If you missed the big gardening news this week, here’s the summary version:

After the not-surprising attacks on the organic nature of the garden from the lobby group for Big Chem, this latest attack came curiously from the left.  It started with a story in Mother Jones claiming that the garden, with its 93 parts per million of lead, is “contaminated”, supposedly due to the composted sewage applied to the land during the Clinton years.   

Then a Huffington Post writer took that ball and ran with it: The Obama Organic Family Garden: Swimming in Sludge? Here’s a quote [bold added]: “Recently the National Park Service discovered that the White House lawn, where the garden was planted, contains highly elevated levels of lead — 93 parts per million. It’s enough lead for anyone planning to have children pick vegetables in that garden or eat produce from it to reconsider their plans: lead is highly toxic to children’s developing organs and brain functions — however, it’s below the 400 ppm the EPA suggests is a threat to human health.”

First, the 93 ppm finding was known by the Park Service months ago and made public back in March when the garden was announced.  And who says 93 ppm is enough to stop people with children from growing food in it?

But to the rescue of good science and journalism is my favorite DC food blogger, Eddie Gehman Kohan, author of Obama Foodoramama.  She got the old-fashioned notion of contacting soil scientists – 3 of them – and their responses are detailed in her post:  The Only Thing Toxic about the White House Kitchen Garden is the Rumors: Scientists Correct the Record on Contamination”.  There she calls the attack “the latest from the pooposphere of poor fact checking on Huffington Post”.  And she finds it interesting that “some of the people who are most likely to take media stabs at the White House Kitchen Garden are those who profess themselves to be champions of environmental stewardship and of a food system that’s local, sustainable, and organic,” citing the author of the MoJo story in particular.

And she goes on to indict lots of bloggers:  “Many other food and gardening blogs posted about the Mother Jones sludge/lead contamination, too, without fact checking. Even very reputable ones.”  Okay, who was it?

Then Eddie responded on HuffPost itself with this takedown.

And here’s a point that bears repeating:

The other bizarre element to the whole bashing thing is that anyone who thinks the White House left a single stone unturned in planning the garden is…what’s the most delicate, diplomatic, term? Oh yeah, silly. The White House was well aware that the first food garden planted on the campus since WWII was going to be big news. Of course all details were accounted for. Of course appropriate testing was conducted. The White House has the finest minds in America, experts in every field, available for consultation. It’s
beyond silly to imagine that the garden wasn’t thoroughly “vetted.”

That’s exactly my impression of the garden gang at the White House (see earlier post about how smart the whole project is).

Oh, and here’s the link to the Mother Jones story.  When I tried it, an error message came up saying due to a fire, the server was down, but check back for news of Sarah Palin and “MoJo’s scoop that the White House garden has been poisoned by sewage sludge”.  Still, after all the debunking!


This is yet another example of bloggers getting it right after mainstream or print media get it wrong.  In this case, Eddie’s a career food policy writer and consultant, so it’s no wonder she knows a thing or two.  [Photo of Eddie on the “Today Show”.]  And get this – she got herself invited to the White House Easter Egg Roll – by continuously bugging the Press Office – AND the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. I’m so jealous.

In a close reading of “ObFo”, I see that Politico and the Drudge Report have also “bashed” the “WHKG”.  It’s just more proof that gardening’s (finally) a hot topic, so let’s enjoy it!