July 15th, 2010
06:35 PM ET

'Dirty dozen' list misleading, farmers say

The Alliance for Food and Farming,  a non-profit group of farmers and producers, released a report Thursday challenging the Environmental Working Group's  list of fruits and vegetables you might want to stay away from. The list was released by EWG more than a decade ago in a report titled "Shopper's Guide To Pesticides In Produce." It's called the '"Dirty Dozen of Produce "and details fruit and vegetables that are healthy versus those the group alleges are packed with pesticides.

The Dirty Dozen, starting with the most contaminated, is celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collard greens, potatoes and imported grapes. And according to EWG, if you're eating five fruits and vegetables daily from the Dirty Dozen list you're consuming on average 10 pesticides a day.

But a panel of experts who reviewed the Dirty Dozen for AFF says current science linking pesticide residues found on fruits and veggies to poor health is simply not there. A panel of five scientists with expertise in nutrition, toxicology and risk assessment say the list is misleading consumers about the dangers. They say detecting residue doesn't mean the produce is unsafe.

"We have a real problem in the United States. People are not eating enough fruits and vegetables," said Dr. Carl Keen, professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California, Davis and a member of the expert panel that reviewed the Dirty Dozen report. "We are supposed to have five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and right now most people are only eating a couple. The Dirty Dozen list is damaging because it can confuse the public into thinking that fruits or vegetables represent a risk to them. This is just simply not the case."

So AFF is launching a new website to give consumers a different perspective and stress the need to eat more fresh fruits and veggies.

"Like the organization behind the Dirty Dozen report, our farmer-members hope to utilize the power of public information to protect public health. This is why we have developed this website – to provide information that assures consumers it's not only OK to eat their favorite fruits and vegetables, but that it's the best thing you can do for your health and the health of your children," said Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming. "What we are telling consumers really isn't anything different from what your mom and grandmother have been saying for years – eat your fruits and vegetables."

But EWG questioned whether the new report was just about health.. "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the chemical farming coalition members (the Alliance for Food and Farming) are less concerned about EWG's "dirty dozen" list, or the health and girth of the American people, than they are about losing so much market share in recent years to organic fruits and vegetables," said EWG President Ken Cook. "If chemical agriculture and the Alliance for Food and Farming want to promote healthier diets, it should stop attacking critics and focus on growing vegetables and fruits that are chemical-free – and also tasty."

soundoff (131 Responses)
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    Mounting evidence proves there are health benefits for consuming organic foods. In fact, studies linking non-organic practices to increased health risks are beginning to prove more conclusively the many benefits that organic agriculture has to offer farmers, the land, our water supplies, air, and ultimately, the health of the planet and those living on it. For example, the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel report released in May exhorts consumers to choose food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones to help decrease their exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase their risk of contracting cancer. Also, a study published May 17 in Pediatrics concluded that exposure to organophosphate pesticides—prohibited in organic production—at levels common among U.S. children may contribute to the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in these children.

    With this in mind, the focus should not be on limiting your organic purchases to a specific of produce items, but instead choosing organic versions of the products you buy most. Whether that is milk, produce, or personal care products, buying organic will not only help reduce your exposure to harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also support a system of agricultural management that is great for the planet and all those living on it.

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    If most people could grow their own vegetables and fruits without no pesticides I am sure they would. But not everyone can so it is really important to try and buy organic food chemical free if you can afford it. I think we all know we need to eat more fruit & veg and be more aware of what we are eating

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.