The conventional produce industry has launched a public relations campaign, funded by your tax dollars, to discredit the Environmental Working Group for making government pesticide information easily available to the public.
Ironically, just last month, the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a research study showing pesticide residues on 1 out of 5 samples of foods eaten children. The residue levels, which were sampled over several days for 46 children across the country, were generally consistent by those reported by U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA database was developed by testing pesticide residues on hundreds of fruits and vegetables after washing or preparing – meaning the agency would have tested the fruit of the banana, not the peel, and washed the apples or grapes, etc. That’s the data that the produce industry thinks with which you, the produce-eating public, shouldn’t be concerned.
The Alliance for Food and Farming is accusing the Environmental Working Group, publisher of the popular “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides” and its related “Dirty Dozen” list, of discouraging American’s from eating fruits and vegetables. The group has been granted a $180,000 grant from a USDA-funded program in California to run an educational public relations campaign to, as they put it, “set the record straight”.
While the industry does not deny the presence of pesticides on our food, it argues that presenting such information in easy to read lists for the consumer is misleading because people will assume that it means pesticide-laden food is not safe. So AFF has released its online tool illustrating how much of a given fruit or vegetable a consumer would have to eat to be dangerous.
In a letter to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state agency that administered the federal grant, EWG and Californians for Pesticides Reform write:
“The federally-funded Specialty Crops Block Grant (SCBG) Program in California is a valuable effort intended to support research, marketing and nutrition programs that help make produce, nuts and flower crops more competitive, accessible and in the case of research, more sustainable. While we strongly support this program, we object to the department’s decision to fund an industry communications initiative against legitimate public interest concerns related to pesticide residues on food. The award of this grant strikes a blow to California’s expanding organic produce industry and places the department in opposition to the public’s interest in reducing pesticide exposure. This action also represents a fundamental failure to implement a fair and balanced grant selection process.”
Vegetables photo by flickr user forever5yearsold / CC 2.0