You Are What You Eat

June 11, 1998

What's worse than biting into an apple and finding a worm? Finding half a worm. What could be worse than finding half a worm? Not knowing what sort of invisible and possibly toxic substances are coating your fresh fruit and vegetables.

One-third of the fruit and about an eighth of the vegetables consumed in the United States are grown in foreign countries, where pesticides are more freely used on food crops. Pesticides are used in the U.S. too, and a waxy coating is often used to seal in the fungicide meant to increase shelf life.

For example, eating a U.S.-grown supermarket tomato may also result in ingesting thiabendazole and benzimadazole, both fungicides that could have been sealed on with mineral oil, methylparaben, dimethyl polysiloxane, and isopropyl alcohol. Yummy, no?

The controversial General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the international trade agreement known as GATT, did away with the lists of additives that grocers were required to post wherever foreign produce was sold. In other words, Federal officials colluded with foreign businessmen to deny Americans the right to know what they are eating.

It was reported this week that Republicans in the New York State Senate are blocking a bill that would require homeowners to notify their neighbors at least 48 hours before having commercial pesticides applied. A similar bill passed last year in the Assembly, despite opposition from industry lobbyists and the State Farm Bureau.

But an addition to the bill, which would also force schools and day care centers to notify parents before using pesticides inside or out, has Senate Republicans refusing to consider this year's version. The Republicans are saying they would prefer not to act until they see the results of the new state pesticide registry.

However, it has also been reported that compliance with the mandatory reporting requirements of the registry - meant to show how much pesticide was bought and used, and where, and help scientists compare the data to incidence of breast cancer - has been dismal.

What could be worse than not knowing that your house, your vegetable garden, or your child's classroom has been doused in chemicals? Knowing that you helped elect someone who allowed it to happen.