Dirty Dozen list finds less coverage - The Packer

Dirty Dozen list finds less coverage

04/22/2013 04:29:00 PM
Tom Karst

(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 25) Media coverage of the Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Dirty Dozen list appears much lower than previous years, and industry sources believe science-based objections to the list and government support of produce safety have played a role.

“We are astounded how little media coverage there is this year,” said Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming.

Even the Environmental Working Group’s own news release on the Dirty Dozen list focuses on the need to eat more fruits and vegetables, Dolan said.

“They still publish it and we question why there is need for the list but we are thinking the real story here is what happens when you stand up and have science on your side and you have government backing you up,” she said.

Since the Alliance’s Safe Fruits and Veggies campaign started in 2010, media coverage of the Dirty Dozen has declined and news pickup this year is especially low, Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association and board chair of the alliance, said. McInerney said in the release that the Safe Fruits and Veggies Campaign was developed to provide science-based, balanced information regarding pesticide residues for the media and consumers.

“Our goal is to have facts, not fear, guide consumers’ shopping choices,” McInerney said in the release.

“It is very encouraging to see science prevail,” Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association and alliance vice-chair, said in the alliance release.

The cornerstone of this effort is the safefruitsandveggies.com website,” Silbermann said. “Our hope is that this information guides consumers to understand that they can choose both organic and conventional produce with confidence and that eating more is always the right choice,” he said in the release.

In its ninth year, the Environmental Working Group shopper’s guide ranks pesticide residues on 48 fruits and vegetables based on thousands of samples tested by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, according to a news release from the group.

The Washington, D.C.-based EWG reported that apples again top its annual list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce, followed by strawberries, grapes and celery. The remaining fresh produce items on the Dirty Dozen list, released April 22, were peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers. The EWG also issued what it calls the “Clean 15” list, produce the group says has the lowest pesticide residue levels, The Clean 15 list is corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms, according to a news release from the Environmental Working Group.

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California  |  April, 22, 2013 at 06:07 PM

The crop with the most GMO, Corn, has the lowest pesticide levels. Logical. Hey TK, for Earth Day you should make a list of discredited environmental campaigns. I'll start the list: Food Miles.

April, 23, 2013 at 09:16 AM

Please correct me if I am wrong... ....it is my understanding that GMO corn has pesticides in it's DNA. The pesticides were put into it's genetic make-up so as to avoid the need for spraying. Hence no 'residue'. Residue free does not necessarily mean pesticide free. Does it?

Lakeland  |  April, 23, 2013 at 09:31 AM

That's exactly right. What it really means is that the residues found are within the tolerance established for them in specific crops by EPA. These tolerances are reviewed by that agency often. Some pesticide residues are found BQL (below quantitative levels) and reported as such.

Bill S    
Chicago, I  |  April, 23, 2013 at 09:46 AM

barbee, the pesticide in GMO corn you refer to is the same as one used by certified organic farmers to control similar pests via a sprayer. It is a naturally occurring biological pesticide with no known toxicity to humans or any other creatures other than the lepidopteran family of insects. Are pesticides toxic? not all. Some are just toxic to pests. Is GMO bad? I think the question is bad.

USA  |  April, 23, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Hi Barbee, To answer your question, residue free does not mean it was produced without sprays, but it does mean there is no remaining element of the spray. Residue tests that I am aware of "vitamize" the whole fruit so whether it is in or on the fruit makes no difference. I took a few agronomy subjects at University before transferring to business meaning I am far from an expert but can confidently say there are some misconceptions about GMO. The GMO crops I learned about did not have any man-made chemicals in them. These plants used a gene from one variety that could naturally defend itself against a pest and then added that gene to the fruit bearing variety that is being attacked. This allowed it to defend itself naturally without pesticide. There are other GMO crops that reduce herbicide, fertilizer and water usage in similar ways, which in turn reduce pollutants and provide a stable food source. It is hard to argue we don't all deserve the right to choose GMO or not, whether we are living in the privileged world or born into the developing world. Our personal choice will certainly vary based on personal needs and opinions. Hope everyone is having a happy, healthy day, eating plenty of fruits and veg!

