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November 16, 2006


Unnecessary Alarmists; Illegal Discrimination Against Biotech; Bt Mystery; IFT on Organic Food; Science's Bad Public Image


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - November 16, 2006

* Genetically Modified Foods Are Safe, Weizmann Head Says
* EU Drags Heels on Biotech Food, U.S. Lawmakers Say
* Gunning for GM? Decentralise Monitoring of Trials
* Criticism: What to do About Science's Bad Public Image?
* Organic Mystery: Bt Pesticide May Not Really be an Insect Killer
* How Much Land Is Currently Under GM Crops?
* GM Crop Breakthrough Threat to Monsanto
* Experts Vow to Push Biotech In Agriculture
* IRRI Official Cites Golden Rice Program
* Biotech Acceptance Depends on Govt Funding
* Teaching Modules to Supplement Biotech Units
* IFT Scientific Status Summary - Organic Foods

Genetically Modified Foods Are Safe, Weizmann Head Says

- Janice Arnold, Canadian Jewish News, 25 Cheshvan, 5767 (Nov. 16, 2006) http://www.cjnews.com

Montreal - Genetically modified foods pose no health hazard, says a leading Israeli scientist, who dismissed fear of these products as "ignorance."

Ilan Chet, president of the Weizmann Institute of Science and a professor of soil microbiology, said in Montreal recently that the benefits of such foods far outweigh the "very small risk" that harmful genes might be introduced into a plant. He acknowledged that there is a "marginal risk" to wild vegetation if an introduced gene spreads beyond cultivated crops.

Chet was a guest speaker at an event sponsored by the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute.
When asked if it's possible that in 20 or 30 years genetically modified foods will be found to have harmful effects, Chet responded: "Right now, we don't have the definite answer on exactly what every gene does. It's true, but this is related to everything in life."

He was firm that genetically modified foods should be labelled as such, and he said it was a mistake not to have done so from the beginning, because that has contributed to fear about these products. Chet noted that he is environmentally conscious: much of his career has been devoted to developing the use of micro-organisms as a replacement for chemical pesticides.

A food is said to be genetically modified or engineered when genes from different organisms are transplanted into its DNA, usually to enhance desirable traits such as greater disease resistance or nutrition. In Israel, he said, genetic engineering has developed tomatoes that are drought-resistant and saline-tolerant.

Chet noted that the longstanding practice of cross-breeding also involves the transfer of genetic material. Genetic modification is much the same process, but takes a much shorter time, he said. Genetically modified foods offer hope for the almost one billion people in the world who are malnourished, he said, which makes such foods beneficial not only to them but to peace and order generally.

More well-fed and healthier people means less social unrest and resentment of richer nations, he suggested.
Agriculture is not keeping pace with world population growth, he said. The amount of land under cultivation today with a global population of 5.7 billion is the same as it was in 1960, when there were three billion people on Earth, he said. "It's possible that in 30 years the world population will be 10 billion."

Genetic engineering permits greater yields per acre and improves the nutrient value in foods, and it also adds more variety, he said. Rice, for example, is a staple in much of the world, including many impoverished areas, and it can be modified to have a much higher protein content, he said.

Chet scolded Europeans, in particular, for being unnecessarily alarmist about genetically modified foods, a phenomenon he attributes mainly to the influence of various national Green parties and Britain's Prince Charles.

The affluent world can also enjoy improved health through genetic modification, he said. The market is growing rapidly for "functional foods" that have a higher concentration not only of conventional nutrients, but also of so-called "nutraceuticals," which are believed to reduce susceptibility to chronic disease, among their other benefits.


EU Drags Heels on Biotech Food, U.S. Lawmakers Say

- Missy Ryan, Reuters Nov 15, 2006

The United States must pressure the European Union to stop dragging its feet on approving new imports of bioengineered food, senior U.S. lawmakers said in a letter released on Wednesday. "The EU has avoided for too long its WTO obligations. The illegal discrimination against biotech products on nonscientific grounds must cease," a group of lawmakers said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

Scientists have created bioengineered foods, such as higher vitamin content in rice, by inserting genes from things like daffodils into targeted products. The EU has insisted on careful regulation of bioengineered food to screen for health or environmental risks.

