One part of my job is to read published reports that might have an influence on our tree fruit industry. Two examples from this month: “Cancer Facts & Figures 2011” by the American Cancer Society and “Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
● I read the American Cancer Society’s annual report (56 pages) to see if cancer rates were going up and, if so, whether agricultural pesticides were fingered as an important cause. No and no. Although cancer still accounts for nearly one in every four deaths, cancer rates are declining. And what are the prime risks? “Smoking and obesity are the two major risk factors for cancer in the U.S., accounting for about 30% and 15-20%, respectively, of all cancer deaths.” Advice to consumers from the American Cancer Society: “Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.” And, stop smoking!
● On Monday, FDA issued a special report (35 pages) entitled “Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality.” Here I was looking to see how FDA planned to ensure the safety of food imports given the new Food Safety Modernization Act. According to this report—and surprisingly—nearly two-thirds of the fruits and vegetables now consumed in this country come from outside the United States. What is FDA planning to do? Become a global agency. It will assemble global coalitions of regulators; it will develop global data information systems; it will expand its capabilities in intelligence gathering and use; and it will “allocate agency resources based on risk, leveraging the combined efforts of government, industry and public- and private-sector third parties.”
FDA recognizes it will not have enough money or agents to inspect all the foreign farms and factories sending product to our country. It will be interesting to see if its newly announced general policy will lead to some type of formal recognition of GlobalGap, and other similar private food safety schemes, for purposes of fruit and vegetable imports. Also of keen interest will be FDA’s handling of product risk. It recognizes the need to concentrate its scarce regulatory resources on those foods that pose the highest threat to consumer health. On our part, we will want to ensure that fresh apples, pears, and cherries are not on any high risk food list to be developed by FDA.
● While not a report that has been issued, I also read a U.S. Department of Labor/ Bureau of Labor Statistics survey (4 pages) that was mailed from Washington, D.C., in May to an orchardist in Yakima County. Its intent is to obtain economic information on the creation of “green goods and services.” One might think that all orchard jobs are “green.” One would be wrong. Those that counted for DOL were either renewable energy (e.g., corn for ethanol) or natural resources conservation (e.g., USDA certified organic crops).