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Growers to respond to environmental group's 'Dirty Dozen' pesticide list

by Joan Murphy | July 06, 2010
WASHINGTON -- The produce industry on July 15 plans to fight back against an often quoted environmental group's "Dirty Dozen" list of the top pesticide- laced produce by releasing its own analysis of the group's handy shopping list.

The Alliance for Food & Farming, a non-profit group of farmers headquartered in Watsonville, CA, commissioned Exponent, a consulting firm, to analyze the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list.

Some media often quote the environmental group's list, which says that consumers can reduce 80 percent of daily toxins by choosing 12 organic produce over the traditional varieties. Updated annually, the 2010 list directs consumers to avoid the following traditional commodities due to high pesticide content: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes and grapes.

"Our members are tired of their products being disparaged," said Teresa Thorne, spokesman for the alliance. Last year, the alliance's board of directors asked the staff to commission a study to analyze the Environmental Working Group's findings. On July 1, the alliance hosted a webinar to offer the produce industry a sneak preview of the report's findings, due to be released July 15.

The alliance also has commissioned a toxicologist to conduct an individual assessment of each commodity, a report that will be available at a later date. "He's finding that children could eat hundreds of servings per day and still not see any negative effects," said Ms. Thorne.

"The bottom line is that you have health agencies throughout the country, now the Obama administration's Let's Move campaign, all saying the same thing," she said. People need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and this list offers another barrier to consumers, she said. Recent consumer surveys show that people are more concerned about pesticide residues and the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list fuels this concern. "We support the right to choose organic, but please don't use [the list] for making purchasing decisions," Ms. Thorne said. "Both are very safe."

The alliance is inviting media to a July 15 webinar to discuss its assessment of the "Dirty Dozen" list, and plans to post the Exponent's report on a new web site being sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association. The consumer- friendly web site will contain nutrition information on each produce item, she said.