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June 4, 2000


Organic food - 11 contributions


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Date: Jun 03 2000 15:51:46 EDT
From: Zeami2000@aol.com
Subject: Re: Organic food

In a message dated 6/2/00 1:39:06 PM Central Daylight Time,
AgBioView-owner@listbot.com writes:

Subj: Re: Responses to Dr. Houseal
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 1:27:19 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Andrew Apel

Dr. Houseal exemplifies the adage: "For those with faith, proof is
unnecessary; for those without faith, no proof is enough." He has faith in
organic food, therefore scientific proofs are unnecessary; he has no faith
in science, therefore no scientific proofs will ever be enough.

Those who follow activist rhetoric will find this theme familiar.
___ >>

I cannot think when anyone has ever so thoroughly mis-represented me. Well
done! Such imagination.
Joseph Houseal

Subj: RE: Responses to Dr. Houseal
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 9:47:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Clothier, Jeffrey"

Dr. Houseal relies largely on "feel," "intuition," and anecdotal reports
of others in his support of so-called "organic" foods, holistic medicine,
etc. Read his argumentation carefully and you realize that he will never
be inclined to produce objective evidence because his worldview discounts
what most of us contributing to this list would consider "evidence" as
authoritative. This is truly a belief system we are dealing with, not just
with regard to the good Doctor, but with regard to the anti-biotech
movement in general. This is what is so difficult for many of us to wrap
our heads around.

To someone of this mindset, a bushel basket full of objective facts and
figures is nothing compared to one good "feeling." Anything produced or
capable of being demonstrated by scientific means as opposed to just
happening by accident ("Nature") is AUTOMATICALLY suspect because it
doesn't "feel natural." Proponents of "organic" foods count on this and
market accordingly. They are more adept at speaking to this audience than
we are, and they know their profit-margins depend upon it. This is not to
say that
we must adopt this mindset. If we did, there would be no such thing as
"biotech" and the benefits it produces. But we must cultivate a better
understanding of where these people's attitudes and beliefs come from. It
is essentially a pagan, pantheistic worldview that would hold, for
example, that a beaver dam, built by beavers for beaver's purposes, is
part of "Nature" but Hoover Dam, built by humans for human purposes is
"unnatural" and therefore evil.

Subj: RE: Organic food
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 8:57:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Jamie Bishop"

Organic food earns a higher market price because of health claims,
implied or stated. A government label would serve as a stamp of approval
for those implied claims, no matter how this is couched by policy makers
or organic marketers. For many consumers, organic sources do not add
enough value to
justify the higher price. For others, it is pricing based on a
questionable health premise.

Organic food must earn a price premium in order to be economically
feasible. Small farms (with a small economy of scale) must earn added
value to profit from marketing to directly service consumers, or more
generally for a complex market channel to recover extra costs associated
with segration, certification, etc. Higher margins are needed to recover
costs and deliver on profit margin expections in more traditional market
channels from grower through processor to retailer to consumer.

Consumers buy it because they believe that how it was produced is safer
or better tasting for them. Maybe a few others prefer to buy directly from
farmers because they want to know where their food comes from or they feel
good that this is socially responsible.

But it is silly for the government, and disingenuous organic industry, to
argue that organic certification is limited to compliance with production
processes. That is the basis of its premium price. Price is one of the
main tools of marketing, also including place and promotion. Just like
automakers promote government required mileage or safety standards.

But labeling is also regulation -- and it would protect people preferring
these products from being ripped off by falsely labeled goods.

And, unlike proposals to label genetically modified grains, the organic
consumer bears the cost of labeling, just as they bear the added costs
associated with producing, segregating, transporting and marketing these

If it is true that organically produced crops, particularly raw produce,
are more likely to contain potentially harmful microbes, the consumer
should also be aware of and protected from this added "raw deal". It
would also be the subject of appropriate education for consumers who
believe there is value in avoiding residues of pesticides, synthetic or
organic chemicals precisely which, if any, of these products are used in
certified organic production.

We should keep in mind however, as one knowledgeable industry leader said
to me the other day, that biotech defenders should tread very carefully
into public positions that criticize organic foods.

