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Date:

January 24, 2001

Subject:

Responses Galore; Hunger Strike?; Fear of 'Frankenfood';

 

I want to respond to two claims that have been made repeatedly by some
contributors to the network and then to comment on an important point that
has not been made yet as far as I know.

First, Craig Sams keeps insisting that there have been no cases of E. coli
O157:H7 acquired from organic produce. This is false. I have not had time
to go back through the issues of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (a
publication of the Mass. Medical Society and the CDC) to catalog all the
described cases of this type of infection, but I remember one case
involving organic produce very well. The infection was acquired from an
organic juice produced by the Odwalla juice company. I remember this case
well because I heard the CEO of Odwalla discuss this case and the
devastating effect it had on his company. I mention this case in
particular because it highlights a health risk that is associated
primarily with those of the organic food persuasion: a distrust all too
many of them share of such hygienic procedures as pasteurization and
irradiation of foods. What got Odwalla into trouble was that their juices
were not pasteurized. Needless to say, they are now.

The risk of food borne infection carried in meat can be reduced
drastically by proper cooking of the meat, but vegetables that are
consumed raw and beverages such as milk and juice are not covered by this
simple precaution. A serious danger from vegetables and unpasteurized milk
products (e.g. some cheeses) is Listeria, a bacterium that causes
stillbirths in pregnant women and fatal systemic infections in
immune-compromised people. Any product that contains eggs may transmit
Salmonella. So vegetarians are still very much at risk. Most of the
reported cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been associated with ground beef,
but this is in large part a result of the fact that the VOLUME of beef
sales is so high and that one mistake on the part of a fast food place
that serves a lot of people can result in a number of cases. If I were
defending organic produce, I would be careful about claiming exemption
from food borne disease, especially if pasteurization and irradiation were
not being practiced in appropriate cases. If anything, the PR damage
resulting from a few cases of such infections is greater in the case of
organic produce than in the case of standard produce.

A second point is in response to Red Porphyry, who seems irate that golden
rice is not a "magic bullet". Red, I hate to break this to you, but THERE
IS NO MAGIC BULLET. There are only incremental improvements that in the
aggregate can be major advances. The reason people are so excited about
golden rice is that it is an important start in a very promising
direction. It is a start not only in the scientific sense but - and
perhaps more importantly - it is setting a major precedent in breaking
products free of the commercial network of distribution that is limited by
patents and the profit motive. This is a major advance. The main
difference I see between the scientists like myself who are using genetic
engineering (in my case on the medical microbiology side, not on the plant
biotech side) and those who oppose the use of products of genetic
engineering is the WE ARE DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE to solve important
world health problems. I should add that I think those who are seriously
interested in organic farming are also making important contributions to
improving yields and practices. But too many of the critics of GM products
are doing nothing but talking. Let's see some action from these folks that
is productive, not destructive!

Finally, there is a point that needs to be made more forcefully about the
solution to world hunger. The people who point out that the problem today
is maldistribution of food are correct but seem to be assuming that the
only solution to world hunger is that the developed world feeds the
developing world. I certainly support this approach for the present but
this is a "solution" to hunger that will only enslave the recipients of
our bounty. What is needed is for farmers in all areas of the world to
produce their own food for distribution in their own area in ways that
preserve and benefit their own people. The attraction of genetic
engineering is that it is yet another way, but potentially a cheaper way
than fertilizer and insecticides, to enable people everywhere to take
control of their own food supply. Another exciting aspect of the genetic
engineering revolution is that the research is inexpensive compared, say,
to research in engineering. This means that scientists in developing
countries can contribute as much to development of new GM products as
scientists in developed countries. The GM effort is not confined to a few
big companies, as some would lead us to believe.

Granted, the large corporations and universities started the revolution,
but there are now major efforts in many developed countries to develop
products appropriate to their needs. Sometimes I wonder if a hidden agenda
of the anti-GM folks is to keep the underdeveloped countries
underdeveloped. Undermining their newly developing scientific
establishments is a good way to do that.

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From: Milton Gordon
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Rebuttal to Craig Sams

The orange juice produced by organic methods here in the Pacific Northwest
was found to be contaminated with fecal material and caused a lot of
illness.I think there were also some serious and permanent disabilities.

Milton Gordon
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From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: Craig Sams

Dear Craig,

I don't know whether organic farming is more likely to result in food
poisoning or not and I don't care. Food poisoning is a relatively rare
occurrence in a highly complex food chain and most of it is from fast food
outlets or from poor household hygiene. One thing I can say with certainty
though is that you are tens of thousands of times more likely to die from
food poisoning than from eating GM food.

I also know that your assertion that "gene splicing" is fundamentally
different from natural gene rearrangements is completely false. I suspect
that your unfounded fear is the real reason so many are opposed to GM
crops. Many of the scientists who contribute to this site and others have
spent decades learning molecular biology. They are completely correct when
they state there is no difference between modern GM techniques and those
of conventional breeding at the nucleotide level. DNA is DNA. It is the
same for most organisms on the planet. It is freely exchanged between
species and phyla. Genes are naturally mutated, rearranged, spliced,
duplicated, turned off (e.g. methylated) and turned on. I, amongst others,
have already given you sources of references on transposable elements etc.
Now you can, as most people do, take the word of many eminent and well
read scientists on this or you can go and get a PhD in molecular biology
but you can't stubbornly refuse to accept the bloody obvious.

It is not the case that we don't know much about molecular biology. We
know more than we ever did. Before the modern era in biology we knew
bugger all about what went on at the DNA level when we bred new crops. We
didn't (and still don't) know much about the complex interactions of
proteins and secondary metabolites but we tested new foods by the age old
taste test. And guess what? Nobody complained! Most of the so-called
natural foods you grow were not even seen by Europeans until a few hundred
years ago. Two centuries ago tomatoes were banned as toxic. How do you
know what you grow and eat now is safe? You don't. If you are average you
will probably die of or with cancer (90% of elderly Western males have
prostate cancer when they die even though they die from something else).
In fact maybe some of our treasured vegetables are the main cause of early
death in Western countries? I don't really think this is the case and I
encourage all to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. My point is that the
nature we have is not all that kind anyway and that eating is a
potentially dangerous endeavour. Eating GM tomatoes containing one more
gene is in no measurable way going to increase your risk of dying from
tomato eating. It is theoretically ridiculous to claim so. I think that
those of you who continue to claim that "gene splicing" is somehow a
quantum leap into the unknown really ought to back up your assertions with
either some theoretical or empirical evidence.

Whilst Roger Morton has done a fine job in criticising Putszai's paper
(something all scientists expect and welcome). The continuing debate about
Dr. Putszai's work is a red herring. It has nothing whatever to do with
the safety of GM food (why do you continue to ignore Alan McHughen's
references?). Any food can be potentially dangerous. Try eating too many
polar bear livers. No study has been done that even remotely shows any
danger from eating GM foods in normal amounts as part of a balanced diet.
This is the main message I get from Putzsai's work. It is similar to
Losey's butterfly work. I'm not sure why scientists even bother doing
experiments where they give massive doses of pesticides to animals in
completely unnatural conditions. Does anyone, other than those who can
make political capital out of it, even read them?

Lastly, once you get over the theoretical problems you have with the
process of "gene splicing", you should be aware that each GM plant is
different and you can't lump them all in together. Virus resistant papaya
is quite different to herbicide resistant soybean and each has to be
considered on its merits.

I am an advocate of organic farming. There is a place for it but it won't
feed the world - ever. Do you really think that appealing to the world to
become vegetarians will be a realistic solution to hunger? Why are you so
against using all the resources we have available to address the problems
of hunger, environmental degradation and sustainable development? Come on
Craig lets work together to solve these problems.

Malcolm Livingstone
CSIRO Plant Industry
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From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Hunger strike; Golden rice

I have seen this oddity several times, and Craig Sams repeats it: He says,
"Subsidies of Western farmers are a principle cause of poverty and
starvation in the Third World. Subsidies create an artificially low price
structure for basic commodities that favour American and European
exporters and drive Third World unsubsidised producers out of business."

What I do not understand is: if these people suffer poverty and
starvation, why don't they at least grow enough to feed themselves? They
don't have to create a burgeoning agricultural sector that will compete on
the export market... just not starving would really be good enough. On the
other hand, if they suffer poverty and starvation, why don't they just buy
these cheap commodities and feed themselves? The argument makes no sense
either way. Or are they on a hunger strike cause nobody will pay them to
grow food?

==========

The so-called golden rice "debate" Red Porphyry and cohorts seem intent on
flogging to death has passed well beyond the sublime; the fact is, if
golden rice increases vitamin A consumption, that is what it does, and
that is something that is needed. That makes it better than less vitamin A
consumption. Case closed.

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From: Alex Avery
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Organic Yes, GM Yes!; Appeal to Reason

I am actually enjoying this exchange. Here are my thoughts on Mr. Sam's
latest post.

Mr. Sams wrote: >3. . . . CDC records since 1983 show the main channel
> of >transmission of E.coli O157:H7 to human beings is via hamburgers
> and other >meat products that have originally been contaminated with
> cow faeces >shortly after slaughter. Please can we have one scientist
> on this website >who will accept that this is true?

Of course this is true (see, I'm really a reasonable person, Mr. Sams!)
But that doesn't erase the many E. coli O157:H7 cases arising from other
transmission methods, including in juice and vegetable sources, such as
lettuce and sprouts. No one on this list has ever asserted that organic
food was the major or only source of E. coli O157:H7 infections, and of
course meat is a major source of E. coli infections.

However, you are the one who refuses to acknowledge that organic
production methods--using primarily cattle manure as fertilizer--pose any
E. coli risk. This despite evidence and warnings from the CDC's foodborne
illnesses branch chief, Dr. Tauxe. You've never once acknowledged Dr.
Tauxe's comments on this subject or his published exchange in JAMA with
the spokesperson for the U.S. Organic Trade Association in 1997. Kinda
hard to paint others as unreasonable when you're being unreasonable
yourself.

>4. The direct recipients of agricultural subsidies are the producers
> of >primary commodities such as soybeans, corn and wheat. This
> distortion of >the market is greater than any other comparable
> government intervention in >any other marketplace, except defense,
> . Am I the only person who >thinks this is immoral, cynical, corrupt
> and inconsistent with the >principles of a free global marketeconomy?

You're not alone here, Mr. Sams, and we join you in your call to end
market-distorting government ag subsidies. We at the Hudson Institute's
Center for Global Food Issues have been vocal (and often lonely) opponents
of U.S.--indeed, all--agricultural subsidies for more than 10 years. They
are indeed immoral, cynical, corrupt, and inconsistent with the basic
principles of a free global market economy. Plus, by eliminating subsidies
and fully opening global markets to agricultural free trade, we could help
feed densely-populated Asia before they destroy all of their remaining
wildlife habitat in a desperate attempt to feed themselves from a
declining Ag land base. It's truly a win-win. The world cannot afford to
waste limited ag resources with policies that so distort incentives.

>7. Land. If everyone became vegetarian we could live on one seventh of
> the >amount of arable land we need now. Put another way, the world's
> population >could increase to 35 billion before there were food
shortages. There would >be other problems of overpopulation long before

Mr. Sams, the "vegetarian utopia" idea is correct as far as resource
utilization--but what are the chances that everyone will go vegetarian?
You create the total vegetarian population and then I'll begin to rely on
that as a solution to the world's food/wildlife conservation challenge.
Until then, we at the Center for Global Food Issues will continue to see
high-yield conservation as the solution to the world's 21st century
food/wildlife conservation challenge. Activists have had 40+ years to
convince people to become vegetarians. So far, in the U.S., less than 8%
of those surveyed identify themselves as vegetarian. Most of these
so-called vegetarians consider chicken and fish "honorary vegetables" once
a week or so. At the same time, the developing world is increasing its
consumption of animal protein as fast as it can. China more than doubled
its meat consumption over the past decade and they still eat less than 1/3
as much animal protein as Americans and Europeans. The current reality is
running completely against you at the moment and will only accelerate as
populations become relatively more affluent.

Alex Avery

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From: "Indur M. Goklany"
Subject: Response to Abraham's latest on PP

The following are in the format of a dialogue in a play. First, what I
had said, then what Mr. Abraham's rejoinder was, and, finally, my
response.

POINT 1:
>Goklany: "Regarding "irreversible" consequences (raised by Abraham)
> which seem not to be considered generally, consider the following: if
> we eschew GM crops which might result in increased habitat conversion
> with the possible consequence of one or two species becoming extinct,
> then that would be just as irreversible as say "gene flow."

>Abraham: Yes, but unlike the "habitat conversion" and the possible
>> extinction of "one or two species", we are not responsible of "gene
> flow". Yet, we would be of those "one or two" extinctions.....

Response: I don't think we have a disagreement here, although anti-GM
folks would disagree that "we are not responsible for GM flow." Their
argument would be that by planting GM crops, etc., we make such flow more
likely... But then Abraham's point about evaluating "the 'profoundness' of
the environmental alteration for example and the profound transformation
of our ways to look at it" is just as valid for gene flow. I would also
add that in addition to evaluating "profoundness" it is just as, if not
more, important to evaluate the likelihood of any of these occurrences.
Something profound-but-unlikely might be outweighed by something
less-profound-but-much-more-likely. In fact, this is what I attempted to
get a handle on in my paper.

POINT 2: HERE, I PERCEIVE SOME DIFFERENCES
>Goklany: "Similarly, if because of the lack of GM crops, mortality
> rates in developing countries does not drop as rapidly as it
> otherwise would, then the deaths resulting from that (and the lost
> life-years) would also be irreversible."

>Abraham: This is partially true if you take for granted that GM crops
> technology is the only way to face the developing countries's hunger.
> I'm saying that you CANNOT (honestly) claim that this biotech is the
only solution (especially when, ...

Response: First, I don't think the argument for biotech is that it is
the "only solution." It should be sufficient that it can contribute to
the solution, and that it is among the most efficient methods of
solving this problem. Second, the argument that there is sufficient food
but it is poorly distributed (for whatever reason) while true, misses the
point. This argument is second cousin to the one that developed countries
are "awash in surplus food" so should not be bothered with producing more
food.

As my study (on page 22) argues, surplus food is a
good thing since that lowers prices and allows more people to purchase
food worldwide. By producing surpluses (and reducing costs)
biotechnology would, in fact, contribute to wider distribution of food.
Another method of improving distribution is to ensure that people
everywhere become richer, so more people would be able to afford food.

And the problems of maldistribution would be substantially eased if we
had larger surpluses and greater economic growth. [On this, I would
recommend looking at my "Applying PP to global warming" piece, also
available from www.ssrn.com. In particular, see Fig 6 on p. 18, and Fig
A1 in the Appendix.]. Third, as I note on page 23 (of the PP and GM crop
study), even if food needs were met, there are good environmental
reasons for increasing productivity since that reduces the demand
humanity places on land and water to produce the food they need. Of
course, these productivity increases ought to be sustainable, and the
argument that my study makes is that with respect to feeding 9 billion
people, biotechnology can be more productive and more sustainable
COMPARED to conventional agriculture.

[I have addressed issues of wider
access to food and the consequences of increased productivity more
comprehensively in "Saving Habitat and Conserving Biodiversity on a
Crowded Planet," BioScience 48: 941-953 (1998), and "Meeting Global
Food Needs: The Environmental Trade-offs Between Increasing Land
Conversion and Land Productivity," Technology 6: 107-130 (1999).]

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From: Susan Smith
Subject: CNN.com: Biotech Could Help Solve World Hunger

By Troy Goodman CNN.com Health and Food Writer

(CNN) -- From a taco shell recall to new organic food standards that
exclude genetically modified crops, the science of biotech agriculture is
increasingly under fire.

But experts tell CNN that support for biotech-based agriculture is strong
and that GM crops, if they're regulated properly, could solve most of the
world's hunger problems.

"In certain parts of the world, especially in developing countries,
farmers are increasingly going to have to expand their output," said
Shanthu Shantharam, a researcher at the Washington-based International
Food Policy Research Institute, which works on ways to meet the food needs
of developing nations.

"They will have a very handy tool in biotech farming to enhance their
output."

During the year 2000, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture
Organization, or FAO, said it had received requests for assistance or
policy advice in planting biotech crops from Malaysia, Jamaica, Namibia,
Libya, Paraguay, Ecuador and dozens of other countries.

Key research still needed
But huge questions remain before biotech crops become a key component in
feeding the world's hungry. Who will regulate the transfer of GM crop
science from the lab to the field to the grocery shelf? Are there any
remaining questions about adverse reactions in certain humans when they
consume biotech food? Will widespread use of biotech agriculture impact
the environment in ways we don't fully understand?

Recently, a group of U.S. scientists argued that some of these unanswered
questions were too important to ignore.

"A review of existing scientific literature reveals that key experiments
on both the environmental risks and benefits are lacking," wrote LaReesa
Wolfenbarger, an ecologist and co-author of a U.S. status report on GM
food published in the journal Science. The study found GM crops have the
potential for both risks and benefits, but its authors ruled fiddling with
the DNA of world crops is too dangerous without more study. One example
cited in the Science report -- the need for more tests to be able to
detect the accidental creation of pesticide-resistant "super-weeds" that
could overrun important crops.

Questions about biotech food risks aren't entirely new. Since the last
century, humans have crossbred plants to make them tastier or hardier or
to give them some other desired quality. In the last 20 years, new DNA
technology has given researchers the ability to remove individual genes
from one species to insert them into another.

Fear of 'Frankenfood'?

The public's unease over this melding of the hi-tech world and food
reached the forefront in the mid-1990s when some shoppers balked at the
first full-scale GM crop -- the Flavr-Savr, a tomato bolstered with
another organism's gene in order to give the fruit a longer shelf life.

In Europe, the backlash against GM food over the past few years has
reached the fervor once reserved for nuclear power plants. Some grocery
stores and restaurants have proclaimed themselves "GM free" and protestors
warn of "Frankenfoods", as the British tabloids are prone to call biotech
food.

Scientists and regulators say GM food has already made its way into most
people's breakfast, lunch and dinner -- in some form or another. By 1999,
in fact, about half the U.S. soybean crop and 25 percent of the corn crop
was genetically altered, either to make the crops resistant to weedkillers
or to produce their own internal "bio-pesticides."

"We're in new territory and this is a complex issue," said Margaret
Wittenberg, of Whole Foods Market, a major organic food retailer.
Wittenberg serves on a U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory committee
on agricultural biotechnology.

Officials at the World Health Organization said they have yet to develop
a blanket policy on whether biotech crops could help or harm world crops.
But WHO has released a statement urging GM crop scientists and policy
officials to "consider the health benefits as well as possible negative
health implications."

Many farmers fear a consumer backlash. The largest U.S. farm group sgreed
recently to push food regulators to adopt a single approval process for
both animals and humans when evaluating GM crop seeds to prevent massive
recalls like the one related to StarLink biotech corn.

Biotech crops already here

Delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting said they
wanted crops approved for all uses rather than for limited use such as
animal feed -- as happened with StarLink. They also called for tags on
seed bags to guarantee seed purity.

StarLink somehow made its way into human food supplies even though the
corn variety has not been approved for human consumption due to questions
that one of its biotech proteins might be allergenic.

The biotech industry, however, insists there's no need for concern.

"We've been field testing these (GM) crops for some 13 years," said Gary
Barton, a researcher at the agribusiness giant Monsanto. "Last year alone,
there were over 100 million acres of these crops grown all over the world
and in many continents."

Michael Hage, a FAO spokesman in Washington, said UN officials are
"transferring agricultural biotechnology -- in one way or another -- to
well over 50 countries in response to official requests. This ranges from
plant tissue culture" to performing DNA tests to troubleshoot crop disease.

And more benefits are waiting to be seeded. GM food scientists have
already developed a yellow rice, or "golden" rice, that is rich in vitamin
A and iron and helps prevent anemia and blindness, especially in children.
Farmers in developing countries who adopt these crops could help whole
populations avoid serious nutritional deficiencies.

Barton said Monsanto had already begun working with officials in Africa,
Kenya, India and the Philippines to share the company's biotech food
technology after farmers in those countries became interested in the
possible benefits.

Needed: facts not science fiction

But environmental activists and others have urged caution. Rebecca
Goldburg is a senior scientist at Environmental Defense, a New York-based
nonprofit group that champions the scientific, economic and legal aspects
of environmental protection. She is among those who hope the issue forces
regulators to put a better system in place to monitor GM foods.

"We desperately need a science-based, peer review program," Goldburg
said. Many farmers believe that biotech crops won't hurt humans, experts
said, but in the end they're going follow what consumers say they want.
The WHO said it hopes to pinpoint some answers after holding a GM food and
allergy conference going on this week in Rome.
The politics of the issue have already become explosive.

In the first week of January, Canada blamed Europe and the United States
for dashing hopes of feeding the world's poor by sticking with
protectionist policies and adopting what it felt were ill-informed
attitudes toward GM foods. Canadian agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief
said biotech food fears were crowding out the possible benefits.

