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Soil Association responds to Food Standards Agency
Krebs views "extreme" says Food Safety Authority head
Krebs cronies and suppporters in anti-organic hype

 [For more on the extreme views of Sir John Krebs - click here]


01 Sep 2000
2000 Press Release Archive

Friends of the Earth today hit out at Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Government's Food Standards Agency, for telling the public that they were wasting their money if they think that the organic food that they buy is safer or more nutritious [1] than conventionally grown food. The comments are due to be broadcast on BBC's Countryfile programme this Sunday.

According to data published by the Government last year [2] 33% of fresh fruit and vegetables(732 samples) contained pesticide residues. And 70 per cent of conventionally grown carrots were found to contain pesticide residues including organophosphates which are currently being reviewed following concerns about their potential health effects [3].

Sandra Bell, Real Food campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: “We are appalled that Sir John Krebs has launched this attack on organic food. Organic food avoids synthetic pesticides, the routine use of antibiotics and genetically modified ingredients. No-one knows what long term impact these may have on human health. If there is no problem with pesticides in conventionally grown food why does the Government advise people to wash and peel vegetables before giving them to children? The truth is that organic food is better for people and the environment. The Food Standards Agency should be promoting it, not rubbishing it.

Sir John is however right when he says that much of the organic food we eat is imported. Around 70 per cent of the organic produce bought in the UK is imported from abroad, despite the fact that lots of farmers want to convert to organic production. This is why FOE is backing the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill which supports a significant rise in UK organic farming.

Sandra Bell continued:
“Sir John should be doing more to ensure that more organic food is produced in this country. Why doesn't he ask the Government why they aren't doing more to help British farmers to become part of the organic success story and produce organic food that is affordable for everyone.”

1.     New European studies suggest that organic food is healthier, including research in Switzerland which found organic apples to have more cancer fighting antioxidants. .
2.     MAFF Annual Report of the Working Party on Pesticide Residues
3.     Countryfile tested 3 carrots for pesticide residues. Only one was conventionally grown. This is far too small a sample to draw conclusions about carrots in general. All the carrots were pesticide-free.
4.     In a NOP poll (2162 respondents) for Friends of the Earth, 86% of people said they do not want pesticide residues in their food. Buying organic is currently the best way to avoid pesticide residues.

[For more on the extreme views of Sir John Krebs - click here]


Soil Association responds to Food Standards Agency

The Soil Association is deeply concerned that Sir John Krebs of the Food Standards Agency is failing to inform himself and be objective in the
on-going national food debate.

Just yesterday Swiss scientists released a statement saying that they already have evidence that organically grown fruit and vegetables are
healthier than conventionally grown produce.  This supports other promising research already underway on nutritional value in Europe, for
example in Denmark.  An United Nations FAO report in July also concluded that organic practices can reduce e-coli infection that causes food poisoning and also reduce the levels of contaminants in foods.

Harry Hadaway, Soil Association spokesperson, says, "A big problem in the UK is the lack of expenditure on research into the benefits of
organic food. This should be a prime focus for the £20 million of tax payers money that the Food Standards Agency was given for research."

"As a historic supporter of GM foods Sir John Krebs continues not to represent the wishes of the British consumer, who have made it clear
that they reject chemical farming and GM food, due to the growing evidence of environmental and health impacts of this type of food production."

The recently published Biodiversity Benefits of Organic Farming report proved, using 23 separate studies, that organic farming would
significantly benefit wildlife in the UK.  This report was supported and endorsed by WWF-UK.

1.FAO report, "Food safety and quality as affected by organic farming", presented at the 22nd FAO regional conference for Europe, Portugal,
24-28 July 2000
2.Organic Research Institute, Switzerland
3."The Biodivesity Benefits of Organic Farming" , published by the Soil Association, May 2000

Krebs views "extreme" says Food Safety Authority head
The Guardian, 14th September 2000

Sir  John Krebs, chairman of the government's food Standards Agency, made few new friends recently when his organisation's report claimed there was little difference between organic and conventially-grown food.   Dr.Patrick Wall, chief executive of the Irish counterpart agency, The Food Safety Authority of
Ireland, has now reminded people to buy organic food because it is more "environmentally friendly, more wholesome, and better produced".  He then dismissed Sir John's views as  "Extreme".

