Monday, August 2, 2010

Misguided Journalism

Every year during my peach season the misguided members of the Environmental Working Group promote a list of fruits and vegetables to buy organic. This mis-information is picked up by well respected publications. For example, here is Prevention magazines’ version.
This article has issues.
The first fallacy is that organic means pesticide free. Organic doesn't mean pesticide free. See a list of 1700 approved chemicals here: . Some of the organic pesticides require more personal protective equipment than conventional pesticides for the same plant disease. Other organic pesticides require longer re-entry intervals. Compare the label on this organic pesticide (currently being recommended for downy mildew on cucumbers)
with this conventional product being used for the same purpose
The second fallacy is that somehow the toxicologists are wrong and the dilute, environmentally degraded pesticides at the consumer level will cause some type of damage. Meanwhile the fresh, concentrated pesticide is not affecting the manufactures, commercial applicators or farmers. The commercial applicators are mixing and applying the fresh, concentrated pesticides every day in season. The farmers also mix, apply, repair pesticide spray machinery, get fresh concentrated pesticides on their skin and clothes and live their working lives in the fields and orchard where the fresh pesticides are sprayed. Thankfully, the toxicologists are not wrong. In fact, the farmers and commercial applicators live longer and healthy lives than the average consumer. The Agricultural Health Study is probably the latest up to date source of this information. . I have followed this study since enrolling about 200 local farmers in the study when it first started. Each year of the study, I feel more confident that pesticides are not a problem for consumers.
This article found somebody that always peels their peaches before sampling. That is meaningless but if it makes a difference to you, I sample in excess of 300 peaches every year without peeling or washing the skin. I do this when I come to a broke limb and have to figure out if the peaches had time to ripen before the limb broke. I sample one and know whether to pick or abandon the rest. (By sample number 200 or so when I wish to know how good a peach is, I just taking a bite out of the center and discarding the rest. My mom would probably be upset if she caught me.)
Even if you wish to continue to accept the premise of thier pointless article, I hope you don't worry about my products. My blueberries have never been sprayed with insecticides or fungicides. I have used weedkillers in nearby areas, but never on the actual plants or even as a broadcast spray around the blueberry plants. As of August 1 2010, it has been 46 days since I sprayed an insecticide on my peaches. There have been 9 rain events during that time. As long as 30 days ago (July 15) honeybees were foraging on my peaches with no problem. I have insects from at least 5 different orders in my orchard right this minute.
I am sure the needless worry caused by irresponsible and lazy “journalism” in articles like this is no fun for the person going through it. However, the real damage caused by articles like this is the reduction in healthy food consumption. Fresh vegetables and fruits are the good guys. Eat them. There is no scientific reason to pay higher prices for fruits and vegetables labeled organic. If higher organic prices will keep you from consuming fruits and vegetables than buy conventional fruit and vegetables, preferably from local conscientious farmers like me.

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