Friday, July 16, 2010

"Shut up and Eat Your Pesticides"

I was watching local television news last week in Pittsburgh when I viewed a segment - longish, I thought. It took two minutes for one reporter and two experts in a well-lit supermarket to explain the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" produce guide to viewers.

I was alarmed when an odd message was reiterated by the reporter. He ignored ecological concerns. Instead he framed the issue of agricultural pesticides exclusively as one of individual health risk weighed against the limitations of household budget. But there were gaps even within that limited message framework: no encouragement for moms and other shoppers to shift their food spending from highly processed junk food to fresh fruits and vegetables. No mention of programs like Wholesome Wave, advocates who are rapidly doubling the value of food stamps at farmer's markets in18 states.

No, this news broadcast attitude could be stated: "You got your broccoli dollar, how ya gonna spend it?" Also absent was the sensible suggestion from Dr Andrew Weil that we let the market help determine what we eat. No organic broccoli? Eat organic cabbage and spinach instead.

When I care about an issue, I exhibit a fierce reflex to analyze its message framing and media coverge. I wish I could say I thought the story was prompted by a genuine interest in bringing health information to the public or even a promotional effort by the EWG. Instead I have a sneakin' suspicion that the pitch came from industry somewhere. In fact, the EWG last week identified a disinformation campaign from the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF). Without citing any evidence, the AFF claims Americans are consuming fewer fruits and vegetables because EWG publishes its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

According to the advocates at Environmental Working Group, the AFF is a classic "astroturf" group, representing more than 50 industrial produce growers’ groups and pesticide and fertilizer interests.

So here's my message on the subject:
Eating locally and organically-grown food -- including five servings of fruits and veggies each day -- is our collective stretch goal. Do your best as often as you can. Your loved ones, your body, the planet and your fellow humans thank you.

1 comment:

stop smoking help said...

This similar reaction was posted on another blog I follow. You both did an outstanding job I thought of bringing us the take home message. As I replied on the other blog, it is so difficult sometimes to eat healthier. The pesticide veggies/fruit are almost half the price of the organic and the local farmer's markets are even more than that (in Dallas anyway). It's a little like saying "I know I can buy cheaper cigarettes than the stop smoking aids that are here to help me." Sorry, I couldn't pass on the analogy.

I wish the "local" and organic foods were more consumer friendly. I know they'd get more business. So we just buy the organics when they look much better than the others or when their prices are a little lower.