Alliance for Food and Farming takes on ‘Dirty Dozen’

06/20/2013 09:40:00 AM
Tom Burfield

CERRITOS, Calif. — If it seems like the Environmental Working Group’s infamous “Dirty Dozen” list hasn’t been getting as much media play as it used to, thank the Alliance for Food and Farming.

Don Gann (from left), director of produce for Stater Bros. Markets, talks with Marilyn Dolan  and Matt McInerney.Tom BurfieldDon Gann (from left), director of produce for Stater Bros. Markets, talks with Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food & Farming, and Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers, at the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s June 19 meeting. For the past 15 years, Washington, D.C.-based EWG has listed the 15 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues along with a list of the “Clean 15” items with the lowest levels in its “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.”

The organization sparked a media frenzy as it encouraged consumers to avoid conventional fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, eat only organic versions or stick to the Clean 15 list.

The alliance found the list to be problematic, executive director Marilyn Dolan told members of the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council at a June 19 luncheon.

The Watsonville, Calif.-based nonprofit alliance asked five independent scientists to analyze the data and determine whether pesticide levels posed a threat to humans.

“The answer was a resounding no,” Dolan said.

In 2010, the alliance responded to EWG with its own press conference and, by continuing to spread factual information about pesticide levels via channels like safefruitandveggies.com, has been able to dispel much of the fear and confusion the EWG report sparked every year, she said.

Media mentions of the Dirty Dozen plummeted from a high of 5,027 in 2011 to 1,093 in 2013, Dolan said.

In addition, the Environmental Working Group has a statement on its website: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Western Growers and chairman of the board of the alliance, told FPFC members that the alliance is a “unifying voice” and “trusted partner” for communication strategies for food safety.

The alliance already is gearing up for what likely will be its next challenge: genetically modified organisms, Dolan said.

The organization will develop a message and formulate a media plan. But Dolan said she’s not yet sure what that message will be.



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nick d    
Delano ca  |  June, 20, 2013 at 12:28 PM

EWG should be sued for printing such a false and damaging document. Studies come out almost yearly, the result is that organic has no more nutritional value than conventional farming.

don    
portland  |  June, 28, 2013 at 02:37 PM

this is about poison not nutritional value

Mike    
Ventura  |  June, 22, 2013 at 11:30 AM

All this demonstrates is how disconnected the industry is from the consumer. Consumers are concerned about the level of pesticides allowed or not allowed on the food they eat and their kids eat. Organic gains ground as it is perceived to be better and safer. Perceived being the key word. Transparency is more important - why not publish data or submit all results to the EWG so they have a more accurate data set and be accountable to the public as to why you need 10 legal residues on a strawberry etc. It will be a bold supplier that uses their website or QR codes to demonstrate to customers what they find and the level of testing they do instead of hiding behind its legal so must be ok. Time to get heads out of the sands and recognize that customers are important.

Mike    
Ventura  |  June, 22, 2013 at 04:16 PM

And how come the alliance doesn't know what to say about GMO's? is that because the jury is still out? Again consumers want the choice. Once it is clear on the packaging what is in the product then let the consumers choose with their wallets what they want - dont try to feed them some rubbish over how safe everything is when we don't really know what the true impact will be. There is value in using some GM techniques in certain aspects of plant breeding that can speed up the process but I feel in our lifetimes we will rue the day we produced plants crossed with BT or resistant to glyphosate and all the caterpillars eventually become resistant while we slowly pollute the groundwater with herbicides. I suspect as a grower you will find you suddenly can get a "organic' type premium for your non GMO product and raise its value in the market place! The future is probably in (pathogen) clean; pesticide residue free; conventional products!

don    
portland  |  June, 28, 2013 at 02:36 PM

poison is bad i choose not to eat it. ironic that under this email based article is an ad for Homegrown organic and a story about organic bananas.

Mark    
CA  |  June, 28, 2013 at 06:09 PM

Arsenic is organic.

Karl    
Texas  |  June, 29, 2013 at 08:31 AM

FYI. BT is the most common "organic" biocontrol product used to control lepidopteran pests in organic production. The public thinks that organic produce is free of pesticides, but that is far from true. Just look at the list of OMRI approved pesticides. How do you feel about consuming large quantities of copper sulfate, the most common organic fungicide?Glyphosate breaks down within hours in soil so the risk of ground water contamination is virtually non existent. It also has lower human toxicities than many organic pesticides. Since there are few herbicides allowed by the NOP, weed management in organic crops relies heavily on cultivation which encourages erosion and surface water contamination, breaks down soil tilth, speeds decomposition of soil organic mater, and requires burning more diesel per acre than spraying a herbicide which contributing to global warming. The compost used in organic production need not come form an organic source so there can be all kinds of things in there. The only restriction is that it can't contain sewage sludge. I'm all for organic production, but you have to get your facts right if you are going to make a successful argument in favor of it. I try to teach my students both sides of those arguments so they can make an informed decision about which type of production to pursue.

AC    
MANSON, WA  |  June, 29, 2013 at 04:36 PM

Good points all. However, the conventional industry cannot squash the challenges no matter how much money they throw at it. Need examples? Remember Pink Slime (LEAN FINELY TEXTURED BEEF)? That industry collapsed overnight. How about rBST milk? MIA and more likely to see packaging that reads "DOES NOT CONTAIN" this unwanted chemical. And food manufactures are abandoning HFCS in droves - due to the cultural changes taking place now. The entrenched habit of viewing the consumer as a technical ‘work-around’ is the first obstacle to be overcome will only result in large losses for the industry. It is tempting for industry leaders to try to debunk emerging, disruptive quality markers (‘organic’ or ‘natural’ or ‘HFCS-free’) that threaten the value of their production technologies by using laboratory science as a tool with which to re-educate a ‘misinformed consumer base.’ While this is an understandable approach for those trained in rigorous laboratory science, it ignores the fact that the demand-side risks the coventional produce industry faces today are ultimately cultural forces, not forces of misinformation easily countered with opposing information. Industry leaders need to better understand the deeper cultural principles that are driving changing food and beverage decision patterns at the consumer level. Otherwise, any effort spent on debunking the rationales supposedly motivating these cultural changes (or attempts to publicly dismiss them as the effect of media celebrities, or organizations) will only perpetuate an alienated stance vis-à-vis the consumer.

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