|June 15, 2004: The
same right-wing think tank that conspired with John Stossel of ABC
News, in an erroneous attempt to discredit organic food (subsequently
forcing an apology from the network), is at it again. The Hudson Institute,
and its father and son team of Dennis and Alex Avery, are attempting
to spin a new report that actually concluded there was no "statistically
different" risk in the pathogenic contamination of organic food
verses its conventionally produced counterparts.
"For years, the Averys’ have been banging the drum trying
to suggest to consumers that organic food is somehow dangerous,"
said Mark Kastel, Director of the Organic Integrity Project at The
Cornucopia Institute. "In this case, the study or any
study is evidently enough ammunition for them to begin their
The report in question, published in the May issue of Journal of
Food Protection, looked at produce grown on conventional and organic
Minnesota farms during 2002. Less than 5 percent of the produce
from conventional and organic farms showed contamination with any
of the tracked pathogens in question, and that was before washing
at the wholesale level, peeling off outer leaves, or a thorough
washing once the produce arrives in the home of the ultimate consumer.
"This study was primarily designed to look at the use of composted
manure verses chemical fertilizers at the farm level. The authors
of this report intentionally did not concern themselves with what
happened once the produce was washed and left the farm," Kastel
According to Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, the report's chief author
and faculty member at the University of Minnesota, "I had a
very heated discussion with Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute.
They were very dissatisfied with our findings and told me that our
interpretations were not 'correct.' They told me I should have known
better than to look for E. coli 0157:H7, because we wouldn't find
Dr. Diez-Gonzalez is not surprised to learn that the Hudson Institute,
with its long record and the backing of agribusiness giants like
Monsanto and DuPont, is now trying to use the independently funded
University of Minnesota data to discredit organic farming.
Commenting on the Diez-Gonzalez study, Alex Avery called eating
organic food “a crap shoot” and warned that potential
cases of diarrhea, typhoid fever and Reiter’s Syndrome await
its consumers. “This statement is total a fabrication and
a gross distortion of the Diez-Gonzalez study," charged Kastel.
“Alex Avery will say anything in his petty little war against
organic food and farming”
The only criticism of the research, levied by The Cornucopia Institute,
was that nearly 80 percent of the samples taken during the study
came from organic farms and only 20% from conventional operations.
"If conventional produce was represented as a higher percentage
of the total, maybe the findings would have looked even more favorable,
in terms of the compareable safety of organic products," said
the Cornucopia's Kastel. The conventional sampling was also extremely
light in terms of the produce items that were most susceptible to
contamination (leafy greens and lettuce).
According to Dr. Diez-Gonzalez, investigators are attempting to
include more conventional produce in the second and third year of
"One of the positive findings from the Minnesota study is
that the potential for contamination on farms certified as organic
by the USDA, under the federal supervisory program which went into
effect in 2002, is demonstrably lower than for farms that call themselves
organic but are not certified,” noted Kastel.
Federal law now mandates that any commercial organic producer must
be inspected on an annual basis. "It is not surprising that
the best management practices take place on certified farms where
the operators are highly engaged, educated and conforming to the
strict regulations in terms of the use of composted animal manure,”
Kastel added. "The results are higher quality and safer produce
for the consumer."
For more on the original study, Pre-Harvest Evaluation of
Coliforms, Escherichia coli, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in Organic
and Conventional Produce Grown by Minnesota Farmers, go to: