Pesticides

When studies are published in major journals one assumes that study adds value to scientific knowledge - sadly this is not always the case.  One such study, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, revealed an association between high pesticide exposure and decreased pregnancies and live births in women participating in fertility treatments.

The data included 325 women, from 2006 onward, undergoing fertility treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital as part of Environment and Reproductive Health Study (EARTH).  Women were asked to fill out dietary questionnaires to determine their dietary patterns prior to initiating assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

The women...

The word pesticide is misunderstood, nearly to the same extent as the word chemical. People have been led to believe, largely by the organic food industry and environmental activists, that pesticides are unnatural, dangerous, and do not belong in the food supply. But this defies a basic understanding of biology.

A pesticide is any chemical, natural or human-made, that is designed to kill another organism.

Using that broad definition, there are probably hundreds of thousands of pesticides in the natural environment. As it turns out, biological warfare was invented and perfected by Mother Nature.

For example, some bacteria and fungi produce antibiotics to kill other microbes. We don’t call these antibiotics “pesticides,” but that’s exactly what they...

Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes another growing season. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower calorie intake; reduce risks for heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes; and protect against certain cancers.

With all these benefits, why do some consumers choose to avoid produce? Approximately three-quarters of people in the U.S. don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

A lot of factors could explain the shortfall, including fear. Media stories about topics such as GMOs and pesticides may convince some consumers that it’s not safe to eat certain fruits and vegetables. There’s no question that negative news...

It's that time of year again. Flowers are beginning to bloom, trees are turning green, the birds are chirping a little louder ... and the Environmental Working Group is scaring you about perfectly safe and healthy food. 

Once again, the EWG has released its annual "Dirty Dozen," a list of fresh produce found in grocery stores all over America that EWG thinks is killing you1. And like obliging lap dogs, the media -- as always, without fail, every single year -- reported the results of the "study" without even the slightest shred of criticism or critical thinking.

So, what is killing us this year? Strawberries are #1. Spinach is #2. Spinach! The upside is that if you're the sort of person who doesn't like spinach, now you can point to some pseudoscience that...

Initial reports suggest that Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, was murdered with VX, a type of agent used in chemical warfare. What is it, and how does it work?

VX is an organophosphate, a generic name for any molecular compound that contains carbon and phosphate (i.e., ions made of phosphorus and oxygen atoms). Organophosphates are found everywhere. Life-giving molecules like DNA are organophosphates, but so are some pesticides and nerve agents. Given the structure of VX (which includes a sulfur atom), it is more specifically a phosphonothioate. (See image on right.)

VX...

Asking hard questions is one of the true delights of being a science journalist. People's assumptions, understanding of the facts, and inherent biases should be subjected to scrutiny. Therefore, I like to think of myself as the science version of HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur -- that is, without the international name recognition and striking good looks.

It is with this skepticism that I approached the announcement by ALDI, a discount supermarket chain, that it would go "full organic" in 2017. Basically, it wants to target consumers who would like to eat at Whole Foods but are...

There has been a long history of ridiculous fearmongering by environmental activists masquerading as health experts. BPA, MSG, Alar, DDT, and food coloring are just a handful of chemicals that fell prey to overblown fears or outright fabrications. Today, the whipping boy that takes the brunt of the unfounded chemophobic assault on science is the herbicide glyphosate.

Glyphosate is demonized primarily for one reason: Monsanto. To many of its irrational detractors, who refer to the company as "Monsatan," anything the company touches is, by definition, evil. The seed giant genetically engineered some of its crops to be resistant to glyphosate so that farmers could spray it on their fields; the crops would survive while the weeds were destroyed. It's not a perfect solution. For...

I have been a long-time reader of Pacific Standard (once called Miller-McCune), a publication that tries to be the West Coast equivalent of The Atlantic. That is a fine mission because, as a Seattleite, I am keenly aware that there aren't many West Coast media outlets that capture the attention of the rest of the nation. 

When I was still editor of RealClearScience (RCS), I frequently linked to Pacific Standard's content, particularly articles produced by Tom Jacobs, who was and continues to be a fine social science writer. However, in recent months, the magazine as a whole has become nearly unreadable. As its political cheerleading becomes more and more blatant, its standards for science journalism have fallen. I don't think that is...

The language of science has been hijacked. Those who are looking to make a quick buck (or in the case of the organic industry, 43 billion bucks) have no qualms about twisting the definition of highly precise scientific terminology to suit their own profit-driven agendas. Misinterpreting scientists’ words is also a common tactic employed by fearmongering environmentalists and activists.

In fact, the problem of hijacked scientific terminology is so great that ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom wrote an entire book about it.

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Pesticides & HealthA new study published in The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health purports to link certain pesticide/herbicide classes, as well as certain specific chemicals to an increased risk of obesity among farm applicators. Entitled "Pesticide Exposures and Body Mass Index (BMI) of Pesticide Applicators From the Agricultural Health Study," the statistical and data-collection sleight-of-hand that went into generating this...