The Environmental Working Group (EWG) scares Americans into thinking that the fruits and vegetables they purchase at the store are toxic. Here’s how EWG starts off it’s summary of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce: “Nearly 75 percent of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides…Any exposure to pesticides is a problem, given what we know about several ways they can harm humans. But the findings are particularly concerning for children, who are particularly vulnerable to many of the health harms associated with pesticide exposure.”
The fear mongering continues: “For this year’s guide, the overall picture remains problematic: Too many pesticides are still found in too high quantities on too much of the produce millions of Americans eat every day.”
EWG is pushing so much scientific misinformation and fear here, it’s hard for most consumers to feel anything but parental guilt (if they have kids) or absolute fear that they are poisoning themselves.
Remember — the US EPA uses science to set the level of residues that can remain on produce (you can find them here: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-tolerances). The USDA then uses these safe residue levels and monitors the food supply to ensure produce do not exceed these safe levels. So now you know — the food supply is safe. And remember, the US EPA and the USDA are using science to make sure the food on your plate remains safe.
Now, back to EWG.
One problem I have with EWG is that they are harming the poor. By pushing people to avoid safe and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, and pushing people to organic and non-GMO foods, EWG is pushing people into purchasing produce that is cost prohibitive by contrast. The poor people of America simply cannot afford luxury foods like organic and non-GMO foods. And no one should feel pressured into thinking they must purchase luxury foods or else they are poisoning themselves or their families. Not only is it misinformation, but it’s simply unethical.
Consider the sheer amounts of parental guilt EWG is pushing onto poor mothers and fathers who are just trying to help their kids eat well. EWG is claiming that if you purchase conventionally grown fruits and vegetables you are poisoning your children — that’s clear when EWG says “[a]ny exposure to pesticides is a problem, given what we know about several ways they can harm humans. But the findings are particularly concerning for children, who are particularly vulnerable to many of the health harms associated with pesticide exposure.” There’s no other way to slice it — EWG is saying you as a parent are doing your child harm if you are purchasing conventionally grown produce.
What this means is that the poor, who can barely afford fresh fruits and vegetables as it is (especially out of season), are now being told they are poisoning their children because they did not buy organic or GMO-free. The poorest in our society simply cannot afford the luxury of organic and GMO-free. This is the worst form of privilege shaming I can think of. It’s simply out of touch.
You know what else it is — EWG uses scientific misinformation playing on heuristics to prevent parents from critically thinking and seeing the fear-mongering. When so-called advocacy and expert groups push scientific misinformation and fear, they tend to use heuristics (mental shortcuts) so that people don’t have to think. By doing this, they are helping most people decide on gut instinct, and not use their critical thinking skills to really examine what they are being told. It’s the same trick used by people in sales — sell the sizzle, not the steak. The easiest way to make a sale is to apply to emotion, because that shuts down our critical thinking processes. Emotion plays to our mental shortcuts (heuristics).
In addition, EWG and the other Merchants of Fear use their misinformation and fear to drive fundraising. For instance, if you click on the “GET THE GUIDE” button at the top of the EWG site that talks about the Shopper’s Guide, you are taken to this donation page:
This is really effective — they have you locked into the fear based on their misinformation, they pursuade you to believe they are your Hero or Savior, and then they ask you for money. Well, in my opinion it appears they only care about wealthy individuals who can afford to buy organic and non-GMO foods; these are likely the same people who can afford to donate to EWG.
I will continue to fight this scientific misinformation, and to help all people, across all income groups to make better sense of the scientific misinformation out there, so they can use their critical thinking skills and make decisions for themselves and their families. I’m actually here to help. I have no interest in scaring people. And I have no list of fruits and vegetables I want you to purchase from me.
Remember that EWG and the other Merchants of Fear will tell you that all chemicals, regardless of how much you are exposed to, are harmful. And that’s simply not true. For a whole number of reasons, there are safe levels of all of these chemicals. We use science to demonstrate that. By using the same logic that EWG and the Merchants of Fear use (where any chemical that causes harm at any dose must be banned), we should just stop drinking water — after all, it is the #1 killer of children in Florida, and people have died from drinking too much of it.
Ponder that while you eat some safe and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.