Farm Bureau: Anti-pesticides Report a ‘Shameless Attempt’ to Frighten the Public

Published June 1, 1999

Leading scientists agree that Americans enjoy the world’s safest, most abundant food supply. A report that claims otherwise, released by a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, was deemed “a shameless attempt to frighten parents and an arrogant power play” by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

According to AFBF President Dean Kleckner, a report released in February by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a desperate attempt to pressure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban safe and effective crop protection tools.

“It is unconscionable that 10 years after the debunked Alar scare, EWG is once again foisting on the American public a report rooted in junk science and anti-pesticide use propaganda,” Kleckner said. “EWG’s report is a direct contradiction of health experts who affirm the safety of our food supply and encourage children and adults to eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Americans enjoy the safest and most abundant food supply in the world–a fact EPA reiterated” in early February.

As required by the Food Quality Protection Act, EPA currently is reviewing pesticide uses, Kleckner explained. The agency is consulting with farmers and scientists to ensure fair and workable implementation of the act.

“Any regulatory actions must be based on sound science and reliable information, not driven by fabricated claims of environmental groups,” Kleckner said. “It is apparent that EWG’s interests are best served when this process is rushed, incomplete, and pressurized by the specter of another Alar scare.”

Speaking at a Washington news conference prior to the release of EWG’s report, AFBF’s Mark Maslyn, deputy executive director of the organization’s Washington office, said it was unfortunate that agriculture was finding it necessary “to respond to the hyped up media events that call into question the integrity of the world’s safest food supply—and the people who produce that food.” He called the EWG report “an attack on farmers and an attempt to undermine public confidence.”

“Through innuendo, misdirection, and misrepresentation of data, EWG appears to believe that it is constructive to scare consumers and issue confusing nutrition advice,” Maslyn said. “I hope that 10 years after Alar, (Americans) will cast a more critical eye on claims that the public is at great risk and understand that on this anniversary, farmers are probably not going to the store to pick out their ‘Alar Day’ greeting cards. Nor should anyone else.”

Maslyn said farmers are committed to further improving the safety of the U.S. food supply. Farmers support research on food safety and have been pioneers in adopting improved pesticide application technology and other methods that reduce pesticide use. However, “as the people out in the fields who struggle daily to bring in a crop that can be threatened by pests, diseases, natural disasters, and economic crises half a world away, farmers must have the tools to protect their crops.”

The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, EPA, and the Agriculture Department have repeatedly declared that trace levels of pesticide residues, detectable only through sophisticated science, are well within tight, government-set tolerances and do not pose a significant health threat to children or adults.