Organic growers and companies don't have it so easy. Consumer perception of organics is more knowledgeable now and more favorable, but organics, along with their higher price point, although safer, are often still a tough sale. Now, thanks to a new block of specialty crop grants announced this month by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organics must combat $180,000 more worth of problems.
The new USDA specialty crop block grant program awarded about $55 million nationwide, with California receiving a bulk of this (nearly $17.3 million). Now, while some of the California minded projects did seem to have safety in mind, the California Department of Food and Agriculture decided to hand over $180,000 to the Alliance for Food and Farming so that they can kick off a project titled, "Correcting Misconceptions about Pesticide Residues." What the!?
Keep in mind that for the grant, the California Department of Food and Agriculture says that they "Partnered with the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) in the evaluation and recommendation of food safety-related projects." Following is part of the abstract from the new pro-pesticides project (pdf)...
"The project seeks to correct the misconception that some fresh produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues. Claims by activist groups about unsafe levels of pesticides have been widely reported in the media for many years, but have largely gone uncontested. Continued media coverage of this misleading information is damaging to producers of California specialty crops and may also have a negative impact on public health...
Don Carr, spokesman for the Environmental Working Group had this to say about the grant, "Is it in California's best interest to use taxpayers' money to give chemical-dependent industrial or conventional farming a competitive edge over organics?" The Alliance argues that the grant is actually about, "Encouraging consumption of all fruits and vegetables - both organic and conventional." Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the alliance notes, "Consumers are not eating enough fruit and vegetables, and part of that may be a fear of pesticides."
Wow. So consumers are scared of eating pesticides huh. Hmmm. I wonder why? Maybe because pesticides are dangerious? Or maybe because some stay in our environment and bodies for years!? I really can't say.
Yeah, I'm a little peeved with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and their idea of a good program goal for a specialty crop block grant. Some of the programs this new block of grants are funding are actually good. Funding an effort to promote pesticide safety though; well, it's not a huge shock but it is seriously disappointing.
What do you think of the California Department of Food and Agriculture funding a pro-pesticides program?