It may also result in spasm of accommodation, aching pain in and about the eye, nystagmus, delayed distal axonopathy and parethesias and paralysis of limbs. A decrease in blood pressure may occur. Respiratory failure may also occur.”

If that doesn’t scare you away, most of the above pesticides are not found in organic strawberries.

Ten Reasons Why You SHOULD Eat Organic Strawberries

They are really delicious.
Antioxidants Merriam-Webster defines antioxidants as “a substance (as beta-carotene or vitamin C) that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals”; free radicals may damage cells or genetic material. ( Strawberries have been shown to be one of the best sources of antioxidants. (
Vitamin C “The benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.” ( Enough said for now.
Improved blood sugar regulation Strawberries can reduce the negative effects of excessive intake of sugar in the bloodstream. (
Reduction of inflammation According to the Arthritis Foundation, strawberries may lower blood levels of CRP (C-reactive protein), which signals inflammation. High levels of CRP are associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Manganese Manganese helps the body utilize nutrients such as biotin, thiamin, ascorbic acid and choline. It also helps strengthen bones, maintain normal blood sugar levels, promote healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, contribute to nerve health and protect cells from damage from free radicals. (
Vitamin K Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin which helps blood clot. It is also associated with bone strengthening and cell growth. (
Folate Among the many functions of folate are: reduces blood homosteine levels; forms red blood cells; assists in cell growth and division; prevents neural tube defects. (
Pantothenic Acid Also known as Vitamin B-5, pantothenic acid is vital to important for metabolism, nervous system and energy production. It also helps create red blood cells, and has been linked to the reduction of cholesterol. (
Choline Among the benefits of choline are the manufacture of neurotransmitters, making and transporting lipids and cell communication. (

Ten MORE Reasons to Eat Organic Strawberries

Minerals! Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Selenium and Fluoride.

So, get to your local health food store, farm stand or farmer’s market and gorge yourself on organic strawberries. (You might want to eat other healthy foods as well…). But before you eat, ask the vendor what fumigants or pesticides (or other poisons) are used in the cultivation, growing and processing of the delectable berries. Once you know what you are eating, you’ll feel better, and be better! Enjoy.\

Paul Jimerson (@pauljimerson)

Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange.

California’s $2 billion strawberry industry, which produces more than 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries,
Those scientists concluded that use of the fumigant would result in acute public health risks because tests on rats and rabbits have shown that exposure to the chemical causes thyroid cancer, miscarriages and damage to the nervous system. Scientists also found it can pollute air and water.

Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are true super foods. Naturally sweet and juicy, berries are low in sugar and high in nutrients – they are among the best foods you can eat.
Joel Fuhrman
Cherries, strawberries, and red or green grapes are great add-ons to any sexual fun

Read more:

A perfect little red heart, the strawberry is an edible Valentine. Touted as an aphrodisiac fruit since the times of ancient Rome, the strawberry was a symbol of Venus. (In the French countryside, there was once a tradition of serving newlyweds cold strawberry soup to help promote the aphrodisiac of honeymoon romance.)

aphrodisiac strawberry: the crimson symbol of venus

Strawberries:Are delicate and prone to disease, including fungal attacks that can turn them to mush during transit and storage. Millions of pounds of methyl bromide are used every year by California strawberry growers. It damages the ozone layer, so it is banned in many parts of the world. “This chemical has an uncanny ability to damage DNA, which creates a host of problems, ranging from reproductive effects to cancer and neurological damage,” explains Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, chief scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council. “Since the chemical is also highly volatile, it is easy for it to drift and affect workers and nearby communities.”

Dirty Dozen – 12 Foods You MUST Eat Organic

The heart-shaped silhouette of the strawberry is the first clue that this fruit is good for you. These potent little packages protect your heart, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and guard against cancer.
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange.
This member of the rose family isn’t really a fruit or a berry but the enlarged receptacle of the flower. Choose medium-sized berries that are firm, plump, and deep red; once picked, they don’t ripen further. First cultivated in ancient Rome, strawberries are now the most popular berry fruit in the world. In provincial France, they were regarded as an aphrodisiac. These red gems may be good for your heart in more ways than one.

“The reality is that a lot of the organic growers want nothing to do with organic plants” because it scares them, said Mr. Rickert, who has since gone back to herding organically fed cattle at his ranch in Butte Valley. Indeed, for many organic strawberry growers, using organic stock amounts to taking a big financial risk with little chance of reward.
farmer James Rickert of Prather Ranch
pioneering California organic strawberry grower Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm (briefly profiled on Mother Jones here), who also signed the letter, used  Rickerts’ plants extensively and found them “always of excellent quality,” he told the Times.

