Thought some of you might be interested in tracking this. The following
statement is the latest round in an exchange between the Henry A. Wallace
Institute for Alternative Agriculture and Dennis Avery, concerning his
statements attacking organic foods and farmers. Wallace Institute issued a
press release on Feb.3rd responding to Avery's allegations (see
<http://www.hawiaa.org/press001.htm>) Avery's Hudson Institute responded
with a defense (see <http://hudson.org/averydoc9m.html>). The Wallace folks
have recently responded with the following letter to Mr. Avery, posted on
the Wallace Web site at <http://www.hawiaa.org/press001a.htm>.
This material is being shared with the permission of the H.A. Wallace
This message forwarded by
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture
Letter to Dennis Avery
Responding to his statement regarding the Wallace Institute Press Release
dated February 3, 1999
March 23, 1999
Center for Global Food Issues
P.O. Box 202
Churchville, VA 24421
This letter, to be posted on our Web site, is intended to correct the
errors and misrepresentations in the undated statement on your Web site,
"Wallace Institute got it
wrong: CDC data does indicate higher risk from organic and natural foods."
We stand firmly behind our February 3, 1999 press release, "Contrary to
CDC has never conducted study of the risk of organic food." The CDC
reviewed that press release before we issued it and approved its content as
Indeed, what we have learned since issuing our press release affirms our
assessment that you have incorrectly interpreted the CDC data and drawn
conclusions about the health risks from consuming organic foods.
First and foremost, we trust the highly respected Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention to be the most credible scientific source of
information on these issues.
Consider their statements in our press release: "...the CDC did not have
any such research currently in the works, nor was it planning to conduct
any in the future
because such research was 'not warranted.' 'We are not planning any
research on organic and natural foods.'" These official statements speak
loudly and clearly.
Second, the lack of scientific rigor in your analysis has led you to draw
incorrect conclusions. The heart of your allegations in the American
Outlook article, and
implied in your Web site statement, is that the use of manure as a nutrient
source to grow organic foods exposes the consumer to excessive risks of E.
O157:H7, because the foods may be contaminated from contact with the manure
in the soil. According to our interpretation of your analytical methods,
did not make clear in your article, you counted the 47 cases of E. coli
O157:H7 in Connecticut and Illinois in 1996, which were attributed to
lettuce from a
California organic farm. But those cases of contamination were not from
manure used to produce the lettuce. According to The New York Times
(January 5, 1998),
the contamination was suspected to come from a small pen of cattle next to
the barn where the lettuce was being packed. Evidently, the manure migrated
pen to the lettuce packing system in the barn because of inadequate safety
practices, although the farm denied responsibility for the illnesses.
We support the design and operation of agricultural production systems that
avoid these potential sources of contamination. But, even if the
contamination came from
the cattle pen, it was not due to the organic production methods used to
produce the lettuce. Thus, the illnesses were not due to the organic
production system, i.e.,
from manure use on the soil as you imply. This type of contamination could
just as well occur at a non-organic lettuce operation that is exposed to
manure drift from
the farm or nearby operations.
Based on our reading of the 1996 CDC data that you report in your Web site
statement, this is the only case that you attribute to organic food, and it
is now clear
that it was not due to the organic production system. Moreover, a credible
scientific protocol would never draw such broad-sweeping conclusions,
hypotheses, using one data point in one year, even if it were accurate,
which it is not in this case.
Other errors by you were reported in The New York Times story,
"Anti-Organic and Flawed," on February 17, 1999. A prime example is your
unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice as organic in your American Outlook
article, when it was not. Hence, the largest number of illnesses (71) on
the 1996 CDC list
of E. coli O157:H7 infections were inappropriately included in your
analysis. Similarly, your assertion that the high levels of Salmonella
found in free-range chickens,
which were reported in the Consumer Reports 1998 article, were an
indication of the risks of organic food, was wrong also. We note that you
have now expanded
the allegations to include "organic and natural foods" to correct the error
that you made in your original analysis and article. This is not an
protocol. Peer-review of your American Outlook article would have caught
these fundamental errors.
Your campaign to tarnish the reputation of one of the most vital growth
sectors in the U.S. food industry with unfounded allegations and half
truths is transparent. The
Henry A. Wallace Institute was founded to build a stronger scientific base
to evaluate alternative agricultural practices, using accepted scientific
protocols, such as
peer review. We suggest that the Hudson Institute and American Outlook
would do well to emulate this example.
I. Garth Youngberg, Ph.D.
David E. Ervin, Ph.D.
Director, Policy Studies Program
Katherine L. Clancy, Ph.D.
Director, Agriculture Policy Project
Senior Analyst, Capitol Hill Office
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