The U.S. lawmakers, including the incoming chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, want European officials to act quickly on the heels of a September 29 ruling by the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body. A main finding of that ruling was that a ban on approving new biotech products, which the EU had in place for four years until 2003, led to "undue delays."

Lawmakers here are skeptical Europe will heed the ruling. "Winning the WTO case without achieving any positive changes in the approval process would greatly erode the credibility of the WTO in the eyes of U.S. agriculture," the lawmakers wrote. The letter was signed by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, who are poised to lead the Senate and House Agriculture committees once Democrats take control of Congress in January.

The committees' outgoing chairs, Republicans Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, also signed the letter, along with the current heads of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

The European Union says its current, updated regime for approving bioengineered products -- including a food safety authority based in Italy -- complies with WTO rules. "The new system is science-based. We've set up a centralized procedure ... that's responsible for doing risk assessment" of bioengineered food, said Canice Nolan, who directs food safety, health and consumer affairs for the EU's delegation in Washington.

Nolan said he disagreed with the letter. Europe has approved only "a handful" of biotech products in the past few years, and some approvals have been pending for over a decade, USTR spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said.

Now, the United States will do everything in its power to ensure European complies with the WTO ruling, she added. Nolan said the European Union had not decided if it would appeal the WTO's ruling. It has until late November to do so.


Gunning for GM? Decentralise Monitoring of Trials to Stem Confusions

- Editorial, Financial Express (India), Nov. 16, 2006 http://www.financialexpress.com

After Bt cotton, it is the turn of a range of genetically modified (GM) crops like rice, mustard, brinjal, tomatoes, etc to face activists' ire. Not long ago, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) members torched a field growing GM rice in Haryana.

More recently, this paper reported that Delhi University's transgenic mustard crop under limited field trials might face problems, thanks to a public interest litigation suspecting the application of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). In the case of Bt cotton too, activists had alleged that the US seed giant Monsanto had a patent on this "terminator technology" that allows the engineering of plants so they can't produce viable seeds, forcing farmers to buy new seeds each season.

But, as Professor Ronald Herring of Cornell University points out in his paper for the forthcoming issue of Critical Asian Studies, the fears about terminator technology turned out to be a hoax born on a now defunct website in Canada! And yes, there is a patent for GURT, but it was not held by Monsanto or incorporated in any commercial crops.

Such developments should be of serious concern to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the regulatory authority for GM crops in India. There are as many as 85 trial sites for a whole range of GM crops being tested all over the country but these seem to be beyond the sight of the GEAC. As brought out in a report in The Indian Express, the regulatory mechanism needs to reach out to the village-level to keep pace with the mushrooming trial sites in contained fields.

The BKU, for its part, has said that the field trial (which it set on fire) was being conducted without the prior knowledge of the state government, district authorities and panchayats; and that seeds had been left unattended after harvesting in a Bt trial rice field in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. This does seem like a mockery of the trial rules framed to eliminate possibilities of contamination. The regulatory authority must closely monitor these trials with the help of state governments if GM crops are to become a reality in India like Bt cotton.


Criticism: What to do About Science's Bad Public Image?

- Boris Striepen, Nature 444, 265, November 16, 2006; www.nature.com (Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, University of Georgia, USA)

Sir: Although you are right to state in your News Feature "In the name of nature" (Nature 443, 498–501; 2006) that environmental activists such as those who fire-bombed a research facility in Olympia, Washington, are misguided, I found your focus on personal flaws and oddities to fall short.

Yes, there are many vegan weirdos out there, but some of them are hard-core genetic engineers working in my laboratory. Science and anti-science have a surprising overlap in subculture. (Count the vegetarians at the next Nature office party.) So it's not just subculture that is driving this small, radical and somewhat erratic movement, but a strengthening groundswell of distrust towards science and scientists.

As Nature is a magazine read mostly by scientists, it would be interesting to explore and analyse how we -- especially we biologists -- managed to become the bad guys. How and why did our public image change from harmless geeks to state- and industry-sponsored evil-doers worthy to be a target? More importantly, what do we do about it? And how do we communicate more effectively what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the opportunities and challenges of modern science are?

