> FSNET SEPTEMBER 7, 1999
> E. coli source discovered, 112 ill
> E. coli, toxigenic, waterborne - USA (Washington) (02)
> Poison risk is greater from organic foods, says scientist
> EU food agency wins backing in Iberia
> EU likely to OK Belgian loans to dioxin-affected cos
> Undiagnosed illness, school - USA (Connecticut)
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> POISON RISK IS GREATER FROM ORGANIC FOODS, SAYS SCIENTIST
> Sept. 6/99
> Sunday Times
> Stephen Bevan and Lois Jones
> Organic food is 30 times more likely to poison you than
> conventional food,
> according to a leading scientist and top government adviser.
> Professor Alan Gray, acting chairman of the Advisory
> Committee on Releases
> to the Environment, which advises the government on the safety of
> genetically modified (GM) crops and other "novel" organisms,
> said it was a
> "myth" that organic food was safer.
> "You are 30 times more likely to poison yourself with organic produce
> because it allows Bt [the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis] to spread
> directly. There's this myth about it being natural," he said.
> Sprays containing Bt have been used for a decade by farmers to control
> caterpillars. When ingested, the bacterium produces endotoxins which
> the walls of the insects' guts. In mammals, they can cause death from
> septic shock.
> It is one of a number of biological agents permitted by
> organic certifying
> bodies such as the Soil Association, which insists it is safe
> when used
> properly. Ironically the production of Bt toxin is one of the
> key features
> of many GM crops.
> "Because it's derived from the soil it's deemed to be natural
> and organic
> farmers are therefore allowed to spray it," said Gray. "But
> Bt affects the
> health of people who work with it due to the ingestion of
> endotoxins." He
> was also concerned about the presence of harmful bacteria
> such as E-coli
> cause of food poisoning) in manures used by organic farmers.
> "By using manures instead of fertilisers you're recycling
> E-coli from the
> guts of cattle and other animals," said Gray. "This is the
> way the world
> was before we had organic fertilisers. I'm not against organic food.
> There's this sense that it's safe, but in fact the risk is
> greater than
> from eating some generic foods."
> His comments were immediately attacked as misconceived by the Soil
> Association, which certifies the majority of organic
> producers. "People
> like Professor Gray ought to know better," said Richard Young, the
> association's agricultural policy adviser. "We've drawn up
> standards for
> years to prevent these problems. Many diseases such as E-coli
> are a result
> of intensive farming systems."
> Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said he
> suspected Gray's
> comments were based on misinformation put about by the agrichemicals
> industry. "Our view is that biological toxins are fine so
> long as we can
> show they are not dangerous and are used in a targeted way.
> If there is
> evidence which challenges that we would revisit the inclusion
> of Bt on the
> permitted list."
> Holden admitted that manure from conventional farms could
> contain E-coli
> or salmonella but said strict rules about how it was used made it
> unlikely that it could contaminate any organic products.
> Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys, a keen fan of organic food,
> said: "I'm
> an expert but my reaction is that this is nonsense. I've been eating
> organic food for 20 years and I haven't suffered from it."
> The comments by Gray, who works at the Institute of
> Terrestrial Ecology's
> Furzebrook research station in Dorset and is vice-president
> of the British
> Ecological Society, threaten to upset the rapidly growing and
> organic market. Supermarkets have doubled their sales of
> organic products
> in the past year. In some sectors, such as baby food, organic products
> represent as much as 40% of the market despite prices which
> can be as much
> as 50% higher.
> Much of the demand is driven by people who are looking for safer,
> food, as well as less intensive farming methods which are said to be
> for the environment and for animal welfare. Food certified by the Soil
> Association must be produced without the use of chemical fertilisers,
> herbicides or pesticides.
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