Taverne blasts organics as "costly fraud" (6/5/2004)

So who do you believe?

Lord Taverne of the pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science, who blasts organic farming in the article below, quoting the likes of CS Prakash, or the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation whose report on organic farming concludes:

* Organic agriculture contributes to cleaner drinking water and to higher weed, insect and bird diversity

* Organic farming enhances genetic biodiversity and helps recover indigenous crop varieties

* Organically produced foods have lower levels of pesticide and veterinary drug residues

* Organic milk is less contaminated

* Organic farming is good for sustainable agriculture

* Oorganic practices reduce e-coli infection that causes food poisoning (the exact opposite of many GM proponents' bogus claims) and they also reduce the levels of contaminants in foods.

For more on the report see: http://ngin.tripod.com/fao-org.htm

Here's more on the organic attackers, see

THE GODFATHERS: who's behind organicised crime?

Andy Rowell's report on how a loose network of rightwing think-tanks, supported by agribiz and the biotech corporations, have worked together with GM-supporting scientists to slander organic food. http://ngin.tripod.com/godfathers.htm

Dennis Avery: Big Daddy of the E.co-lie! <http://ngin.tripod.com/averylies.htm> Reports on the bogus research with which Dennis Avery has originated much of the anti-organic propaganda in recent circulation, and how his work is supported by Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, ConAgra, DowElanco and others who profit from the sale of products prohibited in organic production.

John Stossel slanders organic farming <http://ngin.tripod.com/stossel.htm>

Prof Trewavas requires a health warning <http://ngin.tripod.com/trewavas.htm> Reports on the media-war waged against organics by a scientist renowned for his extreme, unsupported and unfounded assertions. Includes an article with detailed criticism of a Trewavas' piece in Nature.

Lord Haskins: merchant of doom <http://ngin.tripod.com/haskins.htm> According to Blair advisor Lord Haskins organic food is not only risky but if organic farming were widely adopted it would lead to mass starvation!

Prof Hillman attacked for promoting bogus claims <http://ngin.tripod.com/hillmanimp.htm> How Professor John Hillman, director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) used the SCRI's annual report and the media to promote bogus smears against organic farming.


How Sir John Krebs and his supporters are using the UK Food Standards Agency to promote the interests of the biotechnology industry.

Anti-Organic Industry Groups Smear for Profit <http://ngin.tripod.com/nomorescares.htm> Exposing the industry groups behind 'Nomorescares.com' and its anti-organic report 'Organic Industry Groups Spread Fear for Profit'

Rightwing clique behind organic attacks: Morris and Bate and Co.<http://ngin.tripod.com/rightwing.htm>

More organic attacks in UK press http://ngin.tripod.com/organic.htm#More organic attacks in UK press

The costly fraud that is organic food
Its main contribution will be to sustain poverty and malnutrition
Dick Taverne
Thursday  May 6, 2004
The Guardian

Organic farming is a billion-pound industry. It is promoted by a stream of propaganda from green lobby groups, notably the Soil Association, and subsidised by government. Supermarkets like it because premium prices increase profits. Every lifestyle magazine regards organic food as synonymous with healthy living and every TV chef tells us that organic food tastes better. To question claims made by the organic lobby is not just akin to doubting the virtues of motherhood, but to reveal indifference to the poisoning of the nation and the fate of the planet, perhaps even to be guilty of corruption by American multinationals and of support for George Bush.

The organic movement was inspired by the mysticism of Rudolf Steiner, who believed in planting according to the phases of the moon, enriching the soil through cowhorns stuffed with entrails, and who taught that chemical fertilisers damage the brain. It is based on the belief that nature knows best and science is dangerous.

The SA has argued that organic farming cannot be judged by scientific criteria because "the current tools of scientific understanding are not sufficiently developed" to measure its virtues. It seizes on any findings, however flimsy, that seem to confirm its claims and dismisses any contradictory evidence as irrelevant, prejudiced or influenced by the biotechnology industry.

It has bitterly denounced the Food Standards Agency, an impartial body set up by government to safeguard our welfare, which refuses to endorse the claims made for organic food. Only in January the agency declared that "on the basis of current evidence ... organic food is not significantly different in terms of food safety and nutrition from food produced conventionally".

It is claimed that organic food is more natural and that its reliance on natural chemicals makes it safer than food grown with the help of synthetic ones. This is nonsense. There is nothing wholesome about natural chemicals like ricin or aflatoxin or botulinum toxin, or especially dangerous about synthetic chemicals like the sulphonamides, isoniazid that cures TB, or the painkiller paracetamol.

We are told we should eat organic food because pesticide residues harm us. As the FSA has pointed out, there is a disparity between public fears and the facts. Dietary contributions to cardiovascular disease and cancer probