Real Talk about the “Dirty Dozen”

Modern agriculture practices and products provide numerous benefits to consumers, from access to a year-round supply of fresh produce to lower prices at the grocery store. However, there remains an overwhelming amount of misinformation in the news about one component of modern ag: crop protection products, which help to keep plants free from bugs, weeds and disease. One of the most prominent examples is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” report. By distorting the information presented in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP) report, the “Dirty Dozen” lists what EWG considers tainted produce based on pesticide residue. When talking to others about crop protection and the “Dirty Dozen,” keep these facts in mind:

  • The trace amount of a pesticide in a food does not equal danger; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops strict limits, or tolerances, for residues which are 100 to 1,000 times lower than the level determined to cause adverse health effects;
  • In a recent press release, USDA confirmed that “U.S. food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues,” and reported that residues exceeding the established EPA tolerance were detected in only 0.25 percent of the 11,644 samples tested;
  • EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” does not follow any established scientific procedures to create its list and several studies have pointed to a lack of science in determining what produce items are listed. Click here, here and here for a few examples of these studies;
  • Between the industry, EPA, and other federal and state regulatory agencies, all parties work hard to keep modern agriculture safe for you and the environment. This is paired with ongoing farmer training and certification to ensure the proper application of crop protection products. From the ingredients to the label instructions, crop protection products are closely monitored and regulated to ensure that only the safest and most effective products are brought to market.

By working together, we can help spread the word about the benefits of modern agriculture. CLA has also developed a supplemental toolkit that specifically discusses these issues. The toolkit includes:

  • Sample Q&A;
  • Links to sample scientific studies and talking points; and
  • Additional comments from national health-focused organizations such as the American Cancer Society.

For a copy of the toolkit, please visit the password-protected member site or contact Mary Emma Young or Sarah Macedo.

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