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June 6, 2000


Organic food


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

Subj: RE: Natural Law Party: Biotechnololgy and sustainable agriculture
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 1:54:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Clothier, Jeffrey"

It is amazing to me that with regard to environmental concerns, human
life and scientific method, those who would tend to agree with the Natural
Law Party, our own Dr. Houseal, and others, take what they describe as a
"holistic" approach. However, with regard to genetic science they are
entirely "reductionist." They speak of the danger of "crossing species
boundaries" as if that actually meant something on the genetic level. To
use a ridiculous example, inserting a gene from a flounder into a tomato
does not make the tomato less "tomato-like" and more "fish-like," yet this
is what I perceive they fear, as if they have seen the movie "The Fly" a
few too many times, and believe this is the way transgenics actually

A gene is neither fish nor fowl, and does not care whether it resides in
the genome of a fish, a tomato or a fruitfly. All it does is confer or
promote a trait that may or may not express itself in the phenotype of
which it is ultimately a part. A "holistic" view of gene science then,
would be more open to the possibility that an organism blessed by a
certain trait could safely donate the associated gene or genes to another,
with or without human intervention. It is almost cliche' that we share the
majority of our genetic makeup with nearly all living species on earth.
Looked at in the right way, this should be a source of comfort to the good
folks at the NLP as they consider biotechnology, rather than a source of

Jeff Clothier
Web Coordinator
Employee Communications
Pioneer Hi-Bred, Int'l, Inc.
Des Moines, IA 50306

Subj: Re: Organic food
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 2:49:32 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Rick Roush

>In a message dated 6/1/00 8:41:31 AM Central Daylight Time,
>aavery@rica.net writes:
><< If one can demonstrate qualitative differences between organic foods
>over conventionally-grown foods, then the "USDA Certified Organic" label
>can be called something other than a marketing tool. Otherwise, it is
>that. >>

>Dr. Houseal replied:
>Your fear is the label becomes tantamount to government acknowledgement
>that organic food is superior to conventional food. Food covered in
>pesticides is different than food not covered in pesticides. Ingesting
>pesticides is not the same as not ingesting pesticides. The techniques
>undeniably different; debatably superior.

Organic is a production method, but Dr. Houseal implies that
conventionally grown food is "covered" in pesticides. In fact, tests
routinely fail to find any detectable pesticide residues in more than 95%
of foods sampled, at least in the US and Australia. The organics industry
is pushing for a certification system here in Australia, and freely admits
that they need it because chemical testing alone would not distinguish
between the products.

Organic is a production system, and may also legitimately be a marketing
tactic based on a consumer desire to make a political comment about
protecting the environment and reducing farm worker exposure to chemicals.
However, I too would challenge Dr. Houseal to show there are benefits in
safety or nutrition for the consumer.


*PLEASE NOTE NEW EMAIL ADDRESS: rick.roush@adelaide.edu.au

Subj: RE: Development in Danger, Suurkula
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 2:47:32 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Meyer, David"

Dear AgBioView readers:

Again, we are seeing in articles posted recently, the "creep" of fuzzy
thinking into our discussions and also our public writings.

Let me reiterate that TRUTH IS INDEPENDENT OF ITS SOURCE! The repeated
appeal to ad hominem arguments suggesting that one's particular
circumstance (e.g. receiving money from the biotech industry) makes
suspect (if not dismissible as complete fabrication based solely on that
circumstance) is disconcerting. We biotech proponents should especially
avoid using such arguments, as they are all to often leveled at us. This
type of argument is a well-known logical fallacy which is emotionally
persuasive and
particularly insidious.

We would do well to try to always keep discourse rational and to educate
people on that basis. If nothing else, perhaps some people will start
thinking more logically even if their opinions of agricultural
biotechnology remain unchanged! This alone would make the world a better
place, and would
give people a useful tool in evaluating arguments about change of any
type in our world.

David J. Meyer, Ph.D.20
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.20
7300 NW 62nd Ave20
PO Box 100420
Johnston, IA 50131-100420

Tel: 515/254-263920
FAX: 515/254-261920

"Tell a man there are 400 billion stars and he'll believe you;
tell him a bench has wet paint and he has to touch it."

Subj: Re: Organic food
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 12:18:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Meredith Lloyd Evans - BioBridge"

The big questions about organic food and farming seem to me to partly
sociological and partly economic. They seem to have very little to do with

Why is exactly the same crop (albeit with greater natural phytotoxins and
mycotoxins and no deliberate nanoresidues of agrochemicals) defined by the
organicists of the environmental NGOs and brownshirts of the Soil
Association and their ilk as 'pure' and the only allowable form of crop?
This is a self-serving definition that is akin to purging art, music,
scientific thought, books and ultimately people because they're 'Jewish'
or 'Black' or are part of a wealth-creation ethos.

