Organic food does offer real and proven benefits. Yet organic produce isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to fruits and vegetables: it’s not perfect!

So we’ve put together a short list of some misconceptions people tend to have regarding what organic produce.

  1. Organic farmers use no pesticides whatsoever.

Organic farms do use pesticides, but they use nonsynthetic or natural products such as listed on the National Organic Program’s  National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and this list can change from year to year. (The NOP is housed under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.) The list mostly bans synthetic products, although some exceptions exist so long as the product doesn’t cause contamination of water, soil or crops.

These exceptions can include copper sulfate, lime sulfur, peracetic acid, and chlorine-based substances.

In addition, organic farms may see their fields contaminated from wind/breeze-driven pesticide drift from nearby conventional farms.

As for pesticides, organic farms often use insects such as lacewings and ladybugs to get rid of harmful bugs, and predatory mice..

  1. Organic fruits and vegetables are safe to eat as soon as they are picked.

As noted above, even organic farms may see chemicals and pesticides waft their way to them, so even organic produce may have traces of these substances on their skins. Therefore, it’s always smart to wash your produce, even if it’s organic.

What’s more, organic standards don’t always address salmonella, E. coli, listeria, etc.  Produce is fresh and hasn’t been cooked (cooking organic meat products will kill harmful bacteria), so it’s wise to be cautious.

  1. Organic farms are small family farms.

This usually is the case, but not always: the number of certified organic operations (includes farms and processing centers) was 20,000 in 2016 (worldwide, there are 27,800) and some of them are just as large as huge conventional farms

Becoming a certified organic farm isn’t a short or easy process: it takes at least three years, because orchards and fields have to go 36 months without being sprayed with synthetic or chemical pesticides and herbicides. Farmers also must provide the National Organic Program a detailed plan that cites what approved organic substances they will use on their farm.

So while organic produce is better to eat, it’s not all butterflies and unicorns: our world is full of chemicals and those who eat organic food should be aware of that and take smart precautions.