In mid-May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was expected to release its latest report on the Pesticide Data Program.

A number of produce interests asked USDA to give better context to the report to prevent environmental groups from distorting the data, such as the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list.

Below are two environmental groups’ takes on the issue.

Their spray rigs in a twist

Huffington Post — by Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, May 13

When industry lobbyists want the government to do something the public won’t like, they usually go about it quietly.

Not so for the produce and pesticide lobby. It’s been pushing for months to have the government adopt the industry spin on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s upcoming annual report on pesticide residues on fresh produce. That spin is basically to tell shoppers and parents — moms in particular — “Don’t worry your pretty little heads about this pesticide stuff.”

Remarkably, the growers and pesticide makers have had their trade rags publicizing their closed-door communications with top government officials for all to see.

Back on Oct. 22, an industry publication, The Packer, reporting on a meeting between produce industry lobbyists and top Obama administration officials, wrote:

“The objective in the initial organizational meeting was that we want to see if we can figure out that whatever data is out there be less likely to be misconstrued and misinterpreted,” said Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce. “We’re trying to make sure that anyone who reads that PDP (Pesticide Data Program) report sees — as do all the people in the room (Oct. 19) — that there is no risk associated with the consumption of fresh produce due to pesticide residues.”

On April 28, The Packer came back to the topic:

The leaders of more than a dozen produce associations have asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do everything he can to prevent mischaracterization of pesticide residue data from the USDA’s upcoming release of the annual Pesticide Data Program Summary report. ...

Federal agencies should compile and analyze more information, not less, about industry’s use of pesticides. Many parents would prefer to pack their kids’ lunch boxes with fruits and veggies free of pesticides.

Produce industry wants Americans to eat their pesticide-laden veggies

Grist.org — by Sarah Laskow, May 16

For years, the Environmental Working Group has warned consumers away from “The Dirty Dozen,” the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the most trace pesticides. But the produce industry has had enough of this anti-vegetable propaganda! A consortium of food groups, from the American Mushroom Institute to the National Watermelon Association Inc., is mounting a campaign to reassure consumers that it’s perfectly safe to eat pesticide-laden products. ...

The Alliance for Food and Farming enlisted a group of scientists, who — no surprise here — have pre-existing ties to industry. Penny Fenner-Crisp, for example, left the government in 2000 to work for the research branch of the International Life Sciences Institute, a group funded by corporations like ConAgra and Archer Daniels Midland.

The industry’s spin is that evil environmentalists are trying to discourage Americans from eating their fruits and veggies, which they really should eat! And sure, in farm workers, exposure to pesticides can lead to arthritis, throat problems, birth defects, and a host of other problems. But the small amounts that get into food — don’t worry about those.