The politics around pesticide use by conventional growers of fruits and vegetables have dramatically intensified in recent days.
On May 13, Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook blew the whistle on the agri-chemical lobby’s months-long effort to get the government to put the industry’s spin on the upcoming annual report on pesticide residues on fresh produce.
Today, The Washington Post quoted Cook as it reported on the pesticide industry’s efforts to silence EWG and others who aim to provide as much information as possible to parents concerned about pesticide residues on the food they feed their kids.
“Our list has been something that has really gotten under their skin,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, which began issuing the list a decade ago. “All we’re saying is, if you want to minimize your exposure to pesticides, shop from this list. And if you look at the explosion in the organic sector, it’s clear that people want to avoid pesticides if they can.”
Writing about the pesticide lobby’s campaign on the Grist website, Tom Laskaway observed:
Never mind that many consumers want this information. As with labels for genetically modified food, the industry’s position is that ignorance leads to bliss (or at least profits!). The industry maintains that even the Dirty Dozen show pesticide residues beneath EPA limits, and to them, the letter of the law is what matters. Of course, if you believe that pesticides are more dangerous than government scientists are willing to admit then these limits are insufficient. Then there’s the whole concept of synergistic effects — combinations of several pesticides in small amounts can deliver a greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts toxic punch.
As The Washington Post article observes, recent research showed that children exposed to higher levels of a once-common class of pesticides known as organophosphates displayed lower IQs, suggesting that “safe” levels of pesticides may not be safe at all. Organophosphate pesticides have also been linked to ADHD in kids. And research that came out last summer suggested that in families that eat conventional produce, pesticide levels in kids’ blood can spike beyond EPA limits during the height of fruit and vegetable seasons.
It is now four months past the time when the US Department of Agriculture historically releases its latest pesticide data. Noting the unusual delay, EWG and several top physicians and scientists wrote last week to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, urging them to release the most recent pesticide test results quickly.
The release accompanying the letter to USDA, EPA and FDA can be found here.
This post was originally published by the Environmental Working Group.