USDA

Karl Tupper's picture

In my last post, I asked "Where's the data?" — specifically the latest installment from the USDA's Pesticide Data Program, which tests thousands of food samples for pesticide residues every year. The PDP data is the basis for our WhatsOnMyFood.org website that allows you to see which pesticides are found on food (and in water), how often, in what amounts, and with what associated health risks.

After months of delay, the data is finally out. In a nod to the produce industry (who had complained about "misuse" of the data by "activist groups") the USDA included a two page "What Consumers Should Know" factsheet with the report, but otherwise the presentation of results and data is the same as it's always been. And then there's cilantro.

Karl Tupper's picture

As we reported in last month's update of What's On My Food?, USDA's 2010 pesticide residue data has been mysteriously delayed for five months.

As we suspected, it seems the produce industry isn't happy with the way USDA has been presenting its annual public summary of the data, and has been pressuring the Department to make changes. In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last month, they charge that the annual report "has, in previous years, been mischaracterized repeatedly by environmental activists and news media to the extent that it has discouraged people from consuming fresh produce." Apparently "mischaracterized" is industry-speak for "brought to the attention of the public".

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shocked the American public with its hasty approval of three highly controversial GE crops in a row (alfalfa, sugar beets and ethanol corn). In doing so, the agency effectively thumbed its nose at U.S. federal courts and spit in the face of consumers and farmers alike. Now, USDA has apparently decided that getting sued for ignoring U.S. environmental laws is getting to be too much of a hassle. So they've come up with a new plan: why not let Monsanto evaluate the potential harms of its new transgenic products? It’ll be so much quicker this way. And save USDA a lot of money.

The two-year pilot program allowing GE developers to conduct their own environmental assessments for USDA is an “experiment” to improve its systems, says USDA. Tom Philpott calls it a craven way out.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Tomorrow morning, as you pour milk into your kids’ cereal bowls or buy a latte to get you going, take a moment to think about the dairy and other family farmers who will be braving gusty winds off Lake Michigan to converge on the steps of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These farmers are demanding an end to the price fixing and speculation by traders that has bankrupted thousands of family farmers across the U.S., while spurring food crises worldwide.

Pesticide Action Network's picture

On Feb. 4, USDA announced a “partial deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugar beets to allow planting in 2011. The move came despite a December federal court decision in which the judge ordered that GE beets already planted to produce seed “shall be removed from the ground”. USDA has defied the court on behalf of Monsanto before.