Michelle Obama's "organic" White House garden was designed to promote a green agenda. In order to provide safe food to children in the community, the First Lady wouldn't use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Green groups cheered. In an ironic twist, all of that has now backfired.
The garden was created using a "green" approach, based on the belief that exposure to even minute levels of synthetic chemicals and contaminants such as lead is dangerous. Indeed, when environmental activist groups lobbied for a drastic consumer product safety law known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), they repeated the frightening but unscientific mantra that "there is no safe level of exposure" to the synthetic chemicals and contaminants they sought to ban.
The law passed, but it won't make anyone safer; the idea that the level of exposure doesn't matter flouts every known precept of toxicology. CPSIA is putting the squeeze on already threatened small businesses, forcing them to discard products with the tiniest trace of forbidden substances -- and it turns out the White House is getting a taste of the same medicine.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the National Park Service found lead in the White House garden soil. In fact, tests found somewhere between 450% and 900% of the normal amount of lead in U.S. soil. The White House did not dispute the findings but defended the lead in the garden, calling it "completely safe." They are right. Though lead at higher levels can be dangerous, the garden, like the products banned by CPSIA, is well within safety limits. But the White House's defense rings of self-serving hypocrisy. Where were the White House reassurances when environmentalists were pushing CPSIA restrictions on other fronts?
Greenpeace, the Environmental Working Group, and others who were behind CPSIA -- along with their allies in Congress and in the administration -- manipulate the fears of concerned parents by contradicting established rules of toxicology, claiming that all lead needs to be eliminated. Aside from causing needless panic, their agenda could end up taking an expensive toll on industry and driving up prices for consumers.
The consequences of environmentalist fear-mongering are already spreading quickly. Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates in plastics have been thoroughly demonized by junk-science reports -- so much so that people forget these chemicals have never been shown to be harmful to humans. Likewise, the organic approach endorsed by the White House unjustly contests the proven safety of properly applied chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Now that they've seen the light, will the White House join thousands of small businesses and consumers calling for the repeal of the CPSIA? The Bush Food and Drug Administration found BPA to be safe, but the Obama FDA called for a do-over. Will their findings be consistent with the White House's newfound appreciation for basic tenets of toxicology? Will the new regime at the EPA halt its trumped-up health claims and halt their unprecedented attack on America's producers?
If so, something truly beneficial will have grown out of the White House's "organic" garden after all.