[Ok-sus] RESEARCH/MEDIA DUSTUP: Flawed 'Organics' Analysis--American Academy of Pediatrics Misses Big Picture in Protecting Children's Health

Robert Waldrop bwaldrop1952 at att.net
Tue Oct 30 16:34:51 CDT 2012

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From: Mark Kastel <kastel at cornucopia.org>
 RESEARCH/MEDIA DUSTUP: Flawed 'Organics' Analysis--American Academy of 
Pediatrics Misses Big Picture in Protecting Children's Health

Contact:  Charlotte Vallaeys, 978-610-6844
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Protecting Children’s Health:  American Academy of Pediatrics Misses the Big 
Picture in Their Flawed ‘Organics’ Analysis
By Charlotte Vallaeys

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has weighed in on 
organic foods for children.  Its news release was widely covered in the national 
While the AAP should be commended for acknowledging the potentially harmful 
effects of pesticide residues on conventional foods, their report—and associated 
press coverage—is seriously flawed in its basic approach to agrochemical 
contamination in our food supply and the associated threat to public health.  

Even though the AAP acknowledges that many pesticides are neurotoxins, that 
studies have linked exposure to pesticides to neurological harm in children, and 
that a recent peer-reviewed study correlated higher pesticide residue levels in 
children with higher rates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 
the AAP is cautious about reaching a conclusion regarding the harmful effects of 

Why such a reckless approach?  AAP explains, “No studies to date have 
experimentally examined the causal relationship between exposure to pesticides 
directly from conventionally grown foods and adverse neurodevelopmental health 

With this statement, the AAP suggests that it considers existing knowledge about 
toxic pesticides to be inadequate and incomplete for the purposes of 
recommending organic foods for children, which have been shown in peer-reviewed 
published studies to radically reduce children's pesticide exposure.  

The pediatric group suggests, as agrochemical manufacturers have for decades, 
that the question of whether pesticides harm children will remain unanswered 
until results from experiments provide definite proof of harm.  With this 
expectation, the AAP joins the agribusiness and pesticide lobbyists in setting 
an impossible standard.  Let’s step back for a minute and imagine what such an 
experimental study would look like. 

Children in such experiments would need to be assigned to two different groups: 
‘Group Conventional’ which would receive only conventional foods with the 
documented pesticide residues, and ‘Group Organic,’ on a 100% organic diet.  But 
exposure to pesticides starts before birth, so to control for this confounding 
factor, the experiment would have to begin with the mothers while pregnant—also 
grouped in ‘Group Conventional’ and ‘Group Organic.’  

 President Dr. Robert Block
Then, in order to definitively link dietary pesticide exposure to harmful 
outcomes, the two groups of children would need to be raised in sterile, 
confined isolation, to shield them from all other environmental toxins.  After 
all, if raised in a typical household, in the soup of chemicals contaminating 
our air and water, and synthetics commonly found in our homes, the pesticide 
industry could easily dispute the study’s results.  

Other factors would need to be controlled as well.  Other than the conventional 
v. organic factor, the diets for the two groups would have to be identical.  In 
fact, the children would have to be force-fed; if, for example, several of the 
children in ‘Group Conventional’ simply pick at their vegetables and refuse to 
eat them, but most of the children in ‘Group Organic’ do consume all their 
veggies, the agrochemical industry could again rightfully claim the study to be 
invalid because of these differences.  

Moreover, we know that effects of pesticides can be long-term, especially 
pesticides that are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.  So to understand the 
effects of dietary pesticides on health outcomes in adulthood, the experiment 
would have to run for decades.   

The problem is clear: a study that could definitively prove that pesticides 
cause adverse health effects in humans would be logistically near-impossible, 
not to mention highly unethical. 

The AAP suggests that conventional foods, which carry well-documented pesticide 
residues, should not be considered harmful to children until the results of 
impossible experiments prove otherwise.  This is the approach that acts in the 
interest of the pesticide industry, because it lets them off the hook.  

But shouldn’t the AAP act in the interest of children and public health?  When 
pesticides have been found to be toxic and carcinogenic to lab animals, have 
been correlated with higher rates of ADHD in children, and have been shown to 
lead to neurological harm in farmworkers and their children, the basic 
assumption should be that they are harmful until proven safe, not the other way 

Many parents opt for organic foods for their children, because they 
appropriately approach toxic pesticides using the Precautionary Principle: 
synthetic compounds that are designed to kill living organisms should be 
presumed dangerous to growing children until proven otherwise.  And the only way 
to remove your children from this huge, uncontrolled experiment is by refusing 
to offer them foods with agrochemical residues—by choosing organic.
The burden of proof should lie with the pesticide manufacturers, who must 
conclusively demonstrate that their toxins are safe.  It should not be the 
responsibility of our children to prove, decades later, that the pesticides they 
consumed as kids contributed to their generation’s health problems.
By failing to come out strongly in favor of organic foods, the AAP does a 
serious disservice to the health of our children and the well-being of future 

Charlotte Vallaeys is Director of Farm and Food Policy at The Cornucopia 
Institute.  She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity 
School and a Master of Science from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and 
Policy at Tufts University.
The Cornucopia Institute is engaged in research and educational activities 
supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable 
and organic agriculture.  Through research and investigations on agricultural 
and food issues, The Cornucopia Instituteprovides needed information to family 
farmers, consumers, stakeholders involved in the good food movement, and the 
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