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What'sOnMyFood? in a widget, with new data & bees!

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Ready to geek out? We’ve updated our pesticide residue database, What’s On My Food?, with the latest chemical and toxicology data – including a new dimension that tracks bee-toxic pesticides. And we made a widget!

What's a widget? Fair question. It’s a snippet of computer code that allows you (or your favorite blogger) to host the What’s On My Food? search function on your website or blog. You can download it here.

From the main site you can still share to your Facebook page, find a banner to post and – as ever – dig deeper into pesticide residue and toxicology data. The highlights:

  • Honey Bee toxicity data. We still track which pesticides are linked with cancer, neurodevelopmental impacts, endocrine system disruption and developmental and reproductive harms. We added this non-human toxicity dimension because: a) bees are carrying a pesticide burden that has clearly become unbearable; and b) bees are an indicator species. As bees go, so goes the environment and with it, us.
  • Up-to-date government data, with one exception. We combed through reams of toxicology data from authoritative listings to update What’s On My Food? and our toxicology database PesticideInfo.org with the latest info. Despite our many queries, USDA has mysteriously delayed their annual release of pesticide residue data by more than three months, so unfortunately our residue data hasn’t yet been revised. We’re on the case though (see below).
  • Better graphical display. We’ve translated the brain, DNA strand, baby and O-ring icons, along with a new bee icon, from our iPhone App over to the site. We think it makes more sense this way.
  • The Widget! and other share tools. So far 70,000 people have downloaded the free iPhone App version of What'sOnMyFood? We're hoping these new features will double that figure in the coming year.

Why no new residue data?

In January, the annual release of USDA's new Pesticide Data Program's (PDP) residue data was imminent. We'd planned to incorporate this new data along with the new honey bee toxicity data and functionality that we launched today, but the data has been held up without explanation. We queried in January and February as to the release date, and were told that the data were ready. We waited, and queried again. No explanation as to why the data is being held back. As of today, April 6, 2011, USDA's release is more than three months behind its typical schedule.

Readers may recall that in September of last year, a $180,000 grant was given by USDA to fund a PR campaign to "correct misconceptions about pesticide residues on food." The move was widely panned by organic and sustainable farmers and advocates as an inappropriate use of limited public funds.

When and if the USDA's residue data is finally released, we'll let you know. We'll also factor that into our next WhatsOnMyFood? release plan. Meanwhile, if you want the data, here's the Public Affairs group contact: Michael Jarvis, Director, Public Affairs, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Michael.Jarvis@ams.usda.gov, 202-690-3816. He will at least offer to put you on a notification list. (And it can't hurt to let them know that we actually want and use this data!)

Where does the chemical & toxicology data come from?

Another fair question. The data are all drawn from official, mostly government sources and run through PAN's PesticideInfo.org database. This is a site we built and have been updating about twice per year since 2000. We know that more than 100,000 people visit this site per month. Experts, reporters and data-intrepid consumers tell us they rely on it.

Here's some of what the latest update to PesticideInfo includes:

  • Approximately 1,000 new chemicals. The total number of chemicals in the database is now 8,254 and includes pesticide active ingredients, transformation products, adjuvants, solvents, and other chemicals used in pesticide products, as well as some industrial chemicals.
  • New structure diagrams, new chemical synonyms, classifications and use types.
  • Acute and chronic toxicity of pesticides to bees added to the Detail Chemical page.
  • New U.S. EPA and California Pesticide Use Reporting data. Updated Toxic Air Contaminant, California Ground Water contaminant and Proposition 65 listings.

We thought you'd be excited.

So, what are we supposed to do with this?

What’s On My Food? is a decoder ring for chemicals on and in your food (and water) – use it! It's also a public education tool to help people understand and get involved. Please share it and help us spread the word!

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