August 16, 1999
Mr. Ned Crabb
The Wall Street Journal
Dear Mr. Crabb:
Regarding the August 12th column 'Why Greens Should Love Pesticides' by
Dennis T. Avery, director of the Center for Global Food Issues for the
It is very sad that Mr. Avery persists in portraying organic food
as a return to agricultural systems that do not utilize any of the
advances of the last 50 years and produce poor yields. The challenges of
agricultural production are, in fact, far more complex than Mr. Avery
suggests in his black and white statements about yields, wildlands and
Based on scientific research at The Rodale Institute, we can discount
Avery's suggestion that organic agriculture is "low yielding,
agriculture." In fact, conventional and organic farming both rely on
technology advances and sophisticated knowledge of crop requirements.
primary difference is that organic agriculture, far more than
based conventional agriculture, attempts to understand and manage
processes in order to optimize yields while reducing environmental
Organic management depends more on applied ecology and less on applied
chemistry than does conventional agriculture. Research at The Rodale
Institute and land grant universities, comparing conventional and
crop production, has shown that organic systems can produce yields that
similar to the same crop under conventional management.
Just as Mr. Avery's remarks about yields are erroneous, so too is his
industrial agriculture as an environmentally benign world-saving
Unfortunately, the "wildlands" have been damaged by the industrial
agriculture that is purported to protect them. Extensive scientific
literature demonstrates without question that there are numerous
problems resulting from the widespread use of agricultural chemicals.
many cases, the direct effects on human health are not fully understood
the chemical has already been in use for decades. This is partly
effects of toxins on animals, particularly long-lived animals such as
are often not visible immediately and may only be evident in the next
generation. The carcinogenic effects of DES on the daughters of mothers
took the drug twenty years beforehand are case in point.
The future of agricultural production is complex, but what is clear is
food production is a crucial issue for us all to consider. At present,
little research has focused on the development of organic crop
techniques and therefore, if the world stopped using all pesticides and
synthetic fertilizers tomorrow, yields would indeed suffer. However,
than decry the organic system, our universal goal should be to increase
research into environmentally sound production systems without resorting
an increase in pesticide use, in order to ensure access to healthy food
everyone, while protecting our natural resources.
Laurie E. Drinkwater, Ph.D.
Director, US Regenerative Agriculture Resource Center
Laurie E. Drinkwater, Ph.D.
Director, US RARC
611 Siegfriedale Road
Kutztown, PA 19530
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