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Food Safety News

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Letter From The Editor: Reader Comments

Opinion

speechbubble_406x250Truth be told, I do not read comments from our readers like you do.

As most everyone knows, our editors must  approve comments before they are posted. Our first exposure to a comment is that review for publication and I must admit I am not at that point reading it for content. Instead, I review it with my radar for George Carlin’s “Seven dirty words you cannot say on TV” or for a signs the comment is the product of voices talking inside someone’s head.

If it passes those tests, I approve it for publication even if the comment has questioned my own parentage or suggested I am on a payroll other than at Food Safety News. While I do not respond to reader comments, other FSN editors are free to do so and often do.

What I like to read is a complete set of reader comments on stories that really draw out debate. I enjoy being able to see how a debate evolves

This past week, we published USDA’s annual pesticide data. As it was 25th anniversary, we decided to mention how the USDA pesticide data releases renews the cycle for the continual debate over whether any pesticide level is safe on fruits and vegetables.

We hoped that our presentation would produce reader comments illustrative of that debate, and you did not disappoint. I like to read comments when all has settled down and the back-and-forth makes the most sense.

At that point, I am also able to best put things in perspective. I can understand it when our good reader, Rusty Pepin, says Food Safety News “is very biased toward blindly supporting chemical/toxic farming…”

When we report findings from such official sources as EPA, FDA, and USDA, it is not that we are blindly supporting them. Official information that is not quickly challenged, however, does become conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom stands on its own without the need for much support.

The pesticide debate in the U.S. goes back and forth because at least one environmental group keeps sowing doubt as the government’s data. Conventional wisdom has not set in. The debate over whether a smidgen is too much remains with us.

And while we cycle through it each year, it’s probably a good debate. As shoppers, we all go through it every week at the grocery stores. Pesticides don’t mean much to bananas because we throw away the peel. Reality is a little different for strawberries. And it’s probably better to go back and read USDA’s entire 196-page report than to wait to the next “Dirty Dozen”  list to come out.

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