Farm Progress

The Dirty Dozen pesticide residue level list produced by the Environmental Working Group is shedding its sizzle because of a full-court press by agricultural interests to focus on facts.

May 9, 2013

2 Min Read

This year’s release of the Dirty Dozen List produced by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is beginning to shed its sizzle because of a full-court press by agricultural interests to focus on science-based information.

Each year the EWG comes out with a list that ranks fruits and vegetables according to pesticide residue levels. For years the list has been a constant irritant to agriculture because it gives the impression that conventional fruits and veggies are replete with globs of unsafe pesticides and suggests consumers buy their produce from organic sources. These unfounded claims were usually reinforced by widespread media coverage each year.

After the EWG list became the vehicle to dissuade consumers from buying any fruits and veggies at all because they didn’t trust conventional produce and didn’t want to spend the extra money paying for higher priced organic foods, studies began to show that fewer fruits and veggies were being purchased by a growing number of the consuming public who had been influenced by the Dirty Dozen List.

However, in 2010 agriculture ramped up with an aggressive challenge and effectively countered EWG’s list.  Spearheaded largely by the Alliance for Food and Farming based in Salinas, the group sought the input of experts in the areas of toxicology, nutrition, risks analysis and farming and placed its findings on its website at and held webinars. The experts, who saw the Dirty Dozen List as an unfair and misleading attack on healthy fruits and vegetables, spoke out by mentioning all the flaws contained in the annual report.

According to Matt McInerney, executive vice president of the Western Growers Association and AFF board chairman, 2013 actually witnessed a significant decline in media coverage across the country when the list came out earlier this year. “Our goal is to have facts, not fear, guide consumers’ shopping choices,” he reportedly told one media outlet.

Both the USDA and the EPA have clearly stated that residues do not pose a health risk.  It’s heartening to know that at last the media outlets are finally taking their word for it.        

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