by Marion Nestle
Jul 3 2012

Two new reports on pesticides in foods, from different perspectives

It’s hard to know what to say or do about pesticides in foods.  They are there and cannot easily be avoided. 

Are they harmful in the small doses found on foods?   Convincing studies one way or the other are hard to do. 

The Alliance for Food and Farming is an industry group with a stated mission “to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of all fruits and vegetables.”

Its new report is called “Scared Fat.”  It reassures you that pesticides on fruits and veggies do no harm, so relax.

 The Maryland Pesticide Network and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future take a precautionary approach: whenever possible, avoid.

They have produced Best Management Practices Guide for Mimimizing or Eliminating Use of Pesticides for homeowners, farmers, property managers who want to do just that or at least minimize use of these chemicals.

If you prefer to avoid, take a look.

And enjoy your  4th of July salads!

  • Scared Fat? I’m trying to wrap my mind around this. This report says that people eat fewer fruits and vegetables because they’re afraid of pesticides? What are they eating instead?

    They are eating highly processed foods that start from ingredients that are loaded with pesticides, then propped up with chemical ingenuity to resemble something that passes for dinner. They are eating meat and dairy products from animals fed pesticide-treated, and hormone enhanced feed. Avoiding pesticides does not even enter their minds in any other section of the grocery store.

    I think that of all the reasons Americans are obese, fear of pesticides is so insignificant as to be laughable.

  • FarmerJane

    Marlene, I’ve been farming for forty plus years as a dairy farmer. Not sure what you mean about feeding dairy cows hormone laced feed? If you are saying rbgh, usage in the US has plummeted. The last figure I saw was something around 20% of US cows treated with rbgh, primarily on the largest farms and primarily in the west. In the northeast, when rbgh first came out, many average dairy farmers objected publicly. Farmers in my area who objected got personal phone calls to their farms from Monsanto. Word spread of this tactic and the farmers in my community quietly turned away from the product, this was years and years ago. Unfortunately, the big organic companies like to make money by telling the public that milk is full of hormones from rbgh. Spin….

  • Michael

    Farmerjane: the problem is that there is no disclosure requirement for rBST, and while many dairies claim their farmers don’t use the stuff, but have no credible monitoring or compliance regimes in place. I have no reason to doubt that you and your neighbors don’t use it, but that doesn’t mean we really know where it is and is not in use, except in certified organic dairy.

    rBST is also only one of many hormones administered to US cattle. Somewhere between a third and half of all US cattle have been treated with 17-β estradiol, progesterone, or testosterone, or with the synthetic steroid hormone analogs melengesterol, trenbolone or zeranol, and “Almost 90 percent of of steers and heifers weighing over 700 pounds and almost 86 percent weighing less than 700 pounds were implanted at least once in their lifetime [with one or more of these,] and many cattle receive more than one implant (USDA 2000)” per a report assembled for the 2008 Meeting of the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program Scientific Guidance Panel of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment :

    And, most of these hormones are more persistent in the meat than rBST. Imported beef from jurisdictions with weaker regulations and/or enforcement (and processed food made from it and not labeled as such) may still contain the very toxic hormone analog diethylstilbestrol, and while not a hormone, recent headlines have emphasized that Chinese beef often contains substantial contamination by the β-adrenoreceptor agonist clenbuterol — while US meat may contain much smaller amounts of its less-persistent analog, ractopamine (Paylean/Optaflexx), which has been banned in the EU, Taiwan, and (ironically) China.

    I’m not commenting on your or your neighbors’ practices — I have no idea, of course — but anyone eating meat that isn’t certified organic has every reason to believe that it contains biologically active exogenous hormones and drugs.

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