Pesticides

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...

PesticidesIt was Monday's "big" health story, or so we were told. According to CNN.com, there's now an established link between the development of childhood cancers, primarily leukemia and lymphoma, and the use of pesticides.

Sounds scary, maybe even real. But does the science hold up? Maybe, maybe not.

Make that, probably not.

Dr. Chensheng Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the lead author of this research, thinks so. But he'd be mistaken. (...

bee-1249595-638x423Greenpeace really loves bees so much that they regularly hold bee die ins where they dress up in bee costumes and lie on the ground to be sprayed by faux pesticides. Environmental activists have also given eulogies and created memorials for dead bees, as well as organized petitions to ban bee killing pesticides. These events followed instances where 400 50,000 bees were found dead. (50,000 Bees is basically the size of one hive).

So why are such activists ignoring a killer that is causing the deaths of tens of millions of bees? An...

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 12.48.52 PMWhile organic crops supposedly aren t treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, a recent report suggests that isn t always true. The author cites a 2012 USDA study that found while few of the nearly 600 sample studied for synthetic pesticides had levels that exceeded the EPA/USDA safety levels, many had such...