Pay no attention to the man behind that apple

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.24.18 PMYawn. It s that time of year again. Perhaps for the lack of anything better to do, Ken Cook and his Environmental Working Group (EWG) merry men (and women) are celebrating World Let s Promote Ignorance Day, thanks to their annual Dirty Dozen list.

And, guess what? The mutant apples from hell have had the privilege of being the dirtiest for the fifth straight year. And if you happen to be eating the other 11, don t think you re off the hook. You will be just as dead as you will be from the apples.

This is because the list is a complete joke. It is based on science that is a bit out of date. Does the presence of a chemical, toxin, drug, etc. have anything to do with its risk? It sure doesn t, something first proposed 500 years by a rather sharp fellow named Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, aka Paracelsus. He coined the phrase, Dosis facit venenum, aka The dose makes the Poison.

Few truisms have held up for that long, but this one has. It s modern name is dose-response, and except for some dubious, controversial (read: Looney Toons) challenges, it is still the essence of modern toxicology and pharmacology.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, EWG knows this for sure, but I m thinking that if their list was titled All of This Stuff is Fine, it might not draw much attention. Or funding. So, I cannot come to any conclusion other than they are doing this on purpose.

The way the list is put together is just about as funny as anything Louis C. K. could come up with. They use very sensitive instrumentation to detect not measure the presence of pesticide(s). Since modern analytical techniques have become so good that they can now measure concentrations in the parts per billion range or less (definition: one helluva low number), it is now possible to detect the presence of the same amount of a pesticide on an identical apple that wouldn t have even been found 20 years ago. So, is this apple now less safe, simply because you can now detect a tiny bit of something on it that was there all along?

You can figure this one out.

This, in fact, makes their ranking system all the more ridiculous, since they are doing the ranking in a scientifically meaningless way. From the own website: EWG analysts use six metrics to rank produce including, the total number of pesticides detected on a crop and the percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides.

Dr. Bloom continues, So, what they are saying is that finding evidence of ridiculously small quantities of five pesticides is a better measure of risk than a large amount of a single pesticide. I m really at a loss for words here. The only one that comes to mind is Duh.

And it gets worse. What are you supposed to do with this oh-so-helpful information? Here s a big surprise: They say But know which ones have the highest amounts of pesticides so you can opt for the organic versions.

Well, there ya go. Buy organic! Whether this has anything to do with the donors of the group is something we ll leave up to you. From their site: It is funded by more than 20 companies, including Stonyfield, Earthbound Farm (acquired by Whitewave in 2013), Organic Valley, Nature s Path and Annie s. All five just happen to be organic food companies, with estimated combined annual sales of more than $7 billion. What an astounding coincidence!

And, in case you are still not convinced of the absurdity of the Dumb Dozen list, EWG conveniently leaves out that pesticides are also permitted for use in organic farming just different ones. But All About Organics, from UC Berkeley does not miss this. They clearly point out the differences between the essence of organic and conventional farming. Look for yourself. It s just about zero.

Dr. Bloom concludes, Welcome to Organic Groundhog Day . The only difference is that at the end of the original movie, something actually changes. No so with this annual blather.