California’s fields are stunningly productive. They yield ten times more strawberries, per acre, than strawberry farms in Michigan; twenty times more than farms in the state of New York
Finally, the plants are trucked up into the mountains along the California-Oregon border. It’s cold up there, which is crucial. Somehow the cold gets these plants primed for maximum production.
Because California’s strawberry growers don’t want to take any risk that their crop will fail. They have too much money invested — especially in prime growing areas along the coast where land is most expensive.
They inject chemicals into the soil and seal the fumes into the soil with sheets of plastic.
They’re growing in a foot-wide trough that’s been pressed into the top of each bed, lined with fabric, and filled with peat or something called coconut coir — the fibers from the outside of a coconut.
So for now, most of California’s strawberry growers are sticking with the chemicals. It’s been a key to their success in producing more strawberries, for a lower cost, than anywhere else in the world.
They’re fresh and sweet, intensely red and fragrant, and firm — not pumped up with nitrogen like most commercial strawberries.
Then, in 1981, he was poisoned. One early morning he was standing in a field wondering if the cropduster had sprayed pesticides overnight. When the sun came up, he found out in the worst way: the heat and light activated the chemical, turning it into a cloud of tear gas. The next year, he was doused by methyl bromide — as, he says, are most of the workers who lay and pull up tarps that enclose the gas in the soil. Those episodes left him feeling sick and shaky, with temporary respiratory problems.
Strawberries are far more expensive to grow per acre than most crops — about six times what broccoli costs, for example — and they’re very finicky, prone to soil diseases, mold, and other maladies.
the California Strawberry Commission. “The industry blockaded our efforts to get money to research alternatives, and spent a lot of money in Washington making sure our proposals didn’t get funded.”
In 2002, Cochran was awarded the EPA’s Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for his techniques.
only 4 percent of California strawberries are grown that way. The rest — some 34,000 acres — still rely on fumigants and pesticides
Under the 1989 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to save the ozone layer, and an amendment to the 1998 Clean Air Act, the ozone-depleting fumigant methyl bromide, which conventional strawberry growers depend on for sterilizing their soil to control weeds and diseases, was supposed to have been phased out by 2005….It has survived with “critical use” extensions from the EPA, based on industry claims that there are no technically and economically feasible alternatives to the chemical.
Methyl iodide was approved by the EPA in 2007, under the Bush Administration, despite widespread scientific reports
“Methyl iodide is a very potent mutagen and genotoxic chemical,” says Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist and public health expert at NRDC. “It damages DNA.” …If inhaled by farm workers or nearby residents, says Solomon, the gas could cause neurological damage, cancer, and fetal toxicity. Thyroid poisoning could occur if the iodine seeps into groundwater. “The science is quite clear on this chemical, and there’s a dramatic disconnect between the science and the California policy.”
“It’s surprisingly easier to grow strawberries without chemicals than the industry would lead you to believe,”
Strawberry grower shows how to make a profit without poisons

According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides.[2][3]

The first important synthetic organic pesticide was a chlorinated hydrocarboon (or organochlorine): dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT. DDT was discovered in 1939 by a Swiss chemist Paul Muller.
One of the first pesticides was sulfur, used by the Chinese in around 1000 BC to control bacteria and mold (fungus).

The first use of brining of grain with salt water followed by liming took place in the middle of the 17th century to control bunt
The California strawberry industry produces about 85% of the strawberries grown in the United States, on 37,000 acres, with a value of $1.5 billion in 2008 (ERS 2009). To control soilborne diseases and weeds, California strawberry fields have long been fumigated with methyl bromide (MB) plus chloropicrin (Pic). However, methyl bromide is being phased out as an ozone-depleting substance under the Montreal Protocol (USDS 2009), an international treaty. Currently, some California strawberries can still be treated with methyl bromide under a critical-use exemption, subject to annual review by parties to the Montreal Protocol.

This is a chemical that was used in chemical warfare in the First World War and causes respiratory problems and, if enough is breathed in, death. Chloropicrin is classified as a Dangerous Goods Class 6.1 Toxic Substance and Chloropicrin products are also classified as a Dangerous Poison.
Chloropicrin is used to fumigate their warrens. This is a cruel & inhumane way to die. If they don’t die straight away they can suffer for days with headache, nausea, irritated eyes and skin, diarrhea, laboured breathing, bleeding around the nose and mouth and painful irritation of mucous membranes. Our native animals also get caught up, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as geckos and small mammals use these burrows too.

Montreal Protocol called for the Methyl Bromide (MB) phase-out in 1992. In 1997, a global phase-out schedule of this chemical was established by the MOP: Article 5 countries are required to freeze consumption and production of MB by 2002, reduce its use by 20% in 2005 and complete total phase-out by 2015.


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