Maryland  |  April, 23, 2013 at 11:21 AM

I do not think the corn being "cleaner" has anything to do with GMO's. 9 out of the clean 15 have inedible skin, husk, or rind. Much of what is applied topically usually comes off when the fruit is peeled. When grown and handled properly produce is great for our health, and anyone arguing to the contrary is mistaken or has an agenda. That being said, the industry must continually strive for best holistic practices and continually weed out bad actors. Balancing all of the mitigating factors is tough, but knowing that produce is good for us should not be.

James Pot    
foxboro  |  April, 23, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Wrong on two counts. Bacillus Thuringiensis is a natural soil born bacteria used as a defense against named insects . People don't ingest it because it is easily washed off if still present at all. In GMO corn it is spliced into the gene and it will always end up in your gut where it may interfere with with the activity of your good gut bacteria. It may as such even cross your blood brain barrier. The second is an herbicide which is also spliced into the gene to make it resistant to glyphosate (Round-up). The problems with that are so massive that farmers across the globe are beginning to abandon use of GMO corn and soybeans after they have had to abandon 100's of thousands of acres to weeds that are resistant to Round-up. I am not even talking about the ethical issue forbidding farmers to keep some seed for next year's crop

April, 23, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Wow! Complex and multifaceted subject. Thanks for all the great comments-I have a lot to learn.

Matt S    
Twin Cities  |  April, 23, 2013 at 12:14 PM

The modifications I believe you are referring to here were not to attach pesticides to the crop DNA, but instead were to make them resistant to chemicals being sprayed on them. For instance, round up ready crops have something in them that keeps them from dying when round up is sprayed on the field. Therefore farmers are able to dump more chemicals on their crops without harming the crops themselves. Even if they do have a plant that bugs and animals don't want to eat, shouldn't we take that as a sign? If nature refuses to eat it, then why should we?

Chuck Niwrad    
California  |  April, 23, 2013 at 12:38 PM

"...they have had to abandon 100's of thousands of acres to weeds that are resistant to Round-up." Reference please? Yes, GMOs are not without some risks, but what you read in the popular media is generally overblown. Take this unsubstantiated bit of information, for example.

California  |  April, 23, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Exactly where are these hundreds of thousands of acres of abandoned land?

California  |  April, 23, 2013 at 01:34 PM

Organic farming is less efficient than conventional farming, including conventional with GMO's. Less efficient means more water is used per unit food produced. An argument could be made that organic produce is less environmentally friendly than conventional produce.

Maryland  |  April, 23, 2013 at 02:12 PM

James, I am not sure you read my e-mail carefully. Regardless, aren't the dirty dozen and clean 15 generally reporting on produce for fresh consumption? What percent of fresh market corn is GMO? Is it not correct that items with skin have additional protection ie.. the other eight items on the list? Isn't washing all produce always advised for good reason? I am all for letting people know about GMO's pro-and cons, but a consumer can easily be confused scare tactics, information used out of context, and convenient or willfull ommissions of facts from either side.

April, 23, 2013 at 03:30 PM

Don't forget the GMO laden papaya

Ashton Keyes    
maryland  |  April, 23, 2013 at 05:20 PM

The 100,000 of abandoned acres are on Staten Island and in Brooklyn and the Bronx. I'm sure that's why there are no farms there. Just another example of how Agriculture and Corporate America are destroying the Planet. Man can live on Radishes Alone.

London,U.K.  |  April, 25, 2013 at 02:03 AM

It would be great to have something like this in the U.K. This is a great idea, especially as the U.K. is so reliant on imports of fresh fruit and veg. Could someone post the link to the dirty dozen list so I can read it?! Or am I being blind.

Melinda Hemmelgarn    
Columbia, MO  |  April, 26, 2013 at 03:51 PM

As a dietitian, consumers frequently ask me about pesticides, food and health. I explain that the President's Cancer Panel Report advises choosing foods grown/produced without herbicides and pesticides. http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf Many consumers don't connect GMOs with herbicides but since Roundup Ready GMO crops were introduced, the amount of herbicides applied has increased: http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24 Now, resistance to glyphosate has led to new 2,4-D resistant GMO crops, waiting for approval. (Bad idea for public health) Organic production consistently shows equal if not greater yields, especially in times of drought. See the 30 year Rodale trial. Talk to some organic farmers and ask why they chose to farm organically.