Krebs cronies and suppporters in anti-organic hype

Sir John Krebs' attack on organic food has provided a useful platform for further attacks by cronies and supporters. Professor Philip Stott has written to The Times warning of multiple problems from organic agriculture such as "the faecal contamination of waterways from animal manures". Given that conventional UK farmers use about 80 million tonnes of animal manure a year as a fertiliser while under 10,000 tonnes goes on organically farmed land, this is quite a worry!

Stott also warns that organic production exposes "produce to a range of toxins" - an alarmingly vague statement. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report in July of this year  concluded on mycotoxin contamination:

"their relative presence in foods produced organically or conventionally has been the subject of many studies. From these studies it cannot be concluded that organic farming leads to an increased risk of mycotoxin contamination."

Indeed, the FAO report points out,  "Two studies reported by Woess found that aflatoxin M1 levels in organic milk were lower than in conventional milk.  This points to shortcomings in animal feeding practices in conventionally raised livestock... As organically raised livestock are fed greater proportions of hay, grass and silage, there is reduced opportunity for mycotoxin contaminated feed to lead to mycotoxin contaminated milk."

So according to the FAO not only is there not evidence of greater contamination of organic food, there is actually some evidence of less contamination! See below for more excerpts from the report. The full FAO report is available for download as a Word document from:

Stott is a highly active GM supporter running his own Pro-Biotech website. Stott previously attacked organic food on the Counterblast TV programme, coordinated by Roger Bate Director of the Environment Unit at the right wing Institute of Economic Affairs, to which Stott also connnects -- see:

Bate incidentally presented the anti-organic Counterblast prog as the Director of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), a position he held until February of this year. ESEF was part of a campaign to undermine industry-critical research involving "sound science" front organisations founded with Philip Morris (PM) tobacco money. This was exposed in an article in the Lancet:

"In Europe the PM-led task force also started (in 1996) a parallel organisation to TASSC [The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition - a front organisation] called the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), also with tobacco funding. And, in December 1997, ESEF and TASSC issued a joint press statement in which both organisations have identical descriptions." []

For more on ESEF:

Also wading in to support Krebs has been the Independent's science editor, Steve Connor. Connor's cleverly worded article says, "Even organic food" contains naturally occurring "toxins". What Connor is talking about is a risk with all vegetables however cultivated - eg if potatoes or carrots go green. In other words, this universal issue has no specific connection with organic food whatsoever!

Similarly, Connor tells his readers:

"Spreading manure on a field is good farming practice and improves soil structure but it also carries a greater risk of food poisoning than spraying with the recommended amounts of agrochemicals."

Well fine, but most conventional farmers do both and without necessarily composting the manure first, as is required in organic systems. And the most likely source of harmful E.-coli food poisoning is through meat and dairy products with regard to which the FAO report says orgainc production  is safer

It was Connor who in the run up to the Lancet's publication of the Pusztai and Ewen paper showing ill-effects on rats from a GM food ran a spoiler article based on an attack by Prof John Pickett, the only reviewer of the paper arguing against publication. Connor's article appears to have been part of a concerted campaign to discredit the Pusztai paper prior to publication []. Prof Pickett's criticisms have been dismissed by Pusztai as so ill-informed as to suggest Pickett had never actually bothered to read the paper he was supposedly reviewing.

Connor himself is currently cooperating with Krebs and others in laying down guidelines for the media on the accurate reporting of science stories -- for more on this. He and Krebs are obviously the perfect standard bearers for accurate science communication and the avoidance of scaremongering!