(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2009)
Do you ever wonder about pesticides on your food or in your drinking water, and in particular, which of those pesticides are most hazardous? On June 17, 2009, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) launched its What’s On My Food database, which makes the results of government tests for pesticide residues in food available online in a searchable, easy-to-use format. The database shows what pesticides are found on each food, in what amount, and, for the first time, links those residues to the health effects associated with exposure to each of the chemicals.
“This kind of public visibility around pesticides is particularly needed in the U.S., since regulators base their decisions on toxicology studies that are almost all done by industry,” explains Brian Hill, PhD, senior PANNA scientist and the primary developer of the database. “Nearly 900 million pounds of pesticides [excluding wood preservatives, chlorine and specialty biocide pesticides] are used in the U.S. every year, yet regulations depend on studies that are not peer-reviewed and are kept hidden behind the veil of confidential business information.'” Dr. Hill notes that the 900 million figure is long overdue for updating, as the most recent pesticide use figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are for 2001.
In addition to highlighting the potential direct health effects of pesticide residues, What’s on My Food points to the many problems associated with pesticide use before food reaches the kitchen table. Widespread use of agricultural chemicals threatens the health of workers and those in nearby communities and schools, as well as harming wildlife and contaminating ecosystems, according to the site.
In the “Take Action” section of the site, Pesticide Action Network calls on consumers not only to vote with their dollars by choosing organic foods whenever possible, but also to become involved as “food citizens” and sign a petition that asks the Obama Administration to support conversion to organic agriculture; ensure environmental justice for farmworkers communities; protect future generations from persistent pollutants; and, reduce overall exposure to pesticides.