USA  |  April, 26, 2013 at 04:19 PM

Matt, the Dirty Dozen report has been widely criticized by many people from all walks of life. Science and healthy eating campaigns have helped place this report in perspective and share the complete picture. I recommend reading the links below. If you live in a developed country you can be confident your government has very strict rules set for maximum residue levels (MRL's) For your comfort, Europe often requires even higher standards than those set in the US. These levels are all set well below what would be needed to impact your health. Imported product should also not be a concern to you as it must meet the exact same criteria and is closely scrutinized with greater random sampling rates. The key point people need to remember is that eating a wide range of fruits and veg daily will have a far greater positive impact on your health than selective eating, which in fact can be detrimental. http://www.safefruitsandveggies.com/ http://www.safefruitsandveggies.com/#showcalculator http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-enewsletter/Week_In_Review/Dirty-Dozen-list-again-issued-refuted-204176521.html

Ben J.    
Australia  |  April, 26, 2013 at 05:21 PM

Hi Melinda, I value your input as a dietician. As an experienced farmer I can say confidently however that organic crops do not consistently yield more. This is a complex subject with many factors to be considered. If we simplify it down to yield = profit, every farmer would be growing organic. Regarding sprays, please also remember that chemicals cost a lot of money to buy and apply. Conventional farmers want to minimize their use of chemicals even if solely based off financial benefits. People look at organic and conventional farmers as either A or B. Modern conventional farming in reality is a combination of both organic and "conventional"practices. We need to continue striving for a careful balance of best production practices. The ag world has thankfully changed a lot since the 1970's when many of the current farming stereotypes were formed. I am proud to be involved with modern farming.

Konrad Gola    
Canada  |  April, 29, 2013 at 05:10 PM

About GMO's , you ought to read THE SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION by F. William Engdahl . That`ll put you on true north

San Joquin Valley, California  |  April, 30, 2013 at 11:02 AM

The following is my comment posted to the packer regarding an article about the 4/19/13 release of a Dirty Dozen list by the EWG. Apparently it was lost in the Ethernet. I hope so. I would not be pleased if Karst & the Packer are censoring comments and civil discourse: Barbee, Your questions have prompted a meaningful discussion. I would like to add that there a small number of farmers who practice neither organic nor conventional farming practices. Their products are pesticide free, meaning that NO PESTICIDES have been applied. There are no residues because NOTHING has been applied that would result in even a trace of residue. Organic and conventional growers cannot make this claim. There is no certification program for "Pesticide Free". These growers can only self-certify and stake their reputation on their assurances. You may ask - doesn't this require a lot of consumer trust of the "Pesticide Free" farmer. The answer is yes. But, even "Certified Organic" production requires a huge element of trust. The government agents and certifiers do not visit organic farms between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. weekends or holidays!

Diane Polcsik    
Middleburg Heights, OH  |  May, 17, 2013 at 09:44 AM

I'm confused. If GMO corn is grown from a GMO seed, then how can it be on the Clean 15 list? Shouldn't we be buying organic or clean conventional corn? If we eat non-organic corn and 90% of our corn is GMO, then isn't it almost certain that I'm eating GMO corn? Somebody please explain this to me!!! Thanks :)

Chris Koger    
Lenexa, KS  |  May, 19, 2013 at 10:58 PM

Diane, This list has nothing to do with GMOs -- it's just that the comments have taken a turn of their own, and here we are. The list only addresses conventional and organic and doesn't specifically list any GMO products, although I'm sure it goes without saying the Environmental Working Group would not endorse any GMO products on the Clean 15. Here's the background on GMO corn, though: When people talk about GMO corn, they're usually talking about field corn, which isn't eaten fresh. That corn, grown for animal feed and food ingredients (corn chips and millions of other products), has been available in GMO varieties for years. Sweet corn, eaten fresh (and canned and frozen) is just a tiny fraction of the overall corn grown in the U.S. Until 2011, it was not available as a GMO variety. There are a few growers out there testing it: http://tinyurl.com/GMO-sweetcorn, http://tinyurl.com/GMO-The-Packer. For the most part, fresh fruits/vegetables are not GMO. There's a Hawaiian papaya shipped to the mainland and some of the sweet corn. A company in Canada is looking into marketing a non-browning apple, Arctic, but the U.S. apple industry hasn't shown any interest in it. Chris Koger News Editor The Packer

Cleveland, OH  |  May, 29, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Chris, Thanks so much for all the info on corn!!! I always wondered about it, but I didn't know there were two kinds being grown. Thanks again for the valuable info and for clarifying it for me!!!

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