While the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations reports numerous health and environmental benefits from organic farming practices, including reduced levels of contaminants in foods, a whole series of press articles and radio and TV programmes on both sides of the Atlantic have recently been reporting the exact opposite: that organic agriculture is actually more risky than industrial agriculture.
The items below show how these reports are actually part of an orchestrated campaign of disinformation involving industry-backed proponents of GM and how they are grounded in bogus research and a series of false claims.
USDA official in organic attack has history of siding
with big businesss
The Junkman's labeling lies
attacks in UK press
An article by John Vidal in THE GUARDIAN (London)
THE GODFATHERS: who's behind
Excerpt from 'Organicised crime: The backlash against organic food has begun. But who is behind it?', Andy Rowell's report on how a loose network of rightwing think-tanks, supported by agribiz and the biotech corporations, have worked together with GM-supporting scientists to slander organic food.
Dennis Avery: Big Daddy of the
Reports on the bogus research with which Dennis Avery has originated much of the anti-organic propaganda in recent circulation, and how his work is supported by Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, ConAgra, DowElanco and others who profit from the sale of products prohibited in organic production.
John Stossel slanders organic farming
Reports on how ABC News correspondent John Stossel misled viewers in a report on "20/20" implying organic food was dangerous. Includes articles from The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Nation.
Prof Trewavas requires a health
Reports on the media-war waged against organics by a scientist renowned for his extreme, unsupported and unfounded assertions. Includes an article with detailed criticism of a Trewavas' piece in Nature.
Lord Haskins: merchant of doom
According to Blair advisor Lord Haskins organic food is not only risky but if organic farming were widely adopted it would lead to mass starvation!
Prof Hillman attacked for promoting
How Professor John Hillman, director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) used the SCRI's annual report and the media to promote bogus smears against organic farming. Professor Hillman is on the Board of Directors of the BioIndustry Association, whose tagline is "Encouraging and Promoting the Biotechnology Sector of the UK Economy".
SIR JOHN KREBS SLAMMED OVER ORGANIC
How Sir John Krebs and his supporters are using the UK Food Standards Agency to promote the interests of the biotechnology industry.
Anti-Organic Industry Groups
Smear for Profit
Exposing the industry groups behind 'Nomorescares.com' and its anti-organic report 'Organic Industry Groups Spread Fear for Profit'
Rightwing clique behind organic attacks
Rebutting the myths: the ‘Couterblast’
programme on BBC 2 TV
A Soil Association response to the propaganda attack of a Big Tobacco funded rightwing clique
United Nations FAO report exposes
A UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report concludes organic practices actually reduce e-coli infection that causes food poisoning (the exact opposite of GM proponents' bogus claims) and they also reduce the levels of contaminants in foods. Among the FAO's other conclusions:
Is organic agriculture really more risky than industrial agriculture as a whole series of press articles and radio and TV programmes on both sides of the Atlantic have recently been reporting?
Here we present items in response to these reports, showing how they are stemming from GM proponents citing bogus research and making other false claims.
The circulation of bogus research evidence critical of organic farming hasn't been a phenomenon restricted to popular journalism. There has been a concerted campaign of disinformation around the world with GM proponents always to the fore. In the UK senior academics have been involved in raising concerns about the safety of organic food (eg Ben Miflin, former head of the Institute of Arable Crops Research, Prof Alan Gray of the Institute of Terrestial Ecology and ACRE, Prof John Hillman of the Scottish Crop Research Institute). Information critical of organic agriculture has also been published in a booklet promoting GM food from the Food and Drink Federation.
Such attacks have even appeared in articles in reputable science journals. For example, in MUCH FOOD, MANY PROBLEMS (Nature 402, 231  - 18/11/99) by Prof Anthony Trewavas of the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Edinburgh, there are repeated claims of substantial problems. Yet the trail of evidence for such claims often leads back to Dennis Avery, the man at the heart of the disinformation campaign on organics.
