Should You Buy Organic Potatoes?

When I was in my teens I planted potatoes in the garden every year. I watched them grow and then I prepared them with my mother and we ate them. They tasted delicious, and we had different varieties that tasted, well, different from each other.

Then I entered the “civilized”, urban world and all of a sudden there were only one or two different kinds of potatoes, they didn’t taste very well at all, they were starchy, and they wouldn’t sprout. And I spent several years without eating any potato.

Sprout inhibitors and pesticides

Potatoes inevitably sprout after some time. You should keep them in a dark place to avoid them from sprouting, but even in the dark they will sprout, it’s natural.

Now the issue with potatoes produced by modern agriculture is that they often don’t sprout because they are being spread with chemicals that prevent them from sprouting (1).

This is why you should be very careful when buying potatoes. These products, called sprout inhibitors, have mutagenic effects, which means that they can change the genetic material, usually the DNA, of an organism (us). And mutations may cause cancer, so these products are likely to be carcinogens.(2)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “People may be exposed to residues of maleic hydrazide in the diet when consuming potatoes, potato chips and other potato products made from potato granules” (3).

When you buy potatoes, buy organic whenever you can

If you don’t have access to organic potatoes, first, try to avoid Russet Burbank potatoes, as they are the most prone to attract pests and are therefore usually treated with lots of pesticides. They are very common in the U.S. because they enable fast food chains to produce these long fries that people love…another reason to avoid fast food fries.

Then, buy a small amount of different kinds of potatoes (not the cheapest ones, look for a higher quality), and make your own test at home. If after some time (usually about 2 weeks) the potatoes begin to sprout, you’re good to go. This doesn’t mean they have not been spread with regular pesticides, of course, but it will mean that they have not been treated with these potentially carcinogenic sprout inhibitors.

To answer today’s question, yes, you should buy organic potatoes. If you don’t have access to them (I have access to them since mid-2012 only), eat less potatoes or find a conventional one that is not inhibited from sprouting by chemicals and that has ideally not been spread with pesticides, either – it is perfectly possible depending on the variety and where you live.

Store potatoes in a dark, cool place, and never in the fridge: the cold would cause their starch to turn to sugar, which is something you obviously want to avoid. And never eat the sprouts, as they contain alkaloids which are poisonous. If you have organic potatoes, cook them with the skin, vitamins and other nutrients are hidden there!

Sources:
(1) Sprout Inhibitors – June 2012 – http://www.umaine.edu/umext/potatoprogram/pest%20control%20guide/sprout-inhibitors-section.pdf
(2) PAN Pesticide database – http://www.pesticideinfo.org/references/123-33-1hsdb.doc
(3) Maleic Hydrazide – June 1994 – http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/0381fact.pdf
 
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