Some common sense on agricultural pesticides from a genuine expert.

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Steve Savage, an expert on agriculture, pesticides and GM foods has posted an intriguing piece on Science 2.0 (the same site on which ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom now regularly contributes).

Savage has a lot to say. In his piece, entitled Our Farmers Get An A+ For Low Pesticide Residues, he discusses a recent report by the USDA which examined pesticide residues on food.

From the USDA report: "The Pesticide Data Program provides reliable data through rigorous sampling that helps assure consumers that the produce they feed their families is safe."

Even the EPA agrees: "The newest data from the PDP program confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans."

Savage points out (see graphic) Of the 11,893 food samples tested, 99.47% had no chemical residues above tolerance. 47.4% had no detectable residues at all, but for the rest the levels were often far below the tolerances. Most crops tested in 2012 had NO samples with over-tolerance residues.

It is also important to note that the tolerance level already has a wide safety margin built into it.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross explains: Based on information mainly from toxicity testing on rodents exposed to high doses of the chemical being studied, the EPA sets a tolerance for each product specific to each crop on which it is allowed. If the pesticide residue level on a crop is at or below the tolerance, it has at least a 100-fold safety margin for consumption by us, the consumers.

So what matters with pesticide residues is not simply whether or not they can be detected with the enormously sensitive laboratory methods available today, but exactly which chemicals are involved and at what levels relative to the tolerances. But in reality, this is basically an exercise in counting angels dancing on pinheads. Our agricultural chemicals are completely safe at typical exposure levels.

(See ACSH s 2011 publication here).

Anticipating that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) will take their usual alarmist position, Savage says, The EWG ignores those critical details, because to do so suits their agenda of scaring people into purchasing organic (They fail to mention the studies showing similar residues on organic). If things go as usual, much of the press, blogosphere, and organic advocacy community will uncritically re-transmit the EWG's distortions.

The piece is a great read, and DO NOT miss the comments below. Quite entertaining.