Writing for The Atlantic, Barry Estabrook exposed an interesting and confounding situation this week. It appears the USDA just granted nearly $200,000 to an agribusiness-backed smear campaign effort intended to warn consumers about information designed to educate them on which fruits and vegetables are most susceptible to pesticides. Huh? This information under attack comes from the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit, non-government funded organization responsible for the well-known "Dirty Dozen" list that ranks the most heavily sprayed produce that they recommend choosing organic whenever possible.
What's most irksome in Estabrook's piece is that the smear campaign, well disguised under the moniker "safefruitsandveggies.com" suggests there is no merit to the Dirty Dozen list, saying that it mainly causes fear and discourages consumption of fruits and vegetables despite the glaring fact that the info obtained for the Dirty Dozen list comes from studies conducted by the USDA. In case you're still confused: The USDA compiled extensive information on the food most often contaminated by pesticides, the EWG shared this list with the public in an effort to articulate when opting for organic was most beneficial, while still encouraging daily consumption of fruits and vegetables—whether organic or not—and now the USDA is supporting an attack campaign on that very data, you know, the data it produced.
So what does this mean, exactly? Should we no longer trust the USDA? Are they an unreliable source of information if they're willing to finance launches against their own research? Are organic options really safe? Well, according to Estabrook, the attack against the EWG's Dirty Dozen list has kind of failed. Why then am I writing this? The situation serves an important reminder to take our health into our own hands. Do the research on your food. Shop locally and get to know your farmers whenever possible. Simplify your diet to avoid processed and higher contamination risk foods. Grow or forage your own. And in case you don't have it memorized, the fruits and veggies the EWG deems the Dirty Dozen, meaning you should opt for organic when possible are:
7. Bell Peppers
10. Kale or Collards
Eat safe. Don't let the Ag Monsters scare you.
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Photo courtesy of the Environmental Working Group