How come organicists and brownshirts of the environmental multinationals
can trample gm crops, when we can't trample organic crops? Have you
smashed the windows of a health-food store recently? Have you threatened
the families of the board of Greenpeace in the same way that biotech
people get scared? How far would Melchett have got if, instead of
trampling GM crops in Norfolk UK, he'd trampled a few Bangladeshi children
at a local school because what they represented offended him and he was
concerned they would 'pollute the environment'? Can we state that this is,
in effect, what anyone who opposes
gm crops is doing?

How come such brownshirts of the environment have such a clout and a sway
on public opinion and on government? Is it because people in western
economies feel guilty about having 50 kinds of bacon in the supermarkets?
Are we infected with the Gaia theory, which is essentially anti-people?
Clearly there is some background here of 'government paying farmers not to
produce', giving the impression of an unnatural over-production of crops.
How can this imbalance in influence in Western Europe be redressed with
some direct action?

What facts do we have that show that organic farming:

* exerts less pressure on the physical environment compared with an equal
production from normal farming
* exerts less pressure on the biological environment compared with an
equal production from normal farming
* causes no genetic pollution compared with normal farming or use of
biotechnology-improved crops
* results in tastier food than normal cultivation and/or use of
* results in safer food than normal cultivation and use of biotechnology
* results in more 'wholesome' food than normal cultivation and use of
* results in more nutritious food than normal cultivation and use of
* is more sustainable in the sense of not requiring an ever-increasing
amount of inputs for the same yield, leaving the soil structure better at
the end of a season than at the start, or in better condition season by
season, retaining soil layer thickness, leading to a more biodiverse
farmed environment, and any other components that form a realistic and
thought-through definition of 'sustainable'.

What facts do we have to show that any of the above are exactly NOT true
for organic farming.

How far are we from having compelling data, developed in such a way that
it can be seen to be unbiased, that the use of biotechnology for
improvement of crops results in measurable benefits that are claimed for
organic farming? If there is such data that shows benefits to all links in
the chain (i.e. the so-called 'stakeholders' including the environment,
farmed and 'natural', then let's splash it around ruthlessly. There must
be a story in the fact that, with some effort, these improvements can be
instituted in more than 90% of cultivated acreage of relevant crops,
therefore with immediate effects compared with the application of fascist
organic tactics and techniques.

We say that organic farming simply cannot feed the expected large number
of people to come in the world, but on what facts and knowledge do we base
this statement? We believe it intuitively true, just as the 'other side'
believe it to be true that 'organic', 'sustainable', ethnic, multicrop
farming is the only way forward. We assume that in western-style normal
farming, output is necessary to feed our populations. If we took into
account the recommended calorie intakes and dietary mix of food types for
healthy living as opposed to obesity, what impact does this have on the
requirements for per acre/hectare production? Would the same land amount,
producing at the average 'organic' output, satisfy this demand for UK,
France etc.

Austria and Germany have probably the highest percentages of organic
farming in Europe. How productive are they? If they are less so than
normal farms, do normal farms have to work harder to make up for the
deficit? Are Austria and Germany net exporters or importers of the
crop-types involved in organic
production? Are they more reliant on imports because of their level of
organic production? Are there some crops they can't grow in an organic
fashion because of agronomic requirements?

If the majority of indebted, impoverished and undeveloped nations
(?'least favoured nations?) are truly 'organic' and make love to their
soils rather than use a tractor (is this what Mae Wan Ho is on about??),
what percentage of farming peoples are at or below the breadline,
starvation level, in spite of all the 'benefits' of their organic
"sustainable" life-style? Are we talking about 5%, 10%, 15%, 25%, 2
million, 200 million, 500 million, what are the numbers, as far as we can
tell? How much additional food would subsistence farmers need to produce
in a fully-'organic' fashion to bring up the nutrients in the diets of
their families and themselves above the breadline, starvation level?
Therefore, how much additional land? I know that this information is
available from other sources, such as World Bank (Serageldin) or FAO, but
it is tantalisingly not pulled together, as far as I know (unless on

Have I missed any of the huge questions and challenging thoughts in this

Mr Meredith Lloyd-Evans, Managing Partner BioBridge Associates & Arcadia
International eeig; 45 St Barnabas Road, Cambridge CB1 2BX tel +44 1223
566850, fax +44 1223 470222
Support Raleigh International in Belize, sponsor Rebecca Lloyd-Evans for
Belize project, contact rebecca@biobridge.co.uk for more details!

Subj: Re: Anthony Trewavas - GM is the best option we have
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 1:36:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Meredith Lloyd Evans - BioBridge"

Water - the battleground of the future.
Suppose we are successful in growing enough crops to feed, locally, using
appropriate technologies including biotechnology, to feed the extra
Where is the water requirement for this extra crops coming from?

Mr Meredith Lloyd-Evans, Managing Partner BioBridge Associates & Arcadia
International eeig; 45 St Barnabas Road, Cambridge CB1 2BX tel +44 1223
566850, fax +44 1223 470222
Support Raleigh International in Belize, sponsor Rebecca Lloyd-Evans for
Belize project, contact rebecca@biobridge.co.uk for more details!