Alliance for Food and Farming Supports Industry

Alliance for Food and Farming Works Hard for the Produce Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Since 1989, the Alliance for Food and Farming based in Watsonville has constantly been on guard for the national produce industry. They fight against misinformation on conventional farming, all while supporting organic production.

Teresa Thorne has been with the Alliance since it began and now serves as Executive Director. She is assisted in all aspects of running the non-profit organization by Rosi Gong. These two women share respect and admiration for the farmers who work diligently every day to bring healthy fruits and vegetables to our table.

Teresa Thorne

The Alliance is a nationwide organization representing growers and shippers in California, the Northwest, Texas, Florida, and other states.

Top of mind at the Alliance is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which will soon release its Dirty Dozen list of popular fruit and vegetables that they deem the public should not eat due to crop protection material contamination. Furthermore, they recommend that consumers only eat organic food.

The EWG list has come out since 1995, and the Alliance has debunked it with facts.

“We work diligently to put factual information out, to help consumers make the right choices for their families in the produce aisle,” Thorne said. “For the EWG to call healthy and safe conventionally grown produce dirty is really unconscionable and has no scientific basis.”

The Alliance wants the consumer to choose what is affordable, choose what’s accessible and buy it where it’s most convenient but choose to eat more every day, for better health and longer life.

The EWG is incentivized to promote organics, and because they are a multi-million dollar organization, they are able to get to the press.

“We are not even close to the budget they have, and we are always puzzled and surprised when they constantly refer to us,” Thorne said.

In fact, the EWG always refers to the Alliance as a front group that represents big farmers who produce both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.

“If you want to call us a front group for farmers, it’s okay. But to try and categorize us as this big organization, we’re not, but what we have on our side is science and experts in the areas of nutrition, farming, toxicology and risk analysis,” Thorne explained.

“It’s interesting that the EWG has never questioned our science, and they’ve never questioned any of the content on our website, www.safefruitsandveggies.com. And it’s largely because they can’t, so they’re only real road is to try and discredit the organization carrying it,” Thorne continued. “That’s why they make allegations of us being a front group. But they are very much incentivized to promote organics; there’s no doubt about it. And again, that’s why they’re a multi-million dollar organization, and has celebrities as their spokespersons, and we don’t.”

And of course it is okay to promote organic food, but not at the expense of conventionally-grown produce.

“EWG is one-sided. It promotes organically-grown produce, yet maligns conventionally-grown produce—outright saying it’s unhealthy. That’s the crutch of the Dirty Dozen list,” Thorne explained.

“We strongly advocate organic as well as conventional production. We’re advocates for all fruit and vegetable production,” Thorne said.

The Alliance is also an advocate for consumer choice in the marketplace for conventional or organic produce, whether you prefer to buy at your favorite warehouse store, small grocery store, or farmer’s market. The Alliance wants consumers to have the choice of fruits and vegetables no matter how it’s grown.

The Alliance also interacts with consumers on social media, and many are confused as what they should be eating.

“We see a lot of confused consumers in our social media, and many consumers go to our website and sign up for informational food safety emails from us,” Thorne said.

“And that’s why we try and provide information for consumers on our website from nutritionist about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and from farmers about how they preserve food safety and really … [get] that message across,” Thorne said. “We want consumers to know that the farmer’s first consumer is their own family. So food safety is obviously a top priority for them.”

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Crop Protection: U.S. Food System Very Safe

Crop Protection Products are Highly Regulated

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There’s no need to worry about crop protection products when you consume food, fruits and vegetables, and all the rest, as the materials are highly regulated.

“Chemicals are all around us. In fact, we are all made of chemicals, so the fear of chemicals is unnecessary. Chemicals can actually be very beneficial,” said Dr. Eliza Dunn, Medical Sciences and Outreach Lead for Bayer Crop Science. “Chemicals make antibiotics and vaccines, and all of that is really important because it’s in public health, and they also protect the food supply.”

And here’s a fact: Pesticides a more heavily regulated that antibiotics that we take and those antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals are highly regulated.