So I very much look forward to a follow-up article that won't just have me worried that the friendly tofu-lover I see in one of the Athens clubs tonight will burn down my lab, but will stir me to engage the public in a more effective way.


Organic Mystery: Bt Pesticide May Not Really be an Insect Killer

- David Biello, Scientific American, Dec 2006, http://www.sciam.com

Nichole Broderick thought she knew how Bt toxin worked. After all, the toxic crystal produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis has been known since at least 1911 and widely used as an organic insecticide since the 1950s. Scientists have even genetically engineered various crops to produce the pesticide. According to the accepted model, Bt toxin punches holes in an insect's gut. These pores either allow the bacterium to infect the insect's blood, the so-called hemolymph, or cause the insect to starve.

So when the University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student fed the pesticide to gypsy moth caterpillars that had been cleared with antibiotics of other gut bacteria, she expected it to become even more lethal. "Initially I was testing the hypothesis that the gut bacteria were actually protecting the moth from Bt," she recalls. "I found that once they did not have a gut community [of bacteria], I could no longer kill them with Bt."

That Bt might not be an insecticide on its own would overturn a century's worth of orthodoxy, however. So Broderick ran the experiment several times and sought the advice of microbial ecologist Jo Handelsman and entomologist Ken Raffa, both also at Wisconsin. But the researchers all got the same result in multiple insects and multiple trials. Bt toxin worked best when gypsy moth stomachs hosted their normal complement of bacteria.

Studies on Bt in the past decades have focused on the first steps of Bt's action. "Nobody has really focused on what happens after the toxin makes the holes and the cells die," comments entomologist Juan Jurat-Fuentes of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. "Do the insects recover, or are the other bacteria taking over?" The Wisconsin researchers found, by reintroducing the gut bacteria one by one, that the Enterobacter species NAB3 reinstated Bt's deadliest impact, and subsequent tests showed that this bacterium thrived in the hemolymph, whereas B. thuringiensis quickly died. Further, Escherichia coli engineered to produce the Bt crystal proved equally effective in killing larvae, although not when the bacterium host was dead but still carrying the toxin.

The results may explain the variable effectiveness often seen in Bt; for example, gypsy moths feeding on willow are resistant to the toxin, Raffa notes. Some had argued that the tannins in the willow might be binding to the Bt protein and allowing it to be eliminated, but now Raffa wonders if other compounds in the tree might be affecting Enterobacter, which might be the true killer. "Where it gets to be important is in revisiting our interpretation of some of those earlier findings," he says. It also might help explain the mystery of corn pest Spodoptera frugiperda, more commonly known as the fall armyworm, which develops holes in its gut when exposed to Bt but fails to die. "People had a hard time explaining how this toxin binds and makes pores, but it's not killing the insects," Jurat-Fuentes says.

B. thuringiensis is also rather mysterious: it remains unclear why the bacterium expends so much energy producing the crystals, as it delivers no clear benefit to the microbe. And after roughly 10 years of widespread use in transgenic crops--globally, at least 500,000 square miles of farmland bear plants that produce their own Bt toxin--almost none of the targeted insects have shown signs of immunity, unlike other pesticides. "There is still only one insect, the diamondback moth, that has evolved resistance," observes entomologist Bruce Tabashnik of the University of Arizona.

Although this study suggests that Bt works in conjunction with gut bacteria, perhaps to produce septicemia, the exact killing mechanism remains unknown. Resolving it could lead to ways that prevent Bt resistance or improve the effectiveness of the toxin. At least the research gives new appreciation of the crop pests. "More and more we're seeing that you can't just think of the insect as a single species," Tabashnik remarks. "You have to look at the community of the symbionts it harbors and how that affects how it interacts with its environment."


How Much Land Is Currently Under GM Crops?

- rmcqualter.at.msiri.intnet.mu

In Agbioview Nov 14 2006, James Wachai states "According to the latest report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), about 1 billion acres of land in 21 countries are under genetically modified crops."

I think it actually says something to the effect that more than a billion acres of land have been cultivated with GM crops since cultivation of GM crops started. This is a cumulative total and does not actually mean that a billion acres of GM crops are currently under cultivation. Considering that the earth only has about 7.66 billion acres of arable land in total, 13% of all arable land under GM cultivation certainly would be a significant amount. Does anyone actually know how much land is currently under GM crops?
Response From: Prakash. Please see


"The global area of approved biotech crops in 2005 was 90 million hectares, equivalent to 222 million acres"


GM Crop Breakthrough Threat to Monsanto

-Clive Cookson, The Financial Times, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15737333/

A San Diego company will on Thursday unveil a technology that can deliver the benefits of genetic modification without inserting foreign genes into a crop in move that could transform the multibillion dollar agricultural biotech market.

Cibus, which has been funded quietly for several years by a group of biotechnology investors in the US, believes there is huge potential in its non-transgenic technology for introducing "traits" such as herbicide resistance into plants.

It will be particularly appealing in regions such as Europe, where strong political and environmental opposition has blocked the introduction of GM crops. But Stephen Evans-Freke, the company's chairman, expects Cibus also to prosper in countries such as the US where farmers have embraced GM. Its Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS) will provide a less expensive alternative to GM seeds, he says.

The global market for GM seeds and traits is growing by about 10 per cent a year and will be worth $6.15bn in 2006, according to Cropnosis, the Edinburgh-based consultancy. Mr Evans-Freke - one of the best-known US biotech entrepreneurs - makes clear that Cibus will be gunning commercially for Monsanto, bęte noire of environmental campaigners, whose herbicide-resistant crops dominate the GM business.

Such products enable farmers to kill weeds by spraying with a particular herbicide such as Monsanto's Roundup, without harming the crop. Today's debut announcement concerns a relatively minor crop, sorghum, which has had a low priority for GM seed companies. Cibus will collaborate with the US National Grain Sorghum Producers Foundation to develop new traits for the cereal.

Cibus - named after the Latin word for food - expects to hit the herbicide-resistant seed market with canola (oilseed rape) next year and rice in 2008. The RTDS technology uses the plant's own genetic machinery to change its DNA, through a process known as site-directed mutagenesis.

This is standard practice for bacteria but Cibus is the first company to develop a fast and reliable way of applying it to plants. "Essentially they are directing and greatly speeding up natural selection," says Guy Cardineau, a professor at Arizona State University. He is one of several independent plant scientists who have evaluated RTDS and are enthusiastic about its potential.

Mr Evans-Freke says a group of private investors have spent $20m - $30m over the past six years, funding a team of about 20 scientists at Cibus. "We kept very quiet until we had secured our intellectual property and obtained robust proof of principle for the technology across two major crops," he says.


Experts Vow to Push Biotech In Agriculture

- Jonathan L. Mayuga, BusinessMirror (Philippines), Nov. 14, 2006

Experts in the field of biotechnology late last week ended a week long workshop on biotechnology with the resolve to adopt biotechnological advances in agriculture and expand the propagation of transgenic plants and trees and solve problems related to food security, treatment of incurable diseases and global reforestation.

Their findings become more crucial as the experts in Canada warned about overfishing, which could deplete the seafood supply by 2048, or a mere two generations away. Korea's Kim Donghern, the lead shepherd of the event, the 10th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group-Research, Development and Extension of Agricultural Biotechnology, cited the need to harness the potentials of biotechnology, not only for food, but for the environment, as well.

Korea is now stepping up the development of transgenic trees and expressed willingness to share information and technology to come up with fast-growing trees that can replenish the world's already bald forest with trees.

Boris Worn of Dalhousie University in Canada said in the November 3 issue of the journal Science that in 2003, the catch of 29 percent of fished species had collapsed by 90 percent, indicating that these species are not reproducing as quickly as humanity consumes them. The impact of collapsing species would be terrible, Worn warned, since it would lead to an unraveling of the entire global ecosystem.

Biotechnology experts are now rushing to respond to some of these scientific findings and they are feverishly working on developing transgenic fish that reproduce quicker and in bigger volumes. A. R. Kapuscinski discussed the production of transgenic fish, which was originally developed, only for the aquarium market, with GloFish as the first transgenic fish that glows due to the action of a fluorescent protein that affects the skeletal muscle of the fish.

