"organic farming poses health risks..."

mmiller at pcsia.com mmiller at pcsia.com
Wed Feb 9 21:15:55 EST 2000

FYI from Sanet on the attack on organic food.  Mike Miller

From: "Nic Lampkin" <nhl at aber.ac.uk>
Subject: Organic opponents
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:18:10 -0000

I am forwarding the following message in connection with the current
discussion on the 20/20 programme in the US on the sanet network. A similar
smear campaign against organic farming is taking place in the UK and in
other European countries, and it is clear that this is being done on a
co-ordinated basis. Although I am forwarding the message, I am not
personally responsible for its contents or their accuracy.

Nic Lampkin

> > 1.   Professor Hillman exposed as a BioIndustry Association
 corporate  Director

> >  2.   Right wing clique in organic attacks

> > 1.   Hillman exposed - Director of the Scottish Crop
 Research      Institute (SCRI)
> >
> > This is taken from the Genetically Modified Food website:
> > http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/
> >
> > The myth of Escherichia coli / Faecal Contamination
> > http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/gmfaec.html
> >
> > A number of advocates of biotechnology would like us to believe that
> > eating organic food somehow exposes us to a greater risk of food
> > poisoning through consumption of Escherichia coli bacteria which might
> > be present in organic fertiliser.
> >
> > Two examples are of biotechnology advocates who perpetuate
> > the "Faecal Contamination" or "Escherichia coli" myth in trying to
> > discredit organic farming are :
> >
> > *Professor John Hillman
> > *Dennis T Avery
> >
> > Professor John Hillman
> >
> > Professor John Hillman is Director of the Scottish Crop
> > Research Institute (SCRI) at Invergowrie, Dundee.
> >
> > In an article which appeared on the BBC website on 2
> > February 2000,  Professor Hillman is quoted in his Director's report as
> > stating "Organic farming raises risks of faecal contamination not only
> > food but also of waterways, food poisoning, high levels of natural
> > and allergens, contamination by copper and sulphur-containing
> > fungicides, production of diseased food, low productivity, and creation
> > of reservoirs of pests and diseases."
> >
> > What is not made clear is that Professor Hillman is also on
> > the Board of Directors of the BioIndustry Association, whose tagline is
> > "Encouraging and Promoting the Biotechnology Sector of the UK Economy".
> >
> > A list of members of the BioIndustry Association can be
> > found here -
> > http://www.bioindustry.org/members/memlist.html
> >
> > Dennis T Avery
> > Dennis T Avery is a Director of the right-wing "think tank"
> > The Hudson Institute
> >
> > In the article The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food, he
> > proposes that Escherichia coli is a greater risk in Organic foods than
> > conventionally grown foods. He states "...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 Hudson Institute is funded by, amongst others in the
> > biotechnology industry :
> >
> > AgrEvo
> > Dow AgroSciences
> > Monsanto Company
> > Novartis Crop Protection
> > Zeneca
> >
> > It is thus very clear why both these men have a vested
> > interest in the promotion of the use of herbicides, pesticides and
> > Genetically Modified foods, instead of the acceptance of Organic
> >
> >
> > 2.   Right wing clique in organic attacks
> >
> > In the wake of the massive defeats suffered over their
> > promotion of GM foods, pro-GM lobbyists in the UK have regrouped and
> > the help of a clique of right wing journalists and academics are
> > coordinating a still more aggressive campaign of disinformation.
> >
> > Recent events have made two strands of the current  strategy
> > clear. One is reactive: networks of pro-GM scientists have been
> > established which, when given early warning of pending critical articles
in the
> > scientific or general media, attempt preemptive strikes: counterblasts
> > of critical comment which are released to 'friendly' journalists in the
> > media, while pressure is placed on editors of scientific publications
> > (via threats, public ridicule etc) to try and make publication of such
> > articles less likely [see:  http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/rs.htm]
> >
> > The other element of the current media strategy is more
> > proactive, seeking to promote 'good news' stories about GM (golden
> > rice, feed the world etc) and, by contrast, 'bad news' stories about
> > organic agriculture.
> >
> > BBC coverage well illustrates what's been going on. Three
> > very recent BBC programmes have given prominence to extreme anti-organic
> > views (Costing the Earth, Counterblast, and, to a lesser extent,
> > the Food and Drink programme). Similarly, there has been negative
> > reporting by the BBC's science and technology unit of the publication of
> > Pusztai's article in the Lancet, and significant coverage of the
> > claims made for 'golden rice,' as well as of the anti-organic views of
> > Professor John Hillman.
> >
> > Key players in what's been occurring are, almost certainly,
> > the spin unit of the UK Government's Cabinet Office, the Royal
> > Society's rebuttal unit [see http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/rs.htm ]
and the
> > network of corporately-linked researchers (like Prof Hillman - a
> > corporate Director of the BioIndustry Association - see: item 2 below).
> >
> > One US strategy that is being carefully replicated here is the use of
> > right wing journalists and academics to smear GM critics and
> > alternatives to agricultural biotechnology. In the US figures like
> > Dennis Avery, Michael Fumento and Henry Miller have helped
> > fulfil this role. In the UK significant use is now being made of a
> > similar clique of extreme anti-environmentalists who draw heavily on the
> > ideas and tactics of Avery in particular.
> >
> > A key contributor to each of the BBC programmes raising
> > questions about organic food has been Julian Morris, the Director of the
> > right-wing think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs. One of the
> > programmes (Counterblast) was presented by Roger Bate who was said to
> > be of the European Science and Environment Forum. Although the Forum
> > describes itself as  "a non-partisan group of scientists", in reality
> > it seems to be just a front organisation for the Institute of Economic
> > Affairs, with Bate and Morris as leading members of both.
> >
> > Although this fact was not disclosed at any point in the
> > programme several other contributors to the Counterblast programme are
> > part of the same IEA right wing clique (notably Prof Phillip Stott and
> > the journalist Richard North).
> >
> > Both the Forum and the Institute are vague about their
