the pesticide controversy nicely. One person argued in favor
of organic foods under the belief that regulatory agencies do
an inadequate job of protecting public health, and the other
argued that conventional food is not only safe, but also that the
use of pesticides makes fruits and vegetables more affordable.
Lu (Alex) Chensheng: Many say the pesticides found in
our food are nothing to fear because the levels fall well
below federal safety guidelines and thus aren't danger-
ous....But federal guidelines don't take into account
what effect repeated exposure to low levels of chemicals
might have on humans over time. And many pesticides
were eventually banned or restricted by the federal gov-
ernment after years of use when they were discovered to
be harmful to the environment or human health.
Janet H. Silverstein: Given the lack of data showing
that organic food leads to better health, it would be
counter-productive to encourage people to adopt an
organic diet if they end up buying less produce as a
result. . . . As for pesticide exposure, the U.S. in 1996 estab-
lished maximum permissible levels for pesticide resi-
dues in food to ensure food safety. Many studies have
shown that pesticide levels in conventional produce fall
well below those guidelines.
—“Would Americans Be Better Off Eating a Mostly
Organic Diet?” Wall Street Journal , June 17, 2013. R3.
The pesticide controversy boils down to whether the regula-
tory agencies are making wise decisions about how pesticides
are used or whether we must take measures to protect our-
selves. In the United States, that agency is the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), and it is charged with permitting
pesticides only when they do not present an unreasonable risk
to humans or the environment, while also taking into account
the economic costs and benefits. The controversy is whether
the EPA fulfills this charge.