Environmental Group Claims not always Science-Based

Each year since 1995, the US-based non-governmental organization Environmental Working Group has published a “Dirty Dozen” of conventional (non-organic) fruits and vegetables that are commonly contaminated with pesticide residues. This year scientists at the Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California – Davis, have taken a look at the “Dirty Dozen” and have concluded that (1) exposures to the most commonly detected pesticides on the twelve commodities pose negligible risks to consumers, (2) substitution of organic forms of the twelve commodities for conventional forms does not result in any appreciable reduction of consumer risks, and (3) the methodology used by the environmental advocacy group to rank commodities with respect to pesticide risks lacks scientific credibility.

The UC-Davis study is strongly critical of the methodology used by EWG:

  • The inclusion of blueberries, cherries, and kale on the “Dirty Dozen” list is not justified.
  • The methodology used to create the “Dirty Dozen” list does not appear to follow any established scientific procedures.
  • Consumer exposures to the ten most frequently detected pesticides on EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” commodity list are at negligible levels and that the EWG methodology is insufficient to allow any meaningful rankings among commodities.

GallonDaily has become increasingly concerned about the reliance of the media, industry, and governments solely on advice from environmental groups. Few environmental groups have the resources to conduct science-based research on the issues they address. Advice from environmental groups is often based as much on values as on science. We are by no means saying that the views of environmental groups should not be taken into account or that we do not welcome advice from environmental groups, but we do suggest that the research on the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables should be a caution to governments, the media, and industry that all views, including those of governments, industry, academics, and environmental groups, should be subject to in-depth scrutiny and peer review. No one group can legitimately claim ownership of the truth.

The article Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels, Carl K. Winter * and Josh M. Katz, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California is available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135239/

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