Chemically Speaking (Letter to the Editor)

It is ironic that environmental groups and others jumped ship from the Environmental Protection Agency’s food-quality advisory panel on the same day that President Clinton presented the National Medal of Science to Bruce Ames for his work on chemical risks, particularly pesticides [“7 Groups Quit Food Panel,” Federal Page, April 18]. These groups think that the EPA is being too lenient when setting new pesticide standards. Dr. Ames’s research dearly shows that the EPA is more likely being too harsh.

Dr. Ames’s research shows that pesticide residues at current exposure levels pose little, if any, risk to public, health. In fact, consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables—even with pesticide residues—is our best defense against cancer (in addition to not smoking). And, as Dr. Ames has found, obsessing about synthetic chemicals makes little sense given that 99.9 percent of the chemicals we consume are naturally occurring at levels thousands of times that of synthetic pesticides. In 1996, the National Academy of Sciences study similarly found that “the great majority” of natural and synthetic chemicals in our diet are present at levels “so low that they are unlikely to pose appreciable cancer risk.”

Despite environmentalists’ claims, the EPA is employing some of their faulty assumptions about pesticide risks, which could raise the price of produce and increase cancer rates by reducing produce consumption. these seven groups are truly interested in public health, they would stop hyping scientifically unfounded claims.