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California Tax Dollars Fund Pro-pesticide Campaign

by Josh Vincent — last modified Nov 22, 2010 01:53 PM
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The California Department of Food and Agriculture and the USDA award $180,000 to pesticide PR campaign.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), along with 50 other public interest groups, is asking the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the USDA to reconsider a $180,000 grant given to the Alliance For Food and Farming (AFF) for the purposes of reframing the public perception of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. The same groups are also calling for an investigation into how the grant was awarded.

If you're unfamiliar, EWG is a Washington, DC-based non-profit that uses scientific research to advocate for better policies in a number of areas relating to human health and the environment. EWG maintains the popular Dirty Dozen List - a shopper's guide to what they've identified as the twelve fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. Its purpose is to aid consumers in making better purchasing decisions when buying washed and peeled produce. For those on a limited budget who are unable or unwilling to purchase all of their produce organic, EWG's list helps them to make select organic purchases in order to avoid the more pesticide intensive items.

AFF is a coalition of more than 50 industrial farms, pesticide and fertilizer interests. They operate under a non-profit charter to promote claims about the safety and desirability of agricultural chemicals. They are regarded by many as a front group whose major efforts have included green-washing pesticides, disputing the nutritional advantages of organic produce, and running negative propaganda campaigns against organic, local, and small-scale farms.

The latest controversy began over a recently created website that AFF produced with funds from the CDFA/USDA grant. The site directly attacks EWG and the Dirty Dozen List, arguing that their information negatively impacts agri-business and public health by discouraging the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The goal of the site, according to AFF, is to “generate more balanced media reporting and to change public perception about the safety of produce when it comes to pesticide residues.”

The idea that pesticide exposure impacts human health is not a misconception. There's undeniable evidence linking pesticide exposure to health issues like cancer, neurological abnormalities, attention deficit disorders, disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive dysfunction and especially asthma. The question arises, is it in our best interest for AFF to change public perception so that there is less concern about pesticide residues? Furthermore, should they be using our tax dollars to fund such efforts?

Obviously not, hence the anger now being directed at the USDA and the CDFA for failing to recognize the AFF’s naked efforts to put profits over people.

EWG has an online petition calling for an investigation into who approved the AFF grant as well as a recall of the grant funds.