can you tell whether the cancer reduction was caused by less
pesticides, better food, or more exercise?
Suppose for argument's sake that correlation did mean
causation. Could it really be that every single epidemiologi-
cal study finds a link between pesticide use and health prob-
lems? No, but only those studies that do find a link are deemed
interesting enough to publish. Would you read an article titled
“Use of Popular Pesticide Not Linked to Health Problems”?
What about an article titled “Popular Pesticide Shown to
Cause Infant Death, Early Onset of Parkinson's Disease, and
Brain Cancer”? Both academic and popular publishers know
the answer, and are consequently more likely to publish the
second article and reject the first. Only the researchers who
know about both published and unpublished studies know a
pesticide's true impact.
In the end, as with many agricultural controversies, opin-
ions about the use of pesticides often boil down to whether
regulators are making wise judgments. Wise judgments
require experience, knowledge, and also the proper incen-
tives. If one believes that politicians, regulatory agencies, and
pesticide corporations are rife with corruption—for example,
a revolving-door system where the same individual works
for the pesticide company and then the regulator—you may
believe that decisions about pesticide regulations do not pro-
tect the public. Those with this belief may protect themselves
by consuming organic food, on which (synthetic) pesticides
are not used. Some surveys suggest this is a major reason con-
sumers in the United Kingdom and United States buy organic.
We, the authors, have confidence in the US and EU regula-
tors, and believe pesticides in agriculture pose very few dan-
gers to the safety of our food supply. In our view, the potential
dangers of pesticides are outweighed by the benefits they pro-
vide in lowering the price of fruits and vegetables. However,
we recognize that some readers will disagree, and will thus
seek to protect themselves by purchasing organic food.