Tuesday, May 24, 2011

USDA's Pesticide Data Program Report Five Months Late

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases an annual report detailing pesticide levels on fruits and vegetables. Consumer advocacy groups, such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), use the study to help the public make educated food-purchasing decisions.

This year, though, the report is five months late, since, according to a Washington Post article, “the 200-page annual report has become a target of an unusual lobbying campaign by the produce industry, which worries that the data are being misinterpreted by the public.”

This may come as a huge shock, but money is at play. As more people realize the dangers of pesticides, market share of organic fruits and vegetables has increased to almost 12 percent.

Agribusiness based on chemicals suffers accordingly, which helps explain the letter 18 produce trade associations sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlining their concern with the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program report and how it “has often been subject to misinterpretation by activists, which publicize their distorted findings through national media outlets in a way that is misleading for consumers and can be highly detrimental to the growers of these commodities.”

But those crazy activists have pounced, countering with a petition (signed by almost 55,000 people!) questioning the USDA’s participation in a $180,000 grant to the Alliance for Food and Farming, a nostalgic-sounding organization that, according to EWG, is “a pro-agricultural chemicals lobby dedicated to combating pesticide critics like EWG.”

The USDA says it will release this year’s pesticide report sometime this week; we’ll see then who has won a public relations battle over chemicals that have been linked to a myriad of health problems, behavioral issues and compromised cognitive abilities.

Click here to read more about the squabble in Rodale News.

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