NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Consumers Union's Fresh Fruit And Vegetable Scare

February 26, 1999

A number of respected scientists are slamming the Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, for its latest foray against pesticides. In an article in the March issue, entitled "How Safe Is Our Produce?" CU warned against pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Parents were told they could be toxic to their children.

Here are some comments on those charges from scientists:

  • "This all looks very impressive and comprehensive on paper," said Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe Program at the University of California at Davis, "but really has no valid scientific precedent."
  • Winter added that when real data are used, "it's hard to make a strong case that pesticides are posing real health threats to infants and children."
  • Referring to parts of the report which associated pesticides with endocrine disruption, Robert Golden, a toxicologist who formerly worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, commented "this isn't science" -- instead, it was "all politics," he added.
  • "The delicate developing nervous system is not so delicate" as one might fear, commented Stan Schuman, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina -- who added that the real neurotoxic threats were heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and once you get past those "you just don't see anything."

Hudson Institute science policy analyst Michael Fumento makes the political connection. The CU report, he says, is "about stirring up fear of chemicals." The goal, he warns, is to force the EPA "to interpret the Food Quality Protection Act as severely as possible against pesticides and farmers."

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "Fear of Fruit," Wall Street Journal, February 26, 1999.


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