"The old ways of doing business clearly are not working in everyone's
favor," Vanclief said. "That is not to say consumers shouldn't have a
choice. But the choice should be based on science -- not fiction."
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GERMANY'S SCHROEDER ANNOUNCES ABOUT-FACE ON GM CROPS
January 24, 2001 Agence France

BERLIN - The Berliner Zeitung newspaper was cited as reporting Wednesday
that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has halted plans for growing
genetically modified (GM) crops in Germany due to consumer health
concerns. The paper was cited as saying that Schroeder had sent a letter
to agriculture industry executives announcing the cancellation of a
planned public-private GM research initiative, explaining that consumers,
already shaken by the crisis over mad cow disease, did not trust GM foods,
adding, "Prompted by the BSE problem, a process of rethinking about the
basis and conditions of our food production has begun."

The government believes "only a firm, consumer-oriented reorientation in
agriculture policy can return citizens' trust in food production. We
should use this time to reconsider whether and how we can integrate the
joint initiative for green biotechnology into a new consumer-oriented
approach of our agriculture policy."

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Keep Eyes Open If You Go Organic

By David Longtin and David Lineback, USA TODAY January 24, 2001

Largely because of food-safety concerns, more people are buying organic,
and there's more in their supermarkets to buy. This month, for instance,
Dole Food Co., the world's largest producer and marketer of fruit and
vegetables, added organic bananas to its lineup.

Although organic brands still are less than 1% of the global food market,
their share expands by 10% to 20% a year. By some estimates, organic foods
could constitute 20% of the world's total diet within a decade.

A month ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published the first
national organic-food standards. By the summer of 2002, USDA-certified
food -- grown without biotechnology, synthetic pesticides or man-made
fertilizers -- will be in produce bins nationwide.

But these products will deliver few, if any, of the benefits most people
expect.

A recent poll shows that 67% of consumers think the foods USDA certifies
as "organic" will be superior to conventional foods. Many believe that
organic brands taste better and are more nutritious, safer to eat or
gentler to the environment.

USDA's new standards provide a concrete definition of what makes certain
foods "organic." But organic brands are not superior to other products in:

* Taste and nutrition. Blind taste tests published in leading scientific
journals consistently show that people cannot distinguish organic and
conventional foods. And when labels are switched, consumers display a
marked preference for the phony "organic" products. Research also confirms
that organic and conventional foods almost always have the same
nutritional value, despite usually heftier prices for organic brands.

* Pesticide residues. Under current standards, average consumers receive a
daily dose of pesticides at least several thousand times below the level
government experts consider safe. So if you buy organic foods just to
avoid such residues, you get no bang for your extra bucks.

* Environmental safety. Organic farmers dogmatically insist that "natural"
pesticides always will be safer than man-made compounds used by
conventional farmers. But that's not so.

Problems with organic insecticide

For instance, manufacturers of the organic insecticide rotenone, faced
with mounting government concerns, have decided to stop selling it for use
on cranberries, cereal grains and harvested tomatoes. A study in Nature
Neuroscience showing that rotenone can produce a Parkinson's-like illness
in rats may hasten this natural toxin's departure from the market.

Conventional farmers, in contrast, have spinosad, a synthetic alternative
to rotenone that seems far safer for mammals and other non-targeted
species.

Copper sulfate, a fungicide more commonly used by larger organic growers,
is a broad-spectrum poison that can threaten field workers' safety, render
soil infertile and contaminate groundwater. Conventional farmers may use
it, but they also have new synthetic fungicides, such as strobilurin-based
compounds, that seem readily biodegradable and almost completely non-toxic
to plants and animals. Such eco-friendly pesticides gradually will replace
more noxious ones.

Pests can grow resistant

Organic growers, who largely have used the same pest-control techniques
for decades, say conventional farmers are on a "pesticide treadmill" that
keeps requiring new chemicals as parasites evolve defenses against older
ones. But organic pesticides and even seemingly innocuous techniques such
as crop rotation also have fostered resistant insect strains. As they try
to feed ever more of the world, organic growers may face their own
pest-management treadmills.

Organic foods offer no special culinary, health or safety benefits, and
growing them carries its own ecological burdens. So eat what you like, but
don't believe you can save the planet -- or yourself -- merely by buying
organic foods.

David Longtin is a freelance writer. David Lineback is director of the
Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the University of
Maryland.