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.”

“Facts Not Fear” Tour Brings Consumers One Step Closer to the Farm

“Facts Not Fear” Produce Safety Media Tour Helps Bloggers Learn About Ag

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Closing the gap between the consumer and the farm is a continuous work in progress. Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, is dedicated to making this happen. She helped put on the second “Facts Not Fear” Produce Safety Media Tour for registered dietitians, health and nutrition writers, and bloggers recently in the Salinas Valley, which directly focused on consumer concerns.

The “Fact Not Fear” tour allowed media influencers to see farming practices first hand, in hopes that they would share the information learned with the consumers that follow them.

Teresa Thorne

“We look at them to kind of be the consumer eyes and ears and really learn more about how we produce food,” Thorne explained.

Thorne also noted that one of the main topics brought up during the round table discussion was the great “organic versus conventional farming” debate. “The farmers that were there did a great job of talking about the fact that there’s actually more similarities than differences,” she said.

In a consumer-driven industry, educating people has never been more crucial.

“For them to come out and see firsthand what we do, and then share that back with those consumers and be able to address their concerns directly, it’s just really important for us.”

Food Bloggers, Dietitians Learn More About Produce Safety in Salinas

“Facts Not Fear” Educates Participants on Vegetable Production

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The Alliance for Food and Farming, in conjunction with Markon Cooperative, hosted its second “Facts Not Fear” Produce Safety Media tour last week in the Salinas Valley.

“Our goal is for … [registered dieticians], health and nutrition writers and bloggers to see firsthand the care and commitment farmers have for producing safe and wholesome foods.  We believe we met that goal.  But, what we learn from our tour guests continues to be just as valuable,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, based in Watsonville.

In addition to farm and facility tours, the AFF and Markon facilitated a round table meeting where tour guests were joined by farmers and farming companies, scientists, regulators and chefs for a free-flowing discussion that encompassed food safety, farming practices, food waste, pesticide use, food safety regulations, new technologies, health and nutrition, and consumer outreach.

The RDs, bloggers, and writers attending the tour reported they enjoyed the chance to tour the farms one day and then discuss what they saw with these experts.  They also appreciated the opportunity to share their information needs and concerns directly during the round table discussion.

And, what were some of our key takeaways from guests?  Consumers want transparent and honest communication regarding food safety and food production practices.  The RDs, bloggers, and writers share The Alliance for Food and Farming’s concerns about produce safety misinformation and appreciate and need access to scientists and experts that can assist them when addressing consumer questions and correcting misconceptions.

“And, they were very impressed with the technological advancements they saw in the harvesting and processing of produce,” said Thorne.

“While the importance of seeing the fields and harvest and touring processing facilities cannot be underscored enough, meeting and connecting with the people growing our food, directly sharing concerns with farmers and scientists in a group and one-on-one setting and the expansion of their produce industry network is of equal importance for our guests,” Thorne explained.

“Our sincere thanks to everyone who allowed us to visit their farms, watch the harvest, view their processing facilities as well as joined us for the round table discussion,” Thorne said.  “And, our thanks and appreciation to our tour partner, Markon Cooperative, for making this tour possible as well as our tour sponsors Cal-Giant Berry Farms, the California Strawberry Commission and the Produce Marketing Association.”

Thorne also praised the 2017 and 2018 tour alumni.

“We will keep the conversation going and look forward to learning more from the attendees as we all work toward our shared goal of increasing daily consumption of organic and conventional fruits and veggies,” she said.

The host, The Markon Cooperative, supplies the food service industry fresh fruits and vegetables.

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

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.”