Commentary from the should-be-dead

Jun 16, 2010 10:36 AM, By Harry Cline, Farm Press Editorial Staff

I probably should not be writing this commentary since I must be dead, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

After all, for more than six decades I have munched away on the “dirty dozen” — celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale and collard greens, cherries, potatoes, imported grapes and lettuce. These are the ones which contain “47 to 67 pesticides” per serving, according to EWG’s unqualified experts. It is ridiculous to suggest a farmer would put 47, much less 67, pesticides on any crop. There are not that many active ingredients registered for use on any of the “dirty dozen.”

Each year EWG spews this unscientific hysteria to scare consumers. It is a disgusting, reckless, self-serving exercise that only serves to misinform the public. I have no idea why EWG seems compelled to do this, unless it is to keep the so called “nonprofit focused on public health” (according to CNN) in the public eye so it can continue to raise money.

Of course EWG says I would be better off purchasing organic fruits and vegetables. That is even more irritating. I am tempted to take on that suggestion by pointing out products used on some, but certainly not all, organic produce. However, I have been rightfully chastised by commercial organic growers for being too hard on organic produce. There is a wide gap in the production practices for organic food sold in supermarkets and roadside organic food. I would not touch any organic produce that did not come from the produce section of a supermarket.

After frightening consumers half to death, CNN went on to explain that “the Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA and the USDA work together to monitor and set limits as to how much pesticide can be used on farms and how much is safe to remain on the produce once it hits grocery store shelves.”

Of course, that is not enough for EWG, which cites “some (unnamed) studies show an association between pesticides and health problems such as cancer, attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and nervous system disorders and say exposure could weaken immune systems.”

In the CNN piece, EWG acknowledges that data from long-term studies isn’t available, but warns consumers of the potential dangers. “Pesticides are designed to kill things. Why wait for 20 years to discover they are bad for us?” EWG’s Amy Rosenthal said. I beg to differ on two points. I am a walking 66-year long-term study. I am not dead yet and I have been eating pesticide laden fruits and vegetables for far longer than 20 years. I have a lot of friends in the same category. I know that is not very scientific, but I don’t think EWG’s contentions are valid either — 47 to 67 pesticides?

The United Fresh Produce Association responded to the CNN broadcast with, “It is irresponsible for the Environmental Working Group to bend these facts to suit their personal cause, confusing consumers in the process. At a time when federal authorities strongly urge Americans to double their intake of nutritious fruits and vegetables to improve their health, creating needless alarm about infinitesimally small residues could actually discourage consumption of fresh produce, thereby negatively affecting the health of millions of American consumers.”

It borders on criminal libel.

Commentary from the should-be-dead.