A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that over 99 percent of fresh and processed food available to consumers tested below allowable pesticide residue levels, allowing for continued access to affordable and nutritious food across the country.

Released in December by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the 23rd Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Report shows that only .23 percent of the products sampled through the PDP had residues above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established tolerances. PDP researchers collected and tested 9,900 samples of bananas, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, peaches, plums, summer and winter squash, and other produce-all nutritious foods that Americans should continue to include in their diets.

National health organizations agree that fruits and vegetables are integral to a long, healthy life. The American Heart Association advises consumers to “Buy more fruits and vegetables that are good sources of fiber, including beans, peas, oranges, bananas, strawberries and apples.” The American Cancer Society notes that “vegetables, fruits, and whole grains should form the central part of a person’s diet, regardless of whether they are grown conventionally or organically.”

Through modern agricultural practices, including the responsible use of pesticides, American agriculture helps bring nutritious food to the table at a decreased price. According to a socio-economic report completed by CropLife America (CLA) in 2011, crop protection products help American families save more than 40 percent on fruit and vegetable purchases.

“The modern agricultural system, by incorporating the responsible use of crop protection products, can play a role in helping to support the production of nutritious food,” said Dr. Janet E. Collins, senior vice president of science and regulatory affairs at CLA. “This recent report demonstrates that, with the sound regulation of pesticides, an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables is always available for our families.”

“The crop protection industry helps support American agriculture by allowing growers to manage weeds, pests and disease. As consumers, we benefit from the advancements made on our country’s farms through increased availability and lower prices,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA.

For field, nut, fruit, and vegetable crops, the use of crop protection products adds $82 billion in increased yield. California alone has seen an increase of $40.9 billion in economic activity due to crop protection and resultant spin-offs. Avocados, for instance, which are packed with dietary fiber, carbohydrates, and protein, have benefited greatly from the use of insecticides. By May 1999, 95 percent of the avocado acres in California were infested by the avocado thrip, causing cosmetic damage and downgrading by packinghouses.1  Through the use of insecticides, farmers can increase the value of avocados up to 40 percent.

The PDP was established in 1991 for the purpose of collecting data on pesticide residues found in food. Information collected by the PDP is sent to EPA to help the agency conduct important dietary risk assessments. USDA also uses this data in the development of Integrated Pest Management objectives. Since the program was initiated, 109 different commodities have undergone testing. A complete version of the 2013 Annual Summary is available at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp.