It’s that time of year again – the Environmental Working Group has released their annual “Dirty Dozen” list.
Problem is, it’s still just a Dirty Lie.
According to the organization, the items on the annual list have the highest level of pesticide residue of all produce. EWG recommends that consumers always purchase organic versions to reduce the risk of ingesting too many pesticides.
But that’s not really the whole story. Here’s are 3 reasons you should ignore EWG’s annual frightful messaging campaign.
1. The EWG’s Science is Flawed
A real study using credible scientific measurements concluded back in 2011 that the EWG’s methodology is fundamentally flawed. The study, which was published in a peer review science journal – The Journal of Toxicology, concluded:
The methodology used to create the “Dirty Dozen” list does not appear to follow any established scientific procedures. Only one of the six indicators used by the EWG crudely considers the amount of pesticide residue detected on the various commodities, and that indicator fails to relate exposures to such residues with established health criteria. Another indicator considers the percentage of samples found to be positive for pesticide residues. The remaining four indicators seem related as all appear to focus upon the existence of residues of multiple pesticides (percent of samples with two or more pesticides, average number of pesticides found on a single sample, maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample, and total number of pesticides found on the commodity) which suggests that the commodity rankings are significantly skewed to reflect instances of multiple residues. While research has demonstrated that the toxicity of a single chemical may be modulated by the presence of another chemical, such effects still require exposure to the modulating chemical to be at a level high enough (above a threshold dose) to cause a biological effect. Results from this study strongly suggest that consumer exposures to the ten most common pesticides found on the “Dirty Dozen” commodities are several orders of magnitude below levels required to cause any biological effect. As a result, the potential for synergistic effects resulting from pesticide combinations is negligible, and the EWG methodology which skews rankings due to the presence of multiple residues is not justified.
In other words, the EWG isn’t using any reliable science to come up with their list. And, when real scientists take a look at the data available for those 12 crops, the risk of harm from pesticide residue was negligible. Remember, the EPA has already established tolerances for how much pesticide residue a person can consumer and still have no negative effects. Regular testing of produce in the United States has routinely demonstrated that pesticide residues are well below that limit.
Sorry, but there’s nothing to see here.
2. Organic Farmers Use Pesticides Too
It’s true. So, purchasing organic food isn’t going to protect your from pesticide residue. In fact, organic pesticide residues are not routinely tested, nor are they tested with EWG’s methodology. That means that, even if there are organic pesticide residues present, EWG isn’t going to notice them. Don’t get me wrong, while organic pesticides aren’t always a cake walk — they contain real chemicals too — you probably aren’t going to ingest dangerous levels of them.
The EWG clearly has an agenda. They promote that agenda every single day through their organization. Usually, that message includes how some substance or food is going to hurt you. They raise lots of money from that agenda. This list is nothing more than a promotional tool. Quite frankly, I’m disappointed so many news agencies give them free publicity for it.
By the way, you can read up on organic pesticides here.
3. It Isn’t Possible For You to Consume Enough Produce To Be At Risk
If you are concerned about pesticide residue, I suggest you check out the Pesticide Calculator. It tells you exactly how many servings of produce you will have to consume to be at risk. Trust me, you aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables in a month to be enough (and that assumes that they would bioaccumulate, which they don’t, but that’s another post).
As for myself, as an adult woman, I could eat 529 servings of apple in one day without any adverse side effects from pesticide residue. Frankly, if I eat that many servings of apples in one day, I’m going to probably die from other causes a whole heck of a lot faster than I would die from pesticide residue.
Remember: the EWG is an interest group that simply wants to cause a media blur to get their message across. Do yourself a favor- don’t let the EWG’s scare tactics stop you from enjoying healthy and safe — conventionally produced — fruits and vegetables.
I am a farmer but I am frequently torn by the responsibility of producing safe and responsible food (in our case beef & pork) and answering/defending some of these practices and studies. How do you answer the charge that I frequently hear that the very science we (as traditional ag) use to refute some of these accusations is underwritten by the very industries it is studying? In the competitive world of university grants and funding for studies, how can we expect scientists to remain objective when Big Ag is funding most of these studies?
The answer to that is quite simple: we know how to evaluate when science is reliable. It doesn’t matter who funds a study or where it comes from, we should be able to look at the way it was conducted and determine if it was done reliably. How large were the control groups? Do we have enough information to replicate the study? What was the methodology used? Have others come to the same conclusion? Etc. This is precisely the process that the EPA takes when it does its assessment of pesticides before it allows them for commercial use. Of course, not all studies are done or financially supported by “Big Ag” (a term I think is really rather derogatory…). In any case, it isn’t enough to dismiss a study by simply saying it was financially supported by a certain company or group, you need to tell us why it isn’t reliable. I think you will find that “our side” generally does that, while the other side spends a lot of time just demonizing “Big Ag.”