Eat more pesticides!

Given my social circle of lots of over-educated college professors and such, I know lots of people who pretty much by all their food at Whole Foods and will only eat organic food.  But all that conventional fruit is damn good for you, too.  So, let me borrow the Melinda Wenner’s introductory beliefs on the matter, which I share,

I want to start off by saying that this column is not about whether organic agriculture is worth supporting for its environmental benefits (I think it is) or whether we as a society should care about the chemicals found in our foods and household products (I think we should). This column is about whether it’s worth buying organic produce for your kids specifically because you think the pesticides on conventional produce could harm them.

Right.  Organic foods can use pesticides so long as they are organic pesticides.  Ummm, there’s plenty of organic stuff that can kill you:

The assumption, of course, is that these natural pesticides are safer than the synthetic ones. Many of them are, but there are some notable exceptions. Rotenone, a pesticideallowed in organic farming, is far more toxic by weight than many synthetic pesticides…

The synthetic pesticide Captan is 32.5 times less toxic than Rotenone, and another one, Pyrimethanil, is 42.5 times less toxic than Rotenone. Rotenone is also not the only natural pesticide that out-ranks synthetic pesticides in terms of toxicity. The pyrethrins, a class of pesticides derived from chrysanthemums that are approved for use in organic farming, are more toxic by weight than Round-Up, Captan, and Pyrimethanil, too.

So, there’s that.  But we also need to think realistically about the amounts of pesticides we’re actually being exposed to and their potential for harm:

 Well, let’s start with apples, which the EWG considers the most pesticide-laden fruit or vegetable out there, and look at the pesticide that is most commonly found on them, called Thiabendazole. Winter and his colleagues found that, each day from conventionally-grown apples and apple-based products, Americans typically consume a dose of Thiabendazole that is 787 times less than the EPA’s recommended exposure limit. Put another way, you’d have to eat as many apples and apple products as 787 Americans eat in a single day combined in order to be exposed to a level of this pesticide that approaches the EPA’s exposure limit.

For other fruits and vegetables, Winter and his colleagues found even less reason to worry. For Captan, the synthetic pesticide most commonly found on conventionally grown strawberries, Americans are exposed to 8,180 times less of the chemical per day than the EPA’s limit. Overall, Winter and his colleagues reported that the EPA’s exposure limits were more than 1000 times higher than the daily exposure estimates for 90 percent of the fruit and vegetable comparisons they made.

Granted, we’re exposed to pesticides through other means, too, and some pesticides may have cumulative effects—but Winter says that even so, Americans won’t be ingesting anything close to the EPA’s limits for any of the pesticides used in U.S. agriculture. (And if you ever did ingest a pesticide at or above the EPA’s limit, you wouldn’t suddenly keel over and die. The agency sets pesticide limits at least 100 times lower than the lowest dose that caused any sign of harm, however minimal, to animals when they were fed that amount every day for most of their lives.) “We have a tremendous amount of data showing that what we’re exposed to in the diet for pesticides is very, very low, and certainly much lower than what would be required to have any even minimal health concern,” Winter says. And by the way, in none of these studies were the fruits and vegetables rinsed with tap water before they were tested, yet researchsuggests that doing so can reduce pesticide exposures significantly. Rubbing the food during rinsing helps, too.

Well, there you go.  And I presume I’m not the only one who regularly rinses (and rubs while doing so) my fruits and vegetables.  And, finally, I love the results of this study:

 Onereview concluded that the quartile of Americans who eat the most fruits and vegetables, organic or not, are about half as likely to develop cancer compared to the quartile who eat the least. Fruits and veggies may also prevent heart disease anddiabetes. A fascinating 2012 study used research-based models to predict what would happen if half of all Americans increased their (conventional) fruit and vegetable intake by a single serving each day; it predicted that doing so would prevent 20,000 cases of cancer a year. When the authors modeled whether this increased intake might pose risks due to the greater pesticide exposure, they concluded that yes, there might be 10 additional cases of cancer every year in the U.S. Put another way, the benefits far, far outweigh the risks.

In short, eat more pesticides, because that means you are eating more fruits and vegetables.  And that is way healthier for you than the negatie of low levels of pesticides.

And, I’d be remiss for not weighing in on apples here.  Personally, the local-grown, non-organic, NC apples I buy at the NC Farmer’s Market are awesome and blow away any others in taste.  I’m missing apples season.  After that, the organics I buy at Whole Foods are generally a cut above taste-wise than the conventional Braeburns and Jazz I buy at Food Lion.  I buy apples from all three sources, but I buy based on taste and convenience and will certainly continue doing so.

Ezra’s hubris?

