Statement From The Alliance for Food and Farming

Prenatal Exposure Study Focuses On Decade-Old Sampling Data

WATSONVILLE, Calif.--()--The study released today (Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old Children) represents a snapshot in time from over a decade ago and concerns pregnant women who lived and/or worked in the Salinas Valley of California. Things have changed in the last 10 years. For example:

  • Indoor home use of the compounds referenced (organophosphate pesticides) has been discontinued since the study commenced in 1999/2000. This is important to note since the Environmental Protection Agency states that home use of pesticides accounts for approximately 80% of a typical person’s exposure.
  • In California, which has the most comprehensive pesticide reporting system in the nation, use of these older, more stringently regulated pesticides has dropped almost 60% between 2000 and 2008 on a variety of crops.

As an organization that represents farmers, it is our responsibility to reach out to scientists to learn more about this study. Here is what they told us:

  • Intake of metabolite (i.e., pesticide residue or breakdown products) and use of urinary metabolite concentrations as an indication of pesticide exposure results in misclassification of exposure (it is exposure to metabolites rather than pesticides). This represents serious complications for exposure reconstruction using urinary metabolites. To the extent that misclassification occurred in this study, it would invalidate the claim that responses are attributable to organophosphorous pesticides. Dr. Robert Krieger, Personal Chemical Exposure Program, University of California, Riverside.
  • The levels of metabolites are incompletely described in the manuscript. If those levels are used to reconstruct a worst-case pesticide exposure, the dosages are well below no effect levels resulting from well designed, pre-market pesticide safety evaluation studies. Those studies are the foundation of the advanced pesticide regulatory program of the United States that assures the delivery of safe fruits and vegetables to consumers of all ages. There is abundant evidence of the safety of fruits and vegetables provided by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. Dr. Robert Krieger, Personal Chemical Exposure Program, University of California, Riverside.
  • Those findings support my recommendation as a toxicologist for parents and pregnant women, which mirrors guidance of health professionals everywhere – eat and give your children a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The benefits from a healthy consumption of fruits and vegetables are indisputable. Dr. Robert Krieger, Personal Chemical Exposure Program, University of California, Riverside.
  • There has been a substantial amount of animal toxicology work on organophosphates and the data do not indicate effects at the very low exposures observed in these studies. Dr. Richard Reiss, Principal Scientist, Exponent, Inc.
  • One of the biggest problems with epidemiologic studies is confounding. While the authors attempted to account for the large influence of socioeconomic factors on IQ, the results across the three studies (published today) shows potential for residual confounding. For example, the Engel et. al. study showed prenatal OP metabolites correlated with a lower IQ for black and Hispanic children and a higher IQ for white children. Dr. Richard Reiss, Principal Scientist, Exponent, Inc.

As the scientists noted there are currently many studies that show similar associations between other factors and lower IQ or behavioral disorders. Many of the studies seem to show the importance of proper nutrition for children and pregnant women. Studies show cognitive and behavioral disorder associations among children who do not consume enough fruits and vegetables, children who consume too many processed foods, consumption of food dyes, consumption of trans-fatty acids, closely spaced pregnancies causing possible prenatal nutrient depletion and formula fed babies. Other factors also studied include genetics, alcohol consumption during pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, birth order, birth weight, maternal and paternal age and lead exposure.

American farmers operate under stringent standards imposed by the EPA, Federal Food and Drug Administration, United States Department of Agriculture as well as state and county agencies to ensure pest and disease control tools are used safely and judiciously. This stringent government regulation married with the farmers’ commitment to grow their crops with care is protective of farm employees and our consumers. After all, the farmers we represent, their families and employees live, work and go to school in the same communities so farming safely is of the utmost priority.

About the Alliance for Food and Farming

The Alliance for Food and Farming is a non-profit organization formed in 1989. Its membership includes approximately 50 agriculture associations, commodity groups and individual growers/shippers who represent farms of all sizes and includes conventional as well as organic production. The Alliance works to provide a voice for farmers to communicate their commitment to food safety and care for the land.


Alliance for Food and Farming
Teresa Thorne, 831-786-1666


Alliance for Food and Farming
Teresa Thorne, 831-786-1666