The Alar Scare
In 1989, Streep played a major role in the so-called “Alar scare.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council became concerned that fruits — specifically apples — containing pesticides including Alar, or daminozide, were causing adverse health effects. A segment on CBS’ 60 Minutes that featured a skull and crossbones over a photo of apples only exacerbated the public’s fear.
In June of 1989, Streep testified before Congress on the dangers of Alar. According to the Washington Post, the actress told then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman that she was qualified to speak about Alar because she had been “involved” with the issue for four months.
The Post reported that Streep told Congress:
“I think the reason we have all been invited here, as I look around the room and I see so many experts, is we have been invited for what we do not know, which probably will fill the room. But actually, I do not mind representing the constituency of the great mass of uninformed, because I think what we do not know about this issue is the most alarming, and that is coming up over and over in what I have been hearing. What we don’t know is a frightening chasm.”
In the end, the Alar scare crippled the apple business, costing growers an estimated $100 million.
“There was never any legitimate scientific study to justify the Alar scare,” food science professor Dr. Joseph D. Rosen later told the New York Times.