> > current sources of funding. Equivalent right wing think tanks in the US,
> > such as the Hudson Institute, are known to receive funding from the
> > usual A-Z of biotech interests: from AgrEvo to Zeneca - see item 2
> > The IEA, whatever its current funding, has certainly right from its
> > inception had reason to have the interests of industrial agriculture
> > close to its heart.
> >
> > The Institute was started in the 1950s by one Anthony Fisher out of a
> > fortune Fisher had made from industrial agriculture. Fisher had
> > successfully founded Britain's very first broiler chicken farm. It is
> > perhaps not  so surprising then that, having been set up by a pioneer of
> > factory farming who was also an  extreme free marketeer, the Institute
> > promotes the view that unregulated industrial agriculture and unfettered
> > free trade are both of great environmental benefit!
> >
> > In a country like the UK where,  as a result of industrial agriculture,
> > in the period of the Institute's existence more than 30 million wild
> > birds have been lost, more than 100,000 miles of hedges removed, and
> > large areas af woodlands cut down and flower meadows ploughed up, this
> > is a pretty extreme perspective. And the idea that unfettered free trade
> > and direct competition with the huge industrial farms of North America
> > would improve this situation is also a pretty extraordinary proposition.
Indeed, some UK farmers have threatened that if they ever
> > found themselves in such head to head competition they would pull out
> > all their remaining hedgerows.
> > The Institute's extremist disdain of any protection of the
> > environemnt is well reflected in its various publications and, needless
> > to say, the> pro-GM lobby are prominent amongst its published authors.
> > For instance, a book, 'Tropical Rainforest,' by biotech supporter and
> > Counterblast contributor Prof Phillip Stott, claims to debunk "the
> > eco-imperialist vision" which threatens the world, while a pending
> > paper attacking the Biosafety Protocol is being authored by none
> > other than Henry Miller, the rabid deregulator who once presided over
> > the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. Biotech propagandist CS Prakash,
> > who organised the recent petition among  US researchers in support of GM
> > foods, is another contributor to an IEA publication.
> >
> > Bate and Morris have also edited a recently-published book,
> > 'Fearing Food: Risk, Health and the Environment', amongst whose
> > contributors is Dennis Avery. Avery, of the Hudson Institute, has of
> > been at the very heart of the anti-organic smear campaign  - see:
> > http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/organic.htm
> >
> > Bate and Morris, needless to say, appear entirely unembarrased by the
> > dubious quality of Avery's scholarship or the bogus nature of his claims
> > - claims from which the US's  Centre for Disease Control and the FDA
> > have both disassociated themselves, despite the fact that Avery claims
> > that its their data on which he has based his health warnings about
organic agriculture.
> >
> > Far from disassociating themselves from Avery's smears, Bateand Morris
> > have revelled in his assertions - not just repeating them in the various
> > BBC programmes they've contributed to but even using his bogus e-coli
> > claims in a publicity stunt to launch their book. According to right
> > wing columnist Matt Ridley of the Telegraph, part of the stunt involved
> > telling people that "according to the United States Centers for Disease
> > Control, people who eat the products of...[organic agriculture] are
> > eight times more likely to contract the strain of E-coli that killed 21
> > people in Lanarkshire in 1997" ['Unsavoury facts about organic food'
> > August 16, 1999] This despite the fact that, as Bate and Morris must
> > surely know, the CDC has stated,  "The Centers for Disease Control and
> > Prevention has not conducted any study that compares or quantitates the
> > specific risk for infection with E. coli 0157:H7 and eating either
> > conventionally grown or organic/natural foods." [see:
> > http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/organic.htm ]
> >
> > In a press release ('Londoners demand regulation of potentially deadly
> > organic food') to accompany the book's launch, and their
 organics-are-dangerous-survey stunt, Bate and Morris wrote, "organic
> > food may well present a danger to children, the elderly and the sick...
> > such people should be discouraged from eating so-called 'organic' or
> > 'natural' foods." The underlying antipathy of Bate and Morris to organic
> > farming, and the real reason for their concerns, is best captured in an
> > article on The European Science and Environment Forum website which
> > refers to organics as "a mainstay of the Luddites these past decades
> > and... a staple of the anti-GM battle."
> >
> > It is obviously no surprise that the likes of Matt Ridley (another
> > member of the IEA clique, with 2 volumes of his anti-environmentalist
> > articles amongst the Institute's publications) should be pleased to
> > publicise the IEA's disinformation campaign. What is more revealing is
> > the way in which the BBC's science and technology unit and senior
> > academics like Prof Hillman or Prof Anthony Trewavas, another
> > contributor to Counterblast, have apparently been happy to promote such
> > views without serious critical scrutiny of the evidence on which they
> > are based - Prof Trewavas, for example, has made repeated reference to
> > Avery's claims, as made in Avery's chapter in the Morris' and Bate's
> > book, in an article published in Nature (Nature 402, 231 [1999]).
> >
> > Nothing could expose more starkly the bogus nature of the biotech
> > brigade's claims to base their promotion of GM crops on sound science,
> > nor the vacuous nature of their complaints against Pusztai, and other
> > researchers that have raised questions about GM crops, not to mention
> > their fury with journals that have published such papers.
> >
> > If such scientists are really as passionate about sound science as they
> > claim, why haven't they been busy denouncing the bogus claims of Avery
> > and co. - claims after all  that involve a far more outrageous
> > distortion of the truth than anything they accuse scientists critical of
> > GM of?
> >
> > The reason, of course, is all too plain: they've either been too busy
> > repeating these bogus claims themselves and trying to lend them
> > credibility, or else they recognise that as these claims forward rather
> > than hinder their own interests it is better to remain silent and not
> > enquire too deeply into them.  Either way, we pay the price once again
> > of science having become so industrially aligned that it is more
> > preoccupied with serving private interests than it is with the public
> > good.

