Before the PMA show, I had the chance on Oct. 8 to chat with Bryan Silbermann, president of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.
1:45 p.m. Tom Karst: I wanted to get your reaction to the dustup again with the Environmental Working Group. They put out a press release and a letter (objecting to) to the specialty crop block grant California awarded to the Alliance for Food and Farming. What was your initial take when you saw that?
1:46 p.m. Bryan Silbermann: I think EWG stands for Everything We Give you. Everything we give is fine and nothing that anybody else gives you is fine. I would characterize EWG’s communication as disingenuous and hypocritical and I say that because what they want is for consumers to have only the EWG information and they don’t in fact even submit their own so-called scientific information for peer review and publication. Whereas what the Alliance for Food and Farming has done is to have respected scientists develop a study that is publically available, presented first in a Webinar and also at Fresh Summit next week. I think it is disingenuous and hypocritical of EWG.
Having said that, let’s turn for a second to look at the alliance’s grant is from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. CDFA’s role is to support and promote the role of agriculture in California. It has given this grant through the same application process as every other grant. The CDFA has given this grant to the alliance to encourage consumption of produce, organic and conventional. EWG can turn around and say that this is anti-organic, but that is nonsense. It will get more information out to consumers, not less.
Last time I looked, EWG is the organization that is saying ‘Our information is accurate and we don’t have to have other people peer review our information.’ Really? What is this, George Orwell all over again? The other thing is that I’m aware of some information that will be in my state of the industry presentation talking about the data we have from the latest consumer surveys shows that there is rising concern about pesticides in produce. That rising concern, I think, is in part because of this irresponsible that EWG has mounted over the years that some people take as gospel and repeat as gospel. I think it is absolutely time for public and private entities to stand up and say to organizations like EWG that ‘You are being irresponsible, you are being hypocritical and we need to set the record straight’ . I think that is absolutely the role of organizations like the alliance and organizations like PMA.
I think it is absolutely the role of the Department of Food and Agriculture to be providing consumers with balance and scientifically reviewed information.