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August 7, 2000




Tom, thank you for the interesting post with the
various citations. I have done some research for a
current events class in which I'm looking at food
scares. Using this recent example raises several
questions that perhaps someone on the list can answer.

First, I am quite confused. Is ABC News simply inept
at handling a simple defense of well published
information, or are there other professional hands at
work here attempting to spread disinformation to use
one reporting error to discredit 20/20's entire

From what I've read, it looks like Mr. Stossel biggest
mistake was to use the word "our" in front of "studies
show similar pesticide levels found on organic

How does that translate to the slew of wire reports
and stories that range from Hollywood's Variety to the
New York Times stating ABC report on organics was
"wrong?" From all the available research, it is
apparent the content was correct; however, the source
was misrepresented. For that Stossel or his editors
should correct the record; however, an on-air apology?

What about the evidence:

* NUTRITION ADVISER; Vol. 23, No. 12; Pg. 15, Should
You Opt for Organic?, By Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, RD:
"FDA surveys find similar pesticide levels in both
organic and nonorganic foods. Even when organic foods
are grown according to state regulations, runoff
water, soil shifting, and pesticides floating in the
air may still result in pesticides getting on food."

* Organic foods: are they better? J Am Dietet Assoc
1990;90(3):pp 367, 370; and, Physician and Sports
Medicine, December, 1995 cites pesticide residue
levels found on organic foods.

* Newsweek, June 1, 1998, Pg. 54, Is Organic
Better?,BY LAURA SHAPIRO, "Consumer Reports recently
tested organic and conventional produce and found
pesticide residues on both..." [75% on non-organic,
25% on organic -- both amounts of residues were within
federal guidelines])

* Organically grown' is no guarantee, San Diego
Union-Tribune, August 21, 1986, pg.32: "Paying a
premium price for organically grown produce is no
guarantee that the food is free of pesticide residues.
In fact, in a number of studies in different parts of
the country, some so-called organically grown fruits
and vegetables had higher pesticide residues than the
same foods purchased in a nearby supermarket."

* "ORGANIC NOT RESIDUE FREE." Farmers Weekly (UK),
August 19, 1997, Pg. 8, By Boyd "ORGANICALLY grown
food cannot be guaranteed to be free from traces of
pesticides, according to government advisers. Ian
Shaw, Working Party on Pesticide Residues chairman,
said that even though organic food was grown without
(synthetic) pesticide application, those eating
organic produce, and especially organic bread, were
still consuming harmless levels of pesticide

* Pesticides found in organic food check, The Guardian
(London), June 11, 1991: "The survey in Warwickshire
found levels of pesticides in cereals and flours were
often as high as in non-organic produce. In some
cases, levels of lindane, a pesticide which attacks
the nervous system, were close to government safety

* Italian consumer test shows organic products contain
chemicals and pesticides; Natural & organic foodstuffs
found to contain chemical residues, Agra Europe
(London) Ltd. Eurofood, December 1, 1995: "A
comprehensive investigation by the Italian Comitato
Difesa Consumatori (Consumer Protection Agency)
reveals that so-called 'natural' and 'organic'
foodstuffs not only cost around six times more than
conventional products but also contain chemical
residues. Furthermore, another report carried out by
the agency for the EU itself revealed thatin 20
Italian shops specialising in organic food, only 26%
of the food on sale was actually organic, the rest
being either conventionallygrown or of unknown

* The meaning of the word organic, Harvard Health
Letter, April, 1994, by Sauber, Colleen M: "Some
organic foods, for example, are grown with natural
pesticides, and some supposedly pesticide-free foods
have no chemical residues but were, nonetheless, dosed
with synthetic pesticides. And some foods labeled
organic contain residues from pesticides applied to
the soil years before."

* Ask a nutritionist; pesticide residues on fruits and
vegetables; Brief Article; Statistical Data Included,
Chatelaine Magazine (Canada), By Liz Pearson, July 1,
2000, No. 7, Vol. 73: "In tests conducted by the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 1998 and 1999, only
12 per cent of fresh domestic produce was found to
contain pesticide residues. Two per cent overall was
found to exceed the maximum acceptable limit. During
the same period, 17 per cent of all imported produce
was found to contain pesticide residues and again only
two per cent exceeded the acceptable limit. In other
words, the majority of the produce we consume is free
of pesticides."

* "Organic or normal, there is no difference," The
Straits Times (Singapore), March 7, 1999, Pg. 7:
"Reports carried out on level of pesticides, says
Ministry of Health ON WHETHER organic food is better,
the Ministry of Health assures consumers that the
nutritional content of food grown normally is the
same. Also, there is no danger from pesticides in
non-organic food in Singapore. The Primary Production
Department and the Food Control Department of the
Ministry of the Environment carry out checks to ensure
that pesticide residues are not present in fresh
produce and packaged food that would render the food
unsafe," an MOH spokesman says.

* Pesticides on produce leave residue of worry ,The
Boston Globe, June 16, 1997,Pg. A1: "organic produce
is allowed to have some low level of synthetic
pesticides - current recommendation is 5 percent of
the EPA tolerances - to take into account the fact
that pesticides in the air and water may spread to
organic fields."

* Is it really organic? the label implies it but it
ain't necessarily so, American Health Magazine, July,
1990: "Last year, when 60 Minutes did a follow-up on
its original Alar episode, the news magazine show
tested 200 (organic) apple samples in 10 cities, and
found that 30% of the apples labeled "No Alar" still
contained the chemical."

How is EWG, given this data, having such an amazingly
successful media frenzy discrediting the entire
Stossel report? According to their web site and news
cuttings, EWG has a long history of defending and
promoting organic agriculture, this is well
documented. A little further research on the
Internet, based on some earlier postings to AgBioView,
reveal that EWG also share the same public relations
firm to help them as is responsible for a wide range
of anti-pesticide (and anti-biotech) food scares.

Fenton Communications, of Alar fame, represents EWG as
well as Greenpeace, NRDC, Environmental Defense, among
others. Conveniently, according to their web site,
Fenton also represents several major players in the
organic food industry (Rodales, Kashi, Honest Tea,
Seventh Generation, etc...). EWG is also a partner
with Environmental Media Services (EMS), a group
started by Fenton and also a current Fenton Client.
According to their web site, other EMS "partners"
include the Organic Trade Association.

Is it possible the organic industry interests and the
advocacy groups they fund were so shaken by Stossel's
report they feel the need to engage in this all out
assault to leverage one reporting error to taint all
the findings of this expose? Higher bacterial
contamination, no-nutritional benefits, no-safety
benefits (perhaps risks) as reported by ABC are still
unchallenged by the organic industry, but they want to
use the improper source citation for similar pesticide
residues as ample evidence to throw out all this other
information. Are these groups so powerful in America
that they can influence such a major news network in
this manner?

--- Tom DeGregori wrote:
> AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org,

Much as I respect Chuck Benbrook (having served with
him on an NAS panel doing a report on Sustainable
Agriculture for USAID), I must admit that I am
puzzled by his contribution.

My first point was that there has been rush to
judgement by the critics and by the New York Times
without waiting for a reply and possibly an
explanation. Chuck implicitly furthers the
pre-judgement by his rush to pronounce John Stossel
finished as a reporter and to accuse him of lying
before the camera. The fact is since the original
program was broadcast, the organic devotees have been
throwing as much manure as they could hoping
that some would stick....

Incidently, thanks Chuck for sending me and others
to the website of EWS where they posted the email
address for their followers to write to try and
get Stossel fired. The address is
David.L.Westin@abc.com. I trust that readers of this
posting will be interested in their own...
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