The pieces above not only explain the bogus nature of the claims being made but point to those, many linked directly ot indirectly to a rightwing clique and a loose coalition of 'think-tanks' supported by agribiz and the biotech corporations,who have been supporting the disinformation campaign.
What, of course, is so revealing in all this, is the way in which senior
academics have apparently been happy to join in the disinformation process,
thus lending it credibility, by repeating and promoting such views without
serious critical scrutiny of the evidence on which they are based. In this
we once again seem to pay the price of science having become so industrially
aligned that it is more preoccupied with corporate interests than with
serving the public good. [For more on this see: Prof Bullsh*t]
The Daily Mail has been doing some good muckraking. Yesterday, it led its front page with a nine-month-old scientific report suggesting that lettuces and sprouts grown to organic standards with the help of farmyard manure had 100 times more E coli cells than conventionally grown ones. Shock. Was not E coli responsible for all those deaths in Lanarkshire? "The findings will alarm millions who switched to organic foods following the BSE crisis and concern over the safety of GM foods," said the Mail.
But should it? Is organic farming inherently more risky than conventional farming, as a stream of articles and TV programmes in the past six months on both sides of the Atlantic have suggested? Unhappily for the Mail, the answer is no. E coli is one of the commonest microbiological organisms on the planet. It is everywhere. On your coffee cup, your pencil, your hands, in everybody's stomach.
The Daily Mail report glossed over the fact that the E coli found in the organically grown lettuces was totally harmless and indeed rather welcome. Without E coli and other micro organisms our immune system would be in tatters. Indeed, it would have been far more surprising if the Atlanta veggies did not show higher numbers of E coli cells. At least they were being grown in biologically alive land.
But one strain of E coli - 0157 - can indeed be virulent and deadly, and the Mail was quick to report that Tesco had recently withdrawn all its organic mushrooms after a routine check by environmental health officers found one with 0157. But not with the deadly strain known as 0157:H7. It went on to say that the strain found in the Tesco mushroom was completely harmless.
So where are all these organic scare stories coming from? What's new about muck? As the Soil Association, which sets UK organic standards points out, animal manure has been used for thousands of years as an essential component to maintain the organic matter content, biological activity, fertility and structural stability of agricultural soils. Moreover, conventional UK farmers use about 80m tonnes of it a year as a fertiliser. Just 9,000 tonnes goes on organic land and crops. So why the attacks on organic foods and not conventional ones?
Enter the highly charged and politically motivated industry of environmental "contrarianism". It questions accepted eco "truisms" which suggest that global warming, holes in the ozone layer, large dams, intensive farming, nuclear power and GM foods are major problems. However, it frequently uses extremely selective scientific studies, funded by industries with strong vested interests in keeping the status quo, to rubbish governments and environmentalists. They are, variously, "negative", "against progress", "luddite", "making the poor poorer" and "peddling bad science".
The spate of recent "organic scare" stories probably started with Denis T Avery, Director of Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, a rich and powerful US free-market, pro-globalisation think tank funded, amongst others, by chemical companies, agribusiness and biotech companies - all of whom have taken a battering in the global GM furore.
In 1998, Avery published "The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food" in American Outlook, a quarterly Hudson Institute publication. It began: "According to recent data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who eat organic and 'natural' foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E coli bacteria (0157:H7)."
The trouble was, the CDC denied ever having done the studies. But the Hudson and its British counterparts such as the European Science and Environment Forum, and the Institute of Economic Affairs, have been peddling variations of the story to shock-hungry journalists, notably at C4, Living Marxism, a BBC Counterblast programme, and even the Wall Street Journal.
No one denies that farmyard manure carries dangerous pathogens. But not even the most naive vegetarian would suggest that you should ignore fundamental rules of hygiene like washing fruit and vegetables before eating them, or cooking meat thoroughly.
more on bogus research and false reports
NGIN MAIN INDEX