“You have to do lots of testing to get your pharmaceutical in the market. Testing and monitoring pesticides are the same way. Pesticides come up for reevaluation every 15 years, and they look at all of the data that’s involved in that 15 years to make sure there’s nothing new that can be concerning for human health,” Dunn explained.

“These agencies have the best interests of people at heart. I wouldn’t feed my kids something that I thought was worrisome. And I feed my kids fruits, vegetables, and other foods, and I don’t worry about the residues because it’s not going to cause harm,” she said.

Dunn also commented on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List that they release each summer.

“It’s very unfortunate because it winds up causing people to get very worried about their food supply, and you can be absolutely reassured that the food supply in this country is safe and healthy and nutritious,” said Dunn. “We are so lucky to have access to such a fabulous food supply because there are other places in the world that don’t have access to that, and it’s because we have things like crop protection products that make sure that we have an access to that kind of food supply.”

As for the EWG’s statements that certain fruits have higher residues?

“That’s misinformation, unfortunately. They’re not toxic. We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. If you are worried about residues, you can wash them off. It’s really fear-mongering, and that is irresponsible,” Dunn said.

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Conventional or Organic Strawberries — All Safe to Eat

Strawberry Grower Says At PPB, Anything Can be Found

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

David Peck is a longtime strawberry grower in Santa Maria. He objects to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list, which had strawberries at the top of their list.

David Peck, COO and Farmer of Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria

“If you take the data that the EWG is presenting, you can say, yeah, okay, that’s fair,” Peck said.

“Based on what they are presenting, they can find detectable amounts of whatever at however many parts per billion. I’ll buy that; but they’d have no perspective on the types of residues and what that means regarding human health, human safety, and human risk,” noted Peck, who grows both conventional and organic strawberries.

Peck said that even organic strawberries would have detectable amounts of residues.

“I tell people that I grow organic strawberries and that I do not put on the crop protection materials that the EWG is talking about,” he explained.

“At parts per billion (PPB), you can find dozens of carcinogens at minute levels. Where did they come from? Well, they are everywhere in such small quantities that no one should worry about it,” Peck said.

Peck said that the decision for consumers is not organic versus conventional, but to eat more strawberries and other fruits and vegetables.

“I say eating California produce in general is so much healthier than avoiding California fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said.

The Alliance for Food and Farming works hard to bring the truth to the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. They report that all produce is healthy to eat and that consumers need to eat more every day. More Information at www.safefruitsandveggies.com

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Fear-Based Messaging Reduces Produce Consumption – Both Organic and Conventional

New Study Finds Fear-Based Produce Safety Messaging Negatively Impacts Low Income Consumers’ Produce Consumption

 

New peer reviewed research, “Low-Income Shoppers and Fruit and Vegetables: What Do They Think?” published in Nutrition Today, shows fear-based messaging tactics used by activist groups and some organic marketers that invoke safety concerns about non-organic produce may be having a negative impact on produce consumption—fruits and veggies—among low income consumers, according to the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF).Alliance for Food and Farming logo

Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Center for Nutrition Research surveyed low income consumers to learn more about what terms and information about fruits and vegetables may influence their shopping intentions. Among the key findings, misleading messaging which inaccurately describes certain fruits and vegetables as having “higher” pesticide residues results in low income shoppers reporting that they would be unlikely to purchase any fruits and vegetables – organically or non-organically grown.

illinois-institute-of-technology-institute-for-food-safety-and-health“We were surprised to see how informational content that named specific fruits and vegetables as having the highest pesticide residues increased the percentage of shoppers who said they would be unlikely to purchase any type of fruits and vegetables,” says Britt Burton-Freeman, associate professor of food science and nutrition, ITT’s Center for Nutrition Research. “The concern is that depending on the structure of the communication about pesticides and fruits and vegetables, this could turn people away from wanting to purchase any fresh produce.”

“Despite efforts by the health community, consumption of fruits and vegetables is stagnating,” says Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D, R.D. and president, Produce for Better Health Foundation. “This new study shows what we have been concerned about for some time, that safety fears may be another barrier to consumption of these healthy and nutritious foods. The impact of the fear-based messaging on low income consumers is especially troubling since many don’t have access or can’t afford non-Produce for Better Health, produce consumptionorganic produce.”

The findings are also concerning since the safety claims carried predominantly by groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Only Organic about pesticide residues have been repeatedly proven to be scientifically inaccurate. For the last 20 years, EWG annually releases a so-called “dirty dozen” list which urges consumers to eat only organic versions of popular produce items accompanied by misleading and unscientific claims regarding pesticide residue levels. A peer reviewed analysis of EWG’s list entitled, Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels and published by AFF showed that substitution of organic forms of produce for non-organic produce did not result in any decrease in risk because residue levels are so minute on these fruits and vegetables, if they are present at all.

“Their tactic clearly isn’t working and it’s actually backfiring since this research shows that consumers may react to their message by deciding not to buy any produce at all – organic or non-organic,” says Teresa Thorne of the AFF. “For the benefit of consumers, especially low income consumers, this study shows it is time for groups like EWG to rethink their strategy for promoting organics and move away from tactics intended to scare consumers from buying the more affordable and accessible produce items,” Thorne says.

john-hopkins-bloomberg-school-of-public-healthThis IIT research compliments the peer reviewed study by John Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future, They Just Say Organic Food Is Healthier”: Perceptions of Healthy Food among Supermarket Shoppers in Southwest Baltimore,” published in January 2015 [orig. Dec. 2014] in the journal, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment. Those researchers conducted interviews with study participants to learn more about the way organic food is understood within consumers’ definitions of healthy food. John Hopkins researchers also focused on low income consumers because “this group is particularly important demographically given the disparate burden of diet-related diseases they carry and the frequency of diet-related messages they receive.”

The study authors also found conflicting health and safety messages, including those about pesticide residues, were having a negative impact on consumers. Among their findings and recommendations: “The issue of organic can swamp or compete with other messages about nutrition, as evidenced by the data presented here. Perceiving that there is an overwhelming amount of sometimes contradictory information about healthy eating could make some consumers defeatist about trying to eat healthily. Given the potential implications of competing messages about healthy eating, it is important that those who want to improve food production techniques and those who want to improve nutrition cooperate to create consistent messaging about healthy eating.”

Dr. Burton-Freeman reached a similar conclusion. “Hearing that the majority of shoppers in this survey trust dietitians/nutritionists, scientists and physicians for health and safety information about fresh fruits and vegetables, this is an important opportunity for these professionals working in low-income populations. It is an opportunity to educate shoppers about organic and conventionally grown produce, particularly about best practices for washing, storing and preparing all fruits and vegetables to maximize their enjoyment and nutritional value and minimize their confusion and safety concerns.”

“Hopefully the peer-reviewed research from IIT and John Hopkins will have an impact on groups like EWG especially since the science clearly shows both organic and non-organic produce is very safe and can be eaten with confidence,” AFF’s Thorne says. “And, decades of nutritional research primarily conducted using non-organic produce shows that a plant rich diet leads to better health and a longer life. So choose either or both organic or non-organic produce, but choose to eat more every day.”


The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers and farms of all sizes.  Alliance contributors are limited to farmers of fruits and vegetables, companies that sell, market or ship fruits and vegetables or organizations that represent produce farmers.  AFF’s mission is to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of all fruits and vegetables.  AFF does not engage in lobbying nor does it accept any money or support from the pesticide industry.  In the interest of transparency, AFF’s entire 2011 tax return is posted on safefruitsandveggies.com.


See also:

Scared Fat: Are Consumers Being Scared Away from Healthy Foods?

Individuals May Consider Organic an Important Factor When Defining Healthy Food

University College of London: Eating 7 or More Servings Reduces Risk of Premature Death by 42%

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Alliance Against Food and Farmer Disparagement

The Alliance for Food and Farming Counters Food and Farmer Disparagement

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Laurie Greene and Courtney Steward, CaliforniaAgToday

Experts around the world agree that eating more fruits and vegetables is the best thing we can do to reduce disease, prevent obesity, and improve our health. But sometimes consumers need to know more about organic and conventional fruits and vegetables so they can make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families.

