Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farm workers suffer for our fruit

Beware the apples. Every year, the Environmental Working Group does an annual review of USDA data on fruits and vegetables. The organization just released its "Dirty Dozen” list of the produce that delivers the highest doses of pesticides, as well as a “Clean 15” of recommended foods. Apples top the naughty list as having the largest doses and widest variety of pesticides.

These chemicals impact more than consumers. Farm workers are at greater risk than ever. Chemicals in pesticides have changed over the years; current day pesticides break down rapidly once sprayed, but are most dangerous at application. This means safer food for consumers, but greater health risks to farm workers. The EWG’s rating, by the way, does not consider possible harm to workers, only to consumers.

Each year, farm workers are exposed to billions of pounds of toxic chemicals that are sprayed or injected on crops. One chemical, methyl iodide, has been shown to cause cancer, neurotoxicity and reproductive toxicity. The United Farm Workers have been campaigning against the toxic chemical, which workers who pick strawberries are unnecessarily exposed to.

The produce trade group, Alliance for Food and Farming, responded to the EWG by defending its members’ practices and offered the following solution in a press release:
When residues are present on food, consumers can see for themselves how low they actually are by using a new calculator tool now available on the safefruitsandveggies.com website. The calculator is based on a scientific analysis which shows that even a small child could eat hundreds or even thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable without any impact at all from pesticide residues.
How reassuring.