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October 11, 2000


Borlaug Challenges to Students to Help Fight World Hunger;


As usual, Andrew Apel's 10/11/00 post is interesting and provocative. He
argues that the organic industry has no incentive to test organic foods
because they can, "at best, prove organic is equivalent to

I have been interacting with a widespread cross section of business and
trade association leaders, farmers, wholesalers, processors and certifiers
in the organic industry for over 20 years. The overwhelming consensus has
been for most of the post-Alar period (i.e. early 1990s on), that engaging
the conventional ag industry in a fight over pesticide residues was a
strategy that would do too much collateral damage to all of agriculture to
warrant whatever "gain" or advantage might come of it. The consensus
emerged that the most significant and irrefutable benefits of organic
farming systems were linked to environmental impacts, worker safety, and
building healthy soils/keeping water clean.

Obviously some companies and activists have continued to raise food safety
and pesticide residues issues to promote sales of organics; marketplace
forces lack the discipline scientists would like to see, but they are part
of the evolutionary forces that drive change. The Stoessel piece has now
assured that there will be more testing and more direct comparisons of
residues in organic versus conventional food. The Averys have put the
e.coli issue on the national radar screen; it will not go away, and yes,
there will eventually be testing and data to better inform this important

I have recently assessed available public data on the levels and frequency
of pesticides in organic versus conventional foods. While there is clearly
a need for more intensive sampling, the bottom line results are very clear
and as expected. Soon we will be publishing the results of the analysis,
and then the debate can move on. Those who believe all pesticide residues
found in food -- of any origin -- are safe will, of course, dismiss the
clear differences as not meaningful. Those that would prefer residues in a
smaller portion of their food, and on average lower residues, may be
attracted to seek out organic fruits and veggies. But it is simply wrong
to argue there are no differences, and that this is the reason why organic
food companies do not engage in or discuss comparative residue tests,
e.g., conventional apples versus organic apples grown in the same state.

On the e.coli and microbiological front, all of agriculture and the food
industry face serious and growing challenges. We need to study how all
production systems and food processing technologies impact
levels/frequency, and get away from the tit-for-tat nature of this
dialogue. Are we approaching a point where it is simply too risky for
anyone to test and discuss publicly the results of microbiological testing
in foods? Many on this list claim CDC has been taken out of the game by
politics? Who else then, is still in it?

I know there are many on this list that, for some reason, find it
offensive when others state that organic systems, especially well
established and managed ones, are in fact remarkable in their ability to
suppress/prevent serious pest and disease pressure. For this reason they
are generally, year in and year out, less reliant on broad spectrum
pesticides and animal drugs. Sure, I know organic farmers sometimes use a
lot of sulfur or oil; so do conventional farmers. Time to move the debate
forward and find out what the genetic and biological factors/interactions
are on farms, and farming systems that just work well, regardless of what
they are called. And when better methods are found, society needs a chance
to express its opinion whether any additional cost is "worth it."

If this transition in the debate does not occur, we will spend the next
several years with competing studies and I am willing to bet that
"conventional foods" will more often than not take the biggest hit.


Charles Benbrook CU FQPA site www.ecologic-ipm.com Benbrook Consulting
Services Ag BioTech InfoNet www.biotech-info.net 5085 Upper Pack River
Road IPM site www.pmac.net Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
208-263-5236 (Voice) 208-263-7342 (Fax)

Re: AGBIOVIEW: Bt sprays and Anthrax
From: "Bob MacGregor"

There is increasing evidence that B. thuringiensis, B. anthracis and B. =
cereus are variants of the same species. Just and E. coli and its =
variant O157:H7 differ significantly in their pathogenicity, these =
Bacillus variants also behave differently. The well-known propensity for =
bacteria to exchange genetic material across (supposed) species lines =
should cause one to pause for sober second thought (or precaution) before
= using any preparation of live bacteria-- as is (I believe) still the
case = in many Bt spray preparations.


From: Ray and June Shillito
Subject: GM Food and Gonorrhea

I suggest we all email them individually at monaco@onenet.com.ar and
grupodereflexionrural@hotmail.com and demand a retraction or
substantiation. I just did.

Ray Shillito, Aventis CropScience
From: Ray and June Shillito
Subject: dubious health claims

Remember how St. John's Wort was unleashed on the public, touted for it's
so-called health benefits, and without any testing. There are numerous
reports now of its interaction with various drugs, which can cause serious
side effects.

Ray Shillito, Aventis CropScience
Nobel prize winner challenges students to help fight world hunger

Des Moines Register http://DesMoinesRegister.com/news/farming/index.html

Norman Borlaug challenged 100 middle school students to join the fight
against world hunger by studying science and technology.

Borlaug is a 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who helped create the World
Food Prize. Borlaug spoke Tuesday at Sacred Heart, a West Des Moines
Catholic school. Students have spent the past 10 days studying world
hunger and poverty during the school's 10th annual Mission Awareness Week.

Borlaug said the world's population has increased dramatically since he
grew up on a farm in Cresco. He is credited with developing crop
management practices that spurred the "Green Revolution." Borlaug said
improved agricultural practices have helped increase world food
production, but problems remain.

"We need to distribute that food equitably," Borlaug said. "And there's
where we run into the problem of poverty and lack of purchasing power."

The World Food Prize recognizes people who have improved the quality,
quantity and availability of the world's food supply. Borlaug's friend and
colleague, M.S. Swaminathan, also spoke. Swaminathan was named the first
World Food Prize laureate in 1987. He said watching people die of hunger
on the streets of India kindled his interest in agriculture. He received
acclaim for introducing high-yield wheat and rice varieties to Indian

"You in this room are very privileged," he said. "I doubt if any of you
have ever known hunger or seen it close at hand."

Swaminathan said the availability of food has increased worldwide, but a
lack of access to clean drinking water and jobs also plays a role in world

"More than 800 million people, four times the population of the United
States, will go to bed hungry," he said. "Not because there is no food,
but because there is no money."

Roslind Smith, 13, an eighth-grader, said hearing the speakers heightened
her awareness about what needs to be done to help solve the problem.

"It's kind of disturbing to know that we could help everybody, but yet
there are millions of people out there who have nothing," Roslind said.

Tim McLaughlin, 12, a seventh-grader, said he hasn't thought about science
as a career, but he has thought about ways to help.

"We could cut back on some of the things we use and help the other
countries," he said.

The World Food Prize is also donating the book "Norman Borlaug on World
Hunger" by author Anwar Dil to every Iowa high school in an effort to
encourage students to study science and help decrease world hunger. Dil
also spoke to students.