Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Response to Pesticide Concerns Neglects Water Quality

The following is a guest post by Sonya Ziaja, J.D. Ms. Ziaja is a California attorney and MSc candidate at the University of Oxford, School of Geography and the Environment. She writes regularly for LegalMatch's Law Blog, Shark. Laser. Blawg. and First Movers.

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The Environmental Working Group published this year's “Dirty Dozen” list of the most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables. The conventional produce industry characterizes the list as fear-mongering. They propose that if you are concerned about the dangers of ingesting pesticides, then “just wash your fruits and vegetables.” This is a specious argument.

Washing pesticides off of your produce only moves the problem from your plate to your glass. Of course, compared with the giant quantity of pesticides that are washed into rivers, creeks, and groundwater, the addition of pesticide residue washed away in your kitchen is small. But, either way, the pesticides end up in the same place—in our water. Once there, waste water treatment plants do not detoxify pesticides. Bottled water won't necessary help the situation either, considering that much bottled water is simply bottled tap water.

Pesticides can and do contaminate water sources, causing harm to wildlife and to human beings. This fact is leading to lawsuits against the agencies that regulate pesticide use. One lawsuit, brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network, seeks to limit the use of pesticides in order to protect humans and over 100 endangered species.

We cannot “wash away” pesticides. Nor can the conventional produce industry wish away responsibility. If we are serious about having safe food to eat and clean water to drink, industry needs to abandon specious arguments. Absent that and corresponding changes in behavior, agencies and industry will likely to face more lawsuits.

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