(Oct. 27) A notorious environmental group is again attacking the produce industry, this time using nearly 2-year-old data that has shown produce to be safe by U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

The Environmental Working Group study, called a “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” recommends buying organic versions of 12 conventionally grown commodities it said are so contaminated that consumers should not eat them.

The information comes from a 2000 USDA report released in early 2002 that found just 0.2% contained residues exceeding established tolerances and 1.2% had residues of chemicals for which no tolerances had been set.

The United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C., is advising the industry and media to disregard the working group’s report.

The last time the group released a shoppers guide, in the fall of 1995, there were lawsuits using “anti-disparagement” statutes.

However, this scare is low even for Environmental Working Group standards. It seems an organic company helped fund the report, which — surprise! — recommends replacing conventional with organic product.

The company, Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., an organic yogurt maker, has no explanation for this obvious conflict of interest.

One can only imagine the fireworks in the fresh produce industry if an organic produce company had sponsored such an attack.

As United points out, the only real guide consumers need to is follow the unbiased public health advice of the National Cancer Institute: Eat 5 to 9 servings of day of fruits and vegetables for better health.