Because organic produce is not always affordable for everyone, the Environmental Working Group releases annually its Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of which produce is worth buying organic and which is not.

This year’s lists are similar to last year’s, and telling. Strawberries remain at the top of the Dirty Dozen: 99 percent grown in the United States continue to be sprayed with some kind of pesticide.

Spinach jumped from No. 8 to No. 2 because research determined that conventionally grown varieties contain a significant amount of pesticide residue by weight.

And new to the list are pears, which were found to have double the amount of pesticide residue since findings in 2010.

These are all products for which an organic, or pesticide-free, choice is recommended.

The EWG made few adjustments to the Clean 15 list. Fruits and vegetables named here are considered the safest to eat. In fact, no single item tests positive for more than four types of pesticides. The top five are sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage and onions.

Should consumers avoid the Dirty Dozen altogether if they cannot purchase organic, and is only the coveted Clean 15 worthy of non-organic buys?

Certainly not, insist researchers at EWG. Lere Robinson agrees. A South African native and nutritional consultant based in Irmo, S.C., she and others believe that eating whole fruits and vegetables is better than not eating them.

“I’ve been all over the world and returned recently from Cuba, and what others eat we spoiled Americans would deem unacceptable,” Robinson said. “Yes, become educated about fruits and vegetables, try to eat organic and the Clean 15, but one must be flexible.”

To afford quality produce, Robinson suggests:
-- Look for organic deals at grocers, supermarkets like Walmart and specialty stores; when possible purchase in bulk and freeze.
-- Wash nonorganic produce thoroughly with a product such as Fruit and Veggie Wash and soak for a while before storing.
-- Buy local produce and pick your own. Converse with local farmers to learn how their crops grow.
-- Grow your own produce and avoid using pesticides.

“I have people tell me they can’t eat healthy on a budget,” she says. “Not true. I take them to local grocers to show them. These lists are guides to help. If you eat a few strawberries and you don’t know whether they are organically or conventionally grown, you are not going to die. But eating those strawberries is certainly better for you than eating cake.”