The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), based in Watsonville, is a non-profit organization comprised of both organic and conventional farmers that delivers credible information to consumers about the safety of organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.

According to Teresa Thorne, with AFF, “Many organizations such as Friends of the Earth (FOE), and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are at odds with AFF for providing science-based and peer-reviewed information to consumers so they can make good shopping choices for their families.”

Friends of the Earth logo“Whether consumers purchase organic or conventional produce, both are safe,” Thorne said. “Health experts say simply that we should be eating more. Decades of nutrition science and health experts everywhere support the recommendation to eat more organic and conventional produce every day for better health. So, it is a little puzzling why FOE and some of the other activist groups would be concerned about that message. But, apparently they are.”

“So, what we are trying to do,” explained Thorne “is present accurate and more balanced information for consumers. Our Board of Directors, nearly 7 years ago, established that calling our healthy and safe produce “dirty” or “toxic” has to stop. We are not going to allow the disparagement of these nutritious products and the disparagement of the farmers who are working hard every single day to provide these healthy products to consumers, to stand.”

Thorne said, “So, AFF got in gear to stop it, largely by going toe-to-toe with the EWG’s so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ list—one of the main vehicles of product disparagement. Not long ago, when the EWG published the list, nearly all newspapers, television networks and cable channels gave it widespread media coverage in major media markets and publications.”

AFF has achieved some success by introducing peer-reviewed science from experts into consumer media, with the credible message that both organic and conventional produce are safe, healthful, and people should eat more of them every day. “Just in the course of the last six years of the campaign,” said Thorne, “we’ve seen coverage of the EWR list diminish to the extent that in 2015, only one daily newspaper in Ohio covered the story. So their message is mostly limited to blogs for those who are very friendly to their message.”

ewg logo

 

Aside from the “Dirty Dozen” list, the EWG website does support the same scientific research as the Alliance:

Should we eat more fruits and vegetables?

…The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables. And with EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™, consumers don’t have to choose between pesticides and healthy diets.

Do all these pesticides mean I shouldn’t eat fruits and vegetables?

No, eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

Shouldn’t I try to buy everything organic?

EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible.

…However, we know that organics are not accessible or affordable for everyone, so we created the Shopper’s Guide™ to help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances.

…EWG always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.

SafeFruitsandVeggies logo

AFF claims on its website:

We have an obesity epidemic and current media and internet reporting is increasing fears consumers have about eating fruits and vegetables and is lowering the faith people have in the government regulations implemented to protect them.  It is inaccurate to suggest that organic is the only safe choice when it comes to selecting safe fruits and vegetables; because there is no scientific consensus to substantiate this claim.

-See more at the Alliance’s website, SafeFruitsandVeggies.com.

Thorne believes the Alliance’s success has lead to another activist group, Friends of the Earth (FOE), taking them on. Thorne said FOE is trying to discredit the Alliance by calling it a “front group”.

In its “Spinning Food” report, published in June 2015, the FOE reports:CFBF logo

While the Alliance presents itself as a science-based resource on the safety of organic and conventional produce, its funding comes from trade groups for industrially grown apples, citrus, pears and grapes, among other industry groups.

The “leading corporate Board Members or Donors” of the Alliance are listed as:

-California Farm Bureau Federation

-Western Growers

-Produce Marketing Association

Western Growers logo

 

Wikipedia defines a front organization as “any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such as intelligence agencies, organized crime groups, banned organizations, religious or political groups, advocacy groups, or corporations. Front organizations can act for the parent group without the actions being attributed to the parent group.”

Thorne stated, “We’re not a front group. We are who we are—very transparent. The entire tax return is posted on the “About Us” section of the AFF website, as well as:

Who is Behind the Alliance for Food and Farming?   andPMA Logo    How is the Alliance for Food and Farming funded?

“But they never attack the scientific content we present,” stated Thorne, “and that really underscores our science is good and solid. They only try to discredit the organization itself with those unfounded ‘front group’ allegations.”

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