A group of scientists and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are urging federal regulators to speed up the release of the government’s latest data on pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables.
In a news release, EWG said for about two decades the U.S. Department of Agriculture has tested produce for pesticide residues and typically makes its findings public in January.
But more than four months into the year, results for USDA’s 2010 tests have yet to be released.
Scientists at the Environmental Working Group rely on this data to compile the EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, which ranks produce according the amount of residues each type carries in the USDA tests.
EWG President Ken Cook and several of the nation’s top physicians and scientists wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg this week urging them to no longer delay the release of the most recent test results. The letter also calls on the officials to bolster the government’s research into the adverse health effects of pesticides, particularly on children.
A number of scientific studies have shown that pesticide consumption can lead to permanent brain damage by impairing learning, memory and behavior, it points out.
“Children are uniquely sensitive to harmful effects from pesticides,” the letter says. “Yet they eat substantial quantities of certain fresh fruits and vegetables – apples, berries, peaches, for example – proven to contain multiple pesticide residues.”
The government must make studies showing the negative link between pesticides and the brain more transparent to the public, and should test all fresh produce regularly eaten by children, its authors say.
Expanding available information on pesticides in produce would allow the government to make better-informed policy decisions on which chemicals to restrict, in addition to helping consumers make informed choices about what to feed to their kids, says the letter.
“We strongly urge your agencies to work together to improve the government’s pesticide testing so that Americans can reduce their exposure to chemicals, even as they consume fruits and vegetables essential to a healthy diet.”