Organic foods, while holding a very small segment of the market, enjoy
widespread favorable ratings, even by non-users. These favorable ratings
significantly exceed the percentage of people favoring biotech by a large
margin. It is less than convincing to criticize those more popular than
oneself, especially in such an intimate area as what one ingests.

The baby may be ugly, but mother and father will regard with poor grace
the bearer of this unwelcome truth. It is fair game, however, for
knowledgable sources to direct the attention of regulators to potential
misuse of their regulations.

Jamie Bishop
Bader Rutter & Associates

Subj: Venting against Organic
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 1:51:24 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Andrew Apel

I don't think anyone in this group is against organic food and agriculture
per se. They are, however, against the outrageous lies and distortions
promulgated by the advocates of organic agriculture. They are
understandably outraged at how a benign science is maligned by the organic
contingent. If organic agricultural interests had not turned anti-science,
aligned themselves with the eco-reactionaries and fanned the flames of
fear over biotechnology to gain market share, you wouldn't hear a peep out
of this group about their odd insistence on antique farming practices. We
don't complain about the Amish, now, do we?

Bob Zeigler wrote:

I think you are right that people in this discussion probably do not do
ourselves good by venting against organic food and agriculture. It
probably is an expression of extreme frustration that I feel myself ever
more frequently.

Subj: Antics with Organics
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 5:44:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Andrew Apel

Houseal wishes to imply that the "organic" label at least means that food
won't have pesticide residues on them, in contrast to foods produced with
traditional methods. This is, of course, one of the erroneous
preconceptions which the "organic" seal would perpetuate. In point of
fact, the same residue limits for pesticide and herbicide residues apply
to organically- and traditionally-grown foods.

Therefore, by consuming "organic" foods, one has no assurance whatsoever
that one is not consuming pesticides or herbicides.

Marketing is one thing; swallowing one's own hype is another.

Subj: RE: Organic food
Date: Sun, 4 Jun 2000 4:55:35 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "HARD, DOUGLAS L [FND/5040]"

Based on my view of history -- blind faith (or beliefs based on little to
no measurable evidence) often leads to what are eventually proven to be
incorrect conclusions - Let's hope Dr. Houseal is never selected for jury
duty where an innocent defendent's case is dependent upon scientific

Douglas L Hard, PhD
Director, Biotechnology
Agriculture Sector
Monsanto, Europe/Africa
Brussels, BELGIUM

Subj: USDA At Risk
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 4:00:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Andrew Apel


By now we are all familiar with the survey which disclosed that most
consumers would equate the USDA "organic" label with superior safety,
taste and nutrition. Let us suppose that the USDA does NOT add to the
label words which say that the label does not imply superior safety, taste
or nutrition.

Let us further suppose, via the vaunted 'precautionary principle,' that
thousands of consumers are sickened, and hundreds die, from an outbreak of
E. coli after consuming something bearing the USDA "organic" label.
Without the cautionary words added, 67 percent of consumers will blame the
USDA, with a corresponding loss in consumer confidence, and the US will be
like Europe, where regulators are so
caught up in politics that they have no credibility whatsoever.

If we in the US are to have labeling which is not science-based,
consumers have to be warned that the labeling is not science-based. I
promise you, if proposed "organic" labeling is not modified to tell
consumers how little non-scientific labeling means, we are headed for the
regulatory credibility crisis which the eco-reactionaries most fervently
hope to foment.

Any pragmatic "organic" proponent would want the "organic" label to
announce that it is a farming philosophy which has nothing to do with food
quality. Why? Because, when "organic" produce proliferates on store
shelves and consumers fall sick by the dozens and hundreds and thousands,
they will not want everything with the "organic" label to be synonymous
with "uncontrollable diarrhea and permanent damage to internal organs."

Let's all be smart about this.

