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Anti-Organic Lobby Tries to Distort Study Showing Safety of Organic Food

From: Cornucopia Institute

6/15/04
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Kastel 608.625.2042
Will Fantle 715-839-7731


Study Confirms Safety of Organic Food
But Agrichemical Front Group Attempts to Twist Findings

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 indiscriminate potshots."

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 said.

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 any."

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 their research.

"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."

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