another reason to buy organic
At some point in my grandfathers life he found himself out of money, stranded, and needing to get from Louisiana to Florida. Being the type of man he was he decided to walk...all-the-way. Now that’s approximately 700-800 miles depending on where exactly he started and stopped. As you can imagine he probably got pretty hungry, starving might be the better word actually.
At some point he happened upon a potato field. He munched on quite a few potatoes, raw of course, and ended up rather sick. I’m sure he probably ate some potatoes that were green from too much sun or perhaps ones with sprouts that the farmers had left behind. You see potato sprouts or “eyes” contain a glycoalkaloid called solanine. Which, for you sciency people stops acetylcholine from working, in turn messing with your nerve conduction. A green potato also contains solanine. So my grandfather could have eaten green potatoes or sprouted potatoes, who knows. Either way that’s what made him sick.
Now modern farming has come up with a solution to the sprouting problem. I don’t know if their intentions were to avoid poisoning from solanine or for mere cosmetic reasons, but either way they decided to use Bud Nip aka chlorpropham. Which, if you couldn’t guess, is toxic. Potatoes typically sit in storage for months prior to coming to your table (check out this post for more info). Therefore, to avoid sprouting chlorpropham is sprayed on tubers during the cold storage we talked in this post.
The first time I learned about chlorpropham was an email I received with the video I posted below. I believed this little girl all along and have used this as another reason to eat organic foods. However, being the researcher that I am I couldn’t help but look into the validity of her claims. Turns out she’s right, which is great for her but not so good for those of us still eating conventional produce.
Chlorpropham is sprayed on our conventionally grown potatoes (any tuber actually, including my fav, yams) to prevent sprouting. It is also used as a pesticide on many other delicious foods like: blueberries, carrots, onions, spinach, tomatoes, etc. Yeah, but can’t we just wash it off or peel the skin? No, the toxin soaks into the body of the veggie/fruit, so peeling is not helpful. Also, even after processing into a chip there is still chlorpropham found on the potatoes, in fact it is the most common pesticide residue found on potatoes (source).
The Nitty Gritty
Here are the effects chlorpropham has shown to cause in either humans and/or animals
From the EPA:
- Non-toxic on skin contact, but “slightly toxic” by oral route. By “slightly toxic” they mean it causes: anemia, reduced weight, red blood cell destruction, fetal effects, and changes in thyroid function and structure. Seems like the EPA is a bit loose with the term slightly.
From Cornell University:
- Retarded growth
- Increased liver, kidney and spleen weights
- Adverse reproductive effects
- Tumors and cancer
From a MSDS (material safety data sheet):
- Toxic response in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and thyroid
- Muscular weakness
So for now lets accept that while we may have to take a few extra seconds in the kitchen to remove the eyes from our organic potatoes and yams our bodies will be thankful for the reduced toxin load. Chlorpropham is just another in the long list of chemicals our bodies battle each day. Organic tubers are easy to come by at even conventional grocery stores and well worth spending the extra money on.
Have you even noticed organic potatoes sprout quickly?
Do you have any tips for storing organic potatoes to slow sprouting?