Now, the trend is for the development of fish species that grow quickly and provide abundant food for humans. Many types of shellfish are also being developed, even as Kapuscinski says environmental biosafety concerns have cropped up over the control of these fish species.

Gupta said the campaign to produce medicines using plants has advanced to the extent that plant-derived pharmaceutical proteins (PDPs) may soon be used to produce drugs on a commercial scale even in developing countries. He added this became evident in 1990, when the human serum albumin was produced from transgenic tobacco and potato, advances had been made to expand the range of PDPs derived from other plants.

Transgenic plants, he added, are now producing therapeutic proteins, including antibodies, blood products, cytokines, growth factors, hormones, recombinant enzymes and human and veterinary vaccines. According to him, farmers in Third World countries may profit from this development since current research indicate that molecular farming will supplant existing pharmaceutical-production techniques that use bacteria, yeast and cultured mammalian cells.

The possibility of unlimited production of PDPs is already there, Gupta added, and pharmaceutical plants represent the wave of the future as far as agriculture is concerned. He noted that PDPs are crucial to the management and treatment of major diseases and efforts are now being undertaken to commercialize their production for therapeutic uses.

Among the diseases that PDPs could potentially cure are non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, dental caries, diarrhea, cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, Hepatitis B, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, Norwalk virus infections and rabies.


IRRI Official Cites Golden Rice Program

- Marvyn N. Benaning, Manila Bulletin, Nov. 12, 2006

Los Bańos, Laguna - The country has a better chance of reducing the Vitamin A deficiency of more than a third of its young if it pursues the expansion of hectarage devoted to the cultivation of the RC82 rice variety.

This was the assessment made by Dr. Gerard Barry, chief of the Intellectual Property Management (IPM) unit of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) here, during the workshop of biotechnology experts from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) at the Diamond Hotel in Manila from Nov. 5-12. Barry also wants all member-nations of the APEC to support the Golden Rice Program to battle the prevalent Vitamin A and other micronutrient deficiencies in Third World Countries.

The IRRI official told participants at the 10th APEC Agricultural Technical Core Working Group (ATCWG) Research, Development, Extension of Agricultural Biotechnology workshop that it is not only logical but absolutely necessary to enhance the nutritional value of rice if developing countries want to defeat the scourge on health posed by vitamin deficiency, especially among children.

In the Philippines, Barry stressed, the problem can be confronted positively, saying "this is easy since RC82 grows all over the country, including areas where there are very high deficiencies in Vitamin A." He noted that the problem has been recognized by the government, which is developing a three-in-one variety, a non-transgenic bacterial leaf blight-and tungro-resistant rice combined with transgenic Golden Rice.

Aside from the Philippines, South Korea and China have joined the campaign for biofortification of rice as other companies like HarvestPlus have been breeding crops that are rich in iron, zinc, and pro-vitamin A. Among these crops are wheat, maize, sweet potato, beans, and cassava.

Barry is a firm believer in Golden Rice, a polished rice that contains beta carotene, the plant precursor of Vitamin A, which he sees as the main solution to micronutrient deficiencies in poor countries. The IRRI, he said, along with the National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES), are backcrossing prototypes into popular rice varieties in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, and other countries.

Barry foresees the further development of these rice strains to combat nutritional problems in many countries. Fortified rice is better than distributing supplements that eventually do not reach the target public, he admitted.


Biotech Acceptance Depends on Govt Funding

- Jennifer A. Ng, BusinessMirror (Phillipines), Nov. 10, 2006

Farmers in poor countries such as the Philippines will realize huge gains from biotechnology if their governments would increase its investments in biotech research and development (R&D) with the aim of popularizing the use of a particular technology.

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) deputy director-general William Padolina also said increased cooperation between rich and poor countries through knowledge-sharing will ensure that farmers in poor countries will benefit from biotechnology.

"We in IRRI would like to see more active participation of public institutions in technology generation. There should be more public investments," said Padolina at the sidelines of the 3rd Asian Biotechnology Conference held in Manila. The conference, which kicked off Wednesday and will last until today, underscores the dramatic impact of biotechnology on the development of developing countries in Asia.

