For The Love of Organics: Summer Squash

Ah, summertime. The sun is shining, and the barbeque is ablaze with meals to be shared with friends and loved ones. It just doesn’t get better than a rainbow of veggies, meats, and sweet tangy sauce, kabobbed and grilled to perfection. The perfect BBQ companion filled with vitamins A, C, potassium, and fiber? Summer squash! These primetime summer veggies embody all the joys and warmth of summer. Just be sure to make it organic to keep pesticides and GMOs out of your backyard feasts!

Summer is Sweeter Without Pesticides 

Summer squash is an umbrella category of gourds that, you guessed it, are harvested in the summertime. They include zucchini, pattypan, and yellow squash, among other tender-fleshed varieties. In all their variations, conventionally grown summer squash are subjected to more than 40 different pesticides. The dietary risk for pesticide exposure is 25.8 times higher on conventionally produced summer squashes compared to organically grown ones!1 The notorious neonicotinoid imidacloprid is the pesticide residue most commonly found on conventional summer squashes. Neonicotinoids belong to a class of insecticides that target insects’ central nervous system and are well-studied for the dangers they pose to bees and other pollinators.2 We love a summer squash, but we’ll definitely be choosing organic!

GMO is a No-Go

100% Organic Summer Squash

In the mid-1990s summer squash were one of the first crops to be genetically modified for mass consumption. The risks of GMOs are not contained to just the summer squash crops grown with modified seeds. As Melissa Waddell of the Non-GMO Project writes, “Squash is a promiscuous crop with wild, weedy relatives. Genetically modified disease resistance could turn those weedy relatives into unstoppable superweeds if they were contaminated with engineered DNA.”3 Another concern that comes with genetic modification is possible virus mutations and new viruses that evolve out of cross-breeding between GMO and non-GMO squashes. The risk for this type of cross-contamination is high given that summer squash relies on pollinators. Though the gene flow for summer squash is an estimated 437 yards, their pollinating bees increase that distance to 1,094 yards, putting a larger area at potential risk of contamination.4 5 Organic standards require that crops be non-GMO, and we say that’s the only way to go.

A Bee of Its Very Own    

Squashes have a very special relationship with bees. There is actually a category of bees referred to as ‘squash bees’ who are the primary pollinators of the veggies we know and love. Squash bees are small and build their nests in the ground.6 As ground nesters, the condition of the soil is tremendously important to the bees’ wellbeing, and pesticides pose a deadly risk.7 When crops and soils are treated with neonicotinoids like imidacloprid, entire populations of bees may be wiped out, or driven away. One of the benefits of summer squash is that they make a great cover crop with a short life cycle for crop rotation—two techniques used in organic farming practices to build healthy soil and deter unwanted pests and diseases.8 Organic farming of summer squash not only keeps pesticides and GMOs out of our bodies, but also plays an important role in building healthy soil and helping bees thrive. So, fire up the grill for those sweet, organic summer squashes!

Try Our Summer Squash Sauté Recipe

We’re entering peak summer squash season! Make use of all of that squash in this super easy, super tasty Summer Squash Sauté. Two types of summer squash—yellow crookneck and zucchini—are combined with cherry tomatoes, garlic, and Parmesan cheese to make a perfect side dish for any summer meal.




  1. Dietary Risk Lookup Tool- Conventional vs. Organic | Hygeia Analytics. (n.d.). Hygeia Analytics.
  2. Environmental Working Group. (2022, April 7). Neonic pesticides: Banned in Europe, common on U.S. produce, lethal to bees. EWG's 2022 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce | Neonic Pesticides. Retrieved April 2022, from 
    3Waddell, M. (2023, August 19). The GMO High-Risk List: Summer Squash - the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project - Everyone Deserves an Informed Choice.…
  3. Arriaga, L., Huerta, E., Lira‐Saade, R., Moreno, E. C., & Alarcón, J. (2006b). Assessing the risk of releasing transgenic Cucurbita spp. in Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 112(4), 291–299.
  4. Farmerpam, A. (2022, May 25). GMO summer squash – Sustainable Market Farming. Sustainable Market Farming.
  5. Keith, J. (n.d.). What is the Pollinator For Summer Squash? Black Gold. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from
  6. Chan, D. S. W., & Raine, N. E. (2021). Population decline in a ground-nesting solitary squash bee (Eucera pruinosa) following exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide treated crop (Cucurbita pepo). Scientific Reports, 11(1).
  7. Squash Sustainability and Agroforestry. (n.d.). Hawai‘I ‘Ulu Cooperative.….