Too many self-appointed, misinformed and self-serving pseudo-experts are appearing in stories about agriculture these days. Carole Sugarman's article "When Beauty Is the Beast" {Food, July 18} provides some classic examples of the type.

Take Tom Kuhnle, a resource economist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The man has probably never set foot in a commercial tomato field, yet he wails and assails red tomatoes for being "tasteless."

For the record, red tomatoes that have been properly ripened at room temperature and are served cool, not cold, have excellent flavor. It's only when they're mishandled -- i.e., refrigerated -- that they lose flavor. The Florida tomato industry has spent millions in recent years trying to educate the consumer on proper handling methods.

Sugarman also cited an unreleased, unofficial draft of a 1989 EPA report, which claimed that pesticides are being used on tomatoes for cosmetic purposes. She wrote that the report "quoted a researcher at the University of California at Davis who estimated that between 40 and 60 percent of the pesticides used on processing tomatoes are used simply for cosmetic reasons."

Wrong. Florida's fresh tomato industry uses pesticides only to ensure production of quality fruit. Florida grows more than 1 billion pounds of tomatoes for the fresh market annually. It is not possible to produce that kind of volume without the use of some fertilizers and pesticides. We are all cognizant of the dangers connected with overuse, however, and usage is strictly controlled and conservatively applied.

A growing number of doomsayers are reaching sensational, unscientific conclusions in laboratories or in computers thousands of miles from the production areas. If they had their way and all chemicals were banned, fresh produce would disappear in this country's supermarkets or have to be imported from countries that have little or no controls on chemical use.

Finger-pointing, crying "wolf" and variations on witch-hunting serve no productive purpose in regard to the future of our food supply. We have the safest food supply in the world, and the effort to improve it goes on daily.

So let's let the real experts do their job -- not some researchers whose only tools are pens, typewriters and computers.

-- Wayne Hawkins The writer is executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange.