Pesticides, pop and Palestinian hatred

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., September 5, 2001) – Wait! Put down that piece of fruit! Stop eating your vegetables!

It has become a truism that the secret to good health and well-being is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. But before you run off to the produce section to stock up on apples, peaches and potatoes, be forewarned: there is poison in your peas!


In “Apples, Pears, and Pesticides” in the September/October issue of Sierra, the magazine published by the Sierra Club, writer Vikki Kratz warns parents especially to be aware that children are more susceptible to the negative effects of pesticide residues in produce than they are.

By virtue of their smaller size, children are at greater risk from the ill effects of pesticides than adults. Think about it: you eat a peach and your child eats a peach the same size – but you are three or four times the size of your child. “A child can eat up to four times more fresh fruit per pound of body weight than an adult,” writes Kratz, thus incurring four times as much exposure to the poisonous residue of the 500 different pesticides that are commonly used on fruits and vegetables.

Kratz claims that each year more than 43,000 children under age six are exposed to concentrations of pesticides high enough to cause cancer, respiratory illness and central nervous system damage. The Environmental Protection Agency has been slow to respond to calls to limit or ban certain pesticides.

As a result, the burden falls on parents to insure that their children are not eating chlorpyrifos with their green beans or Dursban with their grapes. Kratz recommends that parents take several steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to pesticides through eating fruits and vegetables. Foremost among her suggestions are to buy organic produce and other food products labeled organic, especially now that under the new U.S. government regulations the label “organic” really means something.

Short of that, there are a few other measures parents can take. Some non-organic foods typically have more pesticide residues than others. The worst offenders are peaches, winter squash, apples, green beans and pears. On the other hand, the safest bets – those with the lowest pesticide residues – include broccoli, bananas, peas, sweet potatoes and corn.

Kratz also recommends washing and peeling fruits and vegetables, although do so with the knowledge that some pesticides permeate the entire flesh of the food. Eating a variety of produce is always a good idea, to reduce overconsumption of one particular type that might have excessive pesticides, and also to gain the greatest variety of good stuff hidden in different fruits and vegetables.

The New Yorker

Nick Hornby took it upon himself to listen to the top 10 CDs on Billboard’s pop album chart one week this summer (bless his heart), and the result – “Pop Quiz” in the August 20/27 issue of the New Yorker, a special issue dedicated to music -- is vintage Hornby, chock full of the sort of apt description, cultural comparisons, sly wisecracking and self-effacement that made his novel “High Fidelity” such a wonderful read.

As one might suspect, Hornby found more perspiration than inspiration in the latest efforts by the likes of Destiny’s Child, Jagged Edge, Blink 182, P. Diddy, D12 and Linkin Park.

“[T]he truth of it is that neither Staind nor Linkin Park nor Limp Bizkit is dissimilar to just about any other band that has played an electric guitar very loud in the past thirty years, which means that there is very little to be said for or about them, though I wish them no ill,” writes Hornby.

The potty-humor on a song on D12’s new album – D12 being a rap collective featuring Grammy Award-winner Eminem – proves “the single most dispiriting moment of my professional life so far this millennium.”

“We should have seen this coming,” writes Hornby about the contemptible lengths to which pop music has succumbed to the urge to do nothing more than to irritate. “Ever since Elvis, it has been pop music’s job to challenge the mores of the older generation; our mistake was to imagine ourselves hipper and more tolerant than our parents.”

Actually, I take exception to Hornby’s last point: there is a line that gets crossed when the aesthetic values of the music or the performance are totally subordinated to the annoyance factor. I remember what a pleasure it was to be able to annoy other people with music that had justifiable purpose, a reason to exist beyond merely the need to annoy.


Anyone surprised by how the world conference on racism in South Africa could have been so easily hijacked by the anti-Jewish rhetoric of Israel’s enemies should read “How Suicide Bombers Are Made” in the September issue of the opinion journal Commentary. In the article, Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein shows how the entire political and cultural apparatus of the Arab world is being used to demonize Israel.

“Wherever one looks, from Cairo and Gaza to Damascus and Baghdad, from political and religious figures to writers and educators, from lawyers to pop stars, and in every organ of the media, the very people with whom the state of Israel is expected to live in peace have devoted themselves with ever-greater ingenuity to slandering and demonizing the Jewish state, the Jewish people, and Judaism itself – and calling openly for their annihilation,” writes Nirenstein, a reporter for the Italian daily La Stampa and the weekly Panorama.

Nirenstein reviews how the official state media in Egypt and Jordan, nations ostensibly at peace with Israel, pour forth vile, Nazi-like lies about Israel and the Jews, recycling classic anti-Semitic canards drawn from the archives of Goebbels and the Tsarist forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Columnists in leading newspapers deny that the Holocaust took place while lauding Hitler who “on behalf of the Palestinians took revenge in advance on the most vile criminals on the face of the earth.”

Arab textbooks are filled with hatred and incitement to violence against Jews (“there is no escape: namely, that their criminal intentions be turned against them and that they be exterminated”), lessons reinforced by Arab popular culture, such as the recent hit song out of Cairo, “I Hate Israel,” and the creative video of a dead 12-year-old boy killed in Palestinian-Israeli crossfire beckoning those he left behind to follow in the ways of the so-called martyr.

Nirenstein ends her article in the monthly published by the American Jewish Committee on a pessimistic but, I fear, realistic note: “[I]f we have learned nothing else from the latest intifada, it is that the Arab world’s grievance against Israel has little to do with the minutiae of dividing up territory and political authority. It has to do instead … with the very existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.”

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 8, 2001. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2001. All rights reserved.]

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