To enable farmers of poor countries to realize the benefits of biotechnology, Padolina said their governments should put more money into research for new technologies that will be made available to farmers for free. "The [resulting products] should be considered as 'public goods' [which] should be distributed and used freely," he said, citing as an example the need to introduce innovations in seed production.

While this would mean more money out of the Philippine government's coffers, an improvement in farmers' incomes and the resulting increase in their purchasing power will be good for the Philippine economy, he said.

On the part of the private sector, Padolina said companies in rich countries can consider sharing their technologies to institutions that allow poor countries to access it under certain conditions, especially if the technology will result vast improvements in food production.

"One example is the so-called 'Golden Rice', the technology was developed by the private sector but they have committed to donate it to IRRI," he said. With the availability of this technology, the Philippines through its Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is now developing a rice variant enriched with Vitamin A, which it has dubbed 'Golden Rice'.


Self-Contained Teaching Modules Can Supplement Biotechnology Units

- Iowa Biotech Educator, Nov. 2006, http://www.biotech.iastate.edu

Calling all K-12 educators who would like to use real-life examples of products and technologies to teach about biotechnology but have no time to write new lesson plans --- do we have a deal for you! Iowa State University's Office of Biotechnology and ISU Extension have written curriculum units for busy educators, complete with lesson plans, student handouts, overhead transparency masters, and Internet resources.

In the past few years, eight of these self-contained biotechnology curriculum units have been made available by Iowa State. Educators can choose to add only a day or two of biotechnology activities to their current curriculum or several weeks of biotechnology experience for their students. Many of the curriculum units are available as free downloadable PDF files or can be ordered as a low-cost CD or as a printed copy. See



IFT Scientific Status Summary - Organic Foods

- Carl K. Winter and Sarah F. Davis, Journal of Food Science Online

The Inst. of Food Technologists has issued this Scientific Status Summary to update readers on the organic foods industry. Full review at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00196.x

Conclusions: The popularity of organic foods continues to grow dramatically: organic foods now constitute more than 2% of all food sales, and sales of organic foods in the United States surpassed $13.8 billion in 2005 (Organic Trade Assn. 2006). Consumers purchasing organic foods may do so for a number of reasons, including perceived benefits to the environment, animal welfare, and worker safety, and the perception that organic foods are safer and more nutritious.

This review discusses the differences between organic foods and conventional foods with respect to food safety and nutritional composition and makes clear that several qualitative differences exist. Organic fruits and vegetables possess fewer pesticide residues and lower nitrate levels than do conventional fruits and vegetables. In some cases, organic foods may have higher levels of plant secondary metabolites; this may be beneficial with respect to suspected antioxidants such as polyphenolic compounds, but also may be of potential health concern when considering naturally occurring toxins. Some studies have suggested potential increased microbiological hazards from organic produce or animal products due to the prohibition of antimicrobial use, yet other studies have not reached the same conclusion. Bacterial isolates from food animals raised organically appear to show less resistance to antimicrobial agents than those from food animals raised conventionally (IFT 2006).

While many studies demonstrate these qualitative differences between organic and conventional foods, it is premature to conclude that either food system is superior to the other with respect to safety or nutritional composition. Pesticide residues, naturally occurring toxins, nitrates, and polyphenolic compounds exert their health risks or benefits on a dose-related basis, and data do not yet exist to ascertain whether the differences in the levels of such chemicals between organic foods and conventional foods are of biological significance.

This review illustrates that tradeoffs exist between organic and conventional food production. Organic fruits and vegetables rely upon far fewer pesticides than do conventional fruits and vegetables, which results in fewer pesticide residues, but may also stimulate the production of naturally occurring toxins if organic crops are subject to increased pest pressures from insects, weeds, or plant diseases. Because organic fruits and vegetables do not use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, they have more biochemical energy to synthesize beneficial secondary plant metabolites such as polyphenolic antioxidants as well as naturally occurring toxins. In some cases, food animals produced organically have the potential to possess higher rates of bacterial contamination than those produced conventionally since organic production generally prohibits antibiotic use.

The prohibition of antimicrobial agents also explains the apparent lower incidence of antimicrobial resistance in bacterial isolates of organic food animals, as some studies have shown a correlation between increased rates of antibiotic use and increased antimicrobial resistance.