Last month, as thousands of public health professionals (read: professional nannies) converged on the nation’s capitol to hear Hollywood science “expert” Erin Brockovich keynote the annual
American Public Health Association
(APHA) convention, Kevin Marchman, executive director of the National Organization of African Americans in Housing, issued a stern wake-up call to the APHA. Complaining about the group’s preoccupation with fringe causes, Marchman took particular umbrage with APHA’s misguided and unscientific crusade against modern farming and pesticide use, and in favor of organic-only eating.

In an open letter to APHA Executive Director George Benjamin, Marchman wrote:

APHA is allowing activists to focus on issues of little importance to average Americans …Creating senseless fears about pesticides only hurts the people most in need of better nutrition and better housing conditions. Lower-income people desperately need more fruits and vegetables in their diets and pesticides help American growers provide these nutritious foods safely and affordably. Buying only organic foods is simply not a necessary or a viable approach for low-income families. Poor people cannot afford the high prices of organic produce, nor should they be stampeded into paying this added expense to put produce on their dinner tables when conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are abundant, safe and economical. Scaring people into eliminating fruits and vegetables from their diets as a misguided way of avoiding pesticides will only result in people eating far less-healthy foods.

A subsequent letter from Marchman to Benjamin reinforced this view and went even further:

[F]ocusing on hypothetical risks takes our attention away from things that really should concern us … It’s like worrying about a speck on your windshield while you car careens towards a cliff. Public health advocates should keep their eyes on the road.

Marchman’s excellent point only scratches the surface of APHA’s preoccupation with boneheaded causes. Its annual conference has become a smorgasbord of anti-food-choice, anti-corporate zealotry. From alcohol to food to farms and beyond, APHA meetings feature a long list of some of the nation’s most notorious food cops, obesity scaremongers, animal rights activists, and neo-prohibitionists.

In past years, the annual confab has been host to the likes of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) Margo Wootan, who told a crowd of budding food regulators: “We have got to move beyond personal responsibility.” APHA also hosted Twinkie-tax engineer Kelly Brownell, who echoed Wootan’s sentiments, saying that we need to “get away from these arguments about personal responsibility.

This year’s conference proved little different. The Socialist Caucus (Yes, APHA has an entire caucus of socialists) hosted a session aptly titled “Controlling What We Eat: 21st Century Harvests of Shame,” which featured a presentation by a Public Health Advocacy Institute spokesman on suing restaurants and food producers. Other conference speakers included Graham Colditz, author of the deeply flawed yet routinely cited study concluding that obesity costs $117 billion annually; CSPI’s Wootan; and noted neo-prohibitionist Jim Mosher. APHA even awarded diet dictator-in-chief Marion Nestle, who has previously spoken at Socialist Caucus sponsored sessions, the David P. Rall Award for Public Health Advocacy — for her efforts to control what you eat.