At 16:14 09-02-00 -0800, you wrote:
>hello, all.
>my mother recently sent me this article from some BBC
>online service (sorry, i don't know the specific
>>Scientist raises organic concerns 
>GM foods have provoked a widespread debate
>A leading Scottish scientist has warned that organic
>farming poses considerable risks to human health. 
>Professor John Hillman, director of the world-renowned
>Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), also said the
>debate on GM food had been "obscured" by unhelpful
>His comments are contained in the SCRI's annual report
>released on Tuesday. 
>Its Director's Report is regarded as one of the most
>comprehensive yearly reviews of global and UK trends
>influencing agricultural, biological and
>Professor Hillman writes that organic farming poses   
>considerable risks to human health, as well as the    
>heavily-publicised potential benefits. 
>"Organic farming raises risks of faecal contamination
>only of food but also of waterways, food poisoning,
>levels of natural toxins and allergens, contamination
>copper and sulphur-containing fungicides, production
>diseased food, low productivity, and creation of
>of pests and diseases," he says. 
>His report calls for "unhelpful and unjustified
>to be ditched and for lessons to be learned from the
>wholeGMfood debate. 
>Debate 'obscured' "Cars, cigarettes, stepladders and
>playing sports are
>dangerous - eating GM food is not. 
>"Deliberately pejorative language is obscuring the
>and encouraging people to pre-judge the issues before 
>they have heard all the facts. 
>"Obvious lessons to be drawn from the GM debate
>the requirement for wide consultation with the support
>authoritative literature, effective and non-pejorative
>food labelling and testing of all foodstuffs, research
>to address gaps in current knowledge and absolute  
>transparency and open access provided to the public
>Professor Hillman continues: "In Third World countries
>than 70% of income is spent on food, and production   
>perturbations caused by pests, diseases, weeds and bad
>weather lead to starvation and even suicides.
>'Profound requirement' 
>"There is a profound requirement for improving
>productivity and efficiency, and biotechnological
>approaches, including GM crops, are real options." 
>The Scottish Crop Research Institute, based at
>is a major international centre for research into     
>agricultural, horticultural and industrial crops. 
>Last week, a UN conference in Montreal agreed on rules
>governing the trade in genetically-modified food
>The Biodiversity Protocol states that shipments of GM 
>commodities should bear labels saying they "may
>genetically-modified organisms and are not intended
>intentional introduction into the environment. 
>In Scotland, much of the debate has revolved around
>Aberdeen scientist Dr Arpad Puztai, who said GM foods
>dangerous to human health.  His experiments in which
>he fed
>genetically-modified potatoes to rats were later

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