What Alar's Foes Didn't Tell Us

July 16, 1990  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Alar

Developed by Uniroyal, Alar is sprayed on varieties of red applies and Golden Delicious. It has also been used on some vegetables, especially peanuts. Both 60 Minutes and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the litigation group that planned the anti-Alar campaign, downplayed its practicality, treating Alar as though it were little more than a food dye. The chief advantage of Alar was to allow an entire orchard to be harvested just once instead of periodically over six weeks as individual fruits ripen. To marketers, it offered more uniformly shaped and colored fruit, and could extend the usual six-to-eight-month shelf life of apples to about a year. Alar could double the volume of fruit produced during the first seven years of planting. Even after that initial period, by keeping the fruit on the tree and off the ground, the chemical saved some apple growers as much as 25 percent of their crop a year. By preserving the fruit after picking, it allowed consumers to have fresh red apples all year long. The last tests on Alar performed prior to the scare were reported by the International Research and Development Corp. in August, 1988, and involved rats and mice fed at numerous dosage levels. Both studies concluded that there were no carcinogenic effects related to the administration of Alar.