So, Ezra is leaving Wonkblog.  My biggest concern about this?  One more website to keep up with every day.  I presume that Wonkblog will keep bringing me very solid analysis of policy in the news and that Ezra’s new venture will feature his nearly-always insightful analysis of news and politics.  I’m just entirely not sold by the idea that Ezra is going to bring me something new and wonderful.  David Carr:

“It is not as simple as journalists going to a digital site and doubling their salary,” said Jim Bankoff, chief executive of Vox. “Many of these people, including Ezra, have a vision of creating something remarkable. There is a better way of doing things and we like to think that we are using technology in service of creativity, journalism and storytelling.”

Yeah, whatever.  I don’t think most Wonkblog readers are after something “remarkable.”  Rather, we really like Ezra’s insightful analysis of politics and policy.  That would still be good on old-fashioned newsprint.  Ezra’s comparative advantage is not that he’s some great technology/journalism visionary.  His comparative advantage is that he writes about politics and policy as intelligently as anybody out there.  So, he wants his own site that will be more comprehensive.  Fine, but enough with the earth-shattering implications.  Ezra:

New information is not always — and perhaps not even usually — the most important information for understanding a topic. The overriding focus on the new made sense when the dominant technology was newsprint: limited space forces hard choices. You can’t print a newspaper telling readers everything they need to know about the world, day after day. But you can print a newspaper telling them what they need to know about what happened on Monday. The constraint of newness was crucial.

The web has no such limits. There’s space to tell people both what happened today and what happened that led to today. But the software newsrooms have adopted in the digital age has too often reinforced a workflow built around the old medium. We’ve made the news faster, more beautiful, and more accessible. But in doing we’ve carried the constraints of an old technology over to a new one.

Today, we are better than ever at telling people what’s happening, but not nearly good enough at giving them the crucial contextual information necessary to understand what’s happened. We treat the emphasis on the newness of information as an important virtue rather than a painful compromise.

Good points.  But if you are a Wonkblog reader, you know it already does this!  It does dig deep and provide critical context on key issues.  It doesn’t just follow the rhythms of the day’s news and attacks important policy issues even when they are being ignored by the news.

Look, this new site may very well be great, but I refuse to believe that it will somehow be anything revolutionary with regards to news/journalism and technology.

Photo of the day

Thanks to JDW for sending me this awesome Putin gallery (“43 Photos That Show Vladimir Putin Doesn’t Mess Around”) with wonderfully snarky commentary that makes it more than worth your while to check out the whole thing:

Putin takes in the scenic Siberian wilderness while shirtless on a horse.


Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides a horse in southern Siberia’s Tuva region August 3, 2009. Putin, a judo black belt who has flown in a fighter aircraft and shot a Siberian tiger in the wild, plunged into the depths of Lake Baikal aboard a mini-submersible on Saturday in a mission that added a new dimension to his macho image. Picture taken August 3, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin



NC Teacher Raises

So, Republicans being raked over the proverbial coals for the sorry state of teacher pay in this state, and this being an election year, the Governor has come out strongly in favor of raising teacher pay.  Not that simple, though, when you consider that prominent Republican legislators have attitudes like this:

Only days after Gov. Pat McCrory’s pledge to get N.C. teachers a needed pay increase, one Republican legislative leader was showing how difficult that might be to get through the state legislature.

On Thursday, House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam’s office sent a press release explaining how N.C. teachers had the “opportunity” for salary increases in the current year’s budget. All it would take is school districts taking advantage of “flexibility” lawmakers have given them to use state money designated for one purpose – gifted students or career technical education, for instance – and use it for another – like paying teachers more. Or, school districts could use money they get from their local governments to boost teacher pay.

Got that? Problem solved. There’s really no need for the governor and legislature to carve out a plan to commit resources to increase teacher pay.

Stam’s office even included a helpful list of where the state’s school districts’ could legally rob Peter to pay Paul. Stam points out, also helpfully, that the legislature last year opened several areas that had been off-limits for such transfers. This includes funds that had been restricted for disadvantaged students, at-risk students, limited English proficient students and low-wealth schools.  [emphasis mine]

So, want to pay teachers more? Raid those coffers and do it.

But, really, all we really need is for teachers to stop being so wasteful and figure out to run the schools more efficiently:

The release ends with this: “There are 95,000 teachers in North Carolina. They are in every public school and in every classroom!!! Each teacher can help his or her LEA run the schools more efficiently. Those savings can be converted to extra pay for teachers under existing law.”

Well, gee, who knew it was that simple?!  Time to get on this.  Perhaps we’ll solve all our state problems that way– we’ll just make everything more efficient.  Hooray!  What would we do without bold visionaries like Skip Stam teaching us there’s no such thing as tough choices– just greater efficiency.

On a very much related note, school systems in VA are advertising across NC.

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