Subj: Re: Responses to Dr. Houseal
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 4:38:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Bob MacGregor

Dr. Houseal (et al)
I was surprised not to see anyone mention how Kathryn DiMatteo, of
Organic Trade Association, in her 20/20 interview was unable to state that
organic food was healthier or more nutritious than conventional food; her
claim that it was better for the environment is even shakier, given the
substantially lower average yields per acre of organic production.
Certainly, if there were any evidence that organic food was safer or
healthier, a representative of the OTA would have pointed this out. In
any case, it isn't really USDA's fault if consumers incorrectly believe
that organic foods are more nutritious or healthier (for them or the
planet); this is a result of long and careful nurturing by the organic
industry abetted by decades of negative
press for conventional agriculture. If I could establish a movement
which produced food watered using only herbal teas made with natural
rainwater, gave it a name and convinced USDA to label it as "certified
teaganic" produce, it would be a big hit with those consumers who believed
that this product was somehow better-- however, that wouldn't make it any

As for acupuncture, it's effectiveness can and has been studied with
scientific, clinical trials. In addition to comparing it with other
therapies, like drugs, I recollect that experiments have even tested the
placebo effect by placing needles away from the traditional acupuncture
sites. These studies have tended to show that acupunture does have a
beneficial effect and that there is something to the placement of the
needles. I have none of this literature at hand, but I'm pretty sure
that researchers also found a significant placebo effect-- as is true of
so many other treatments, people just want the doctor to DO something to
make them
feel better; sometimes just the act of doing something is enough to make
a difference.

Finally, for many people, the attitude change implicit in boldly
undertaking alternative treatment and lifestyle solutions to health
problems may be the key to uplifting their health-- taking contol of and
responsibility for the wellbeing of your body can make a difference; the
power of positive thinking
has also been tested, scientifically, and is now part of many
conventional hospital therapy programs, eg for cancer patients.


Subj: Re: Organic food
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 7:34:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: john.hipskind@nabri.Novartis.com

In all of the discussion concerning "organic" food vs "traditional", has
anyone studied the ratio of cost/yield.

I ask this only because it appears to me that organically grown foods are
much more expensive at the "all natural" grocery stores or other food
store chains.

Given the relatively low yields, how can organic farmers compete in the
marketplace without charging excessively for their produce? They are a
for-profit business, afterall.

Therefore, I can only conclude the clamore for organic labelling is just a
marketing tool to justify much higher prices of an unsubstatiated "more
nutritious/healthy" product.

Subj: Re: E-coli in organic produce
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 8:41:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Paul Geiger"

Dear All:
Regarding below: we now have a gigantic public experiment going on in UK.
How many will be sick from E. Coli by ingesting organic foods? Statistics
collection anyone? Progressive study monies available for a huge survey?


Subj: RE: Organic food
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 6:16:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Scott.Carpenter@aventis.com

If organic food is labelled because it is a production system, why not
label other farming methods such as minimum till (which often uses
herbicides and biotech) that has a clear benefit over traditional methods
such as constantly ploughing the soil (often required when using organic
practices). There have been many reported benefits of minimum till
cropping methods in Australian farming Journals (and possibly worldwide)
such as reduced erosion, increased soil structure etc. However, this
production method, is
making no claim for a label.

I have no problem with labelling food organically grown, as long as it
does not imply that it is better for you (which has not been proven). I
have eaten produce from "normal" farms which taste just as good as organic
foods. Why? Because they were allowed to ripen for longer while attached
to the plant. However, we rarely eat seasonal food nowadays, food is
imported from long distances and "ripened" just before sale which means
that they have to be picked green. Picking and carting ripe fruit is more
labour intensive and results in more waste (due to bruising and shorter
shelf life). People often comment in the differences in organic and
non-organic fruit, however cereals, potatoes etc have no noticeable
difference as they are more
tolerant to rough handling.

Joseph, I am glad that you have over come many health problems when you
changed your lifestyle to include organic foods. However, how can you be
certain that the change to organic food was the catalyst and not the other
lifestyle changes? I have yet met a martial arts instructor nor a doctor
of oriental medicine that has suggested organic foods and aversion to
other foods. However, I have met a few Westerners who practice
"alternative" medicines that have. Maybe us Westerners still don't
understand what they are showing us.