Toxic veggies? Or toxic campaign?

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, puts out a "dirty dozen" list of foods most commonly found to have pesticide residue.  (Currently, celery tops the list, followed by peaches, strawberries and apples.)

The point isn't to get consumers to avoid them, but rather to buy organic. 

Now, according to an interesting article in The Atlantic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has funded -- to the tune of $180,000 -- an industry campaign to debunk the list.

Writer Barry Estabrook contends that a website called was launched in July "with the sole purpose of debunking the EWG's guide." He says it was started by the Alliance for Food and Farming, "a California-based group that bills itself as a non-profit organization made up of farmers and farm groups who want to 'communicate their commitment to food safety and care for the land.' "

Estabrook says the alliance members include executives from corporate agricultural groups.

Funny thing is, the EWG list is based on USDA data. So, as Estabrook points out, does this mean the USDA is funding an industry group to debunk its own data?

Either way, EWG is happy the resulting dust-up is calling attention to the issue.