From Kiera Butler at Mother Jones:
You know the Environmental Working Group's super-helpful list of the most-pesticide-laden fruits and veggies? Well, there's a Big Ag lobby group called the Alliance for Food and Farming that's trying to debunk it. And the USDA just gave the lobbyists $180,000 to aid their smear campaign, reports The Atlantic.
So exactly who's behind the Alliance for Food and Farming? According to SourceWatch its board of directors includes honchos from the California Strawberry Commission, the California Tomato Farmers, the Produce Marketing Association, and the California Association of Pest Control Advisors, among other industry groups. The AFF's main argument: "Promotion of the 'Dirty Dozen' list actually makes the work of improving the diets of Americans more difficult because it scares consumers away from the affordable fruits and vegetables that they enjoy."
Riiiight. Considering that the EPA freely admits that pesticides can cause "birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects," it's totally boneheaded to suggest that raising consumer awareness about pesticides is making Americans less healthy. What's more, it's not like the Environmental Working Group is suggesting you give up on produce entirely and stock your fridge with Mountain Dew instead. In fact, EWG explicitly states that the list isn't meant to discourage people from eating their veggies.
From The Atlantic by Barry Estabrook:
The White House garden may be green and unsullied by agricultural chemicals, but Obama's United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just forked over $180,000 to fund an agribusiness-backed smear campaign against the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," which includes the "Dirty Dozen," a list of the foods most commonly found to have pesticide residue.
In July, a website called SafeFruitsandVeggies.com was launched with the sole purpose of debunking the EWG's guide. The website, with the headline, "The Real Dangers of the Dirty Dozen List," was started by the Alliance for Food and Farming,(http://www.foodandfarming.info/) a California-based group that bills itself as a non-profit organization made up of farmers and farm groups who want to "communicate their commitment to food safety and care for the land."
In fact, the alliance is little more than a PR front whose directors include executives from corporate agricultural interests such as Sunkist, Western Growers, California Strawberry Commission, California Tomato Farmers, and the California Association of Pest Control Advisors.
On top of this story we also have the USDA spending huge amounts of money to combat obesity while their marketing group, Dairy Management, spends tax payer dollars to help companies promote and sell more cheese. Now, the main argument against this so far has been that cheese is full of fat, therefore unhealthy and causes weight gain. While I agree that eating a lot of fat causes weight gain there is considerable evidence now that fat may not be the real cause of heart disease and low fat milk may actually be rather unhealthy. My main problem with this is the tax payers being charged for advertising for corporations by a government agency that should be in charge of protecting us from the food corporations.
The USDA should have long ago forced the food industry to make healthy foods the cheapest things to buy in the grocery store. Instead, people with little money to buy food have to eat unhealthy or go hungry. Healthy food is expensive and the food in grocery stores has sat in warehouses often for weeks before making it to the store shelves. By the time we get produce in Alaska it has often already started to go moldy or rot. The fructose or corn syrup filled foods have contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic. Fructose blocks a hormone that tells us we are full as well as supplying large amounts of empty calories. The USDA should have emphasized the maintenance of health by teaching the public to eat a wide variety of healthy foods. The money should be spent on educating the public, not given to corporations to indoctrinate the public so they can sell their products.
David Gardner at Mail Online:
Daily Management spent $136 million last year, compared to a budget of $5.6 million for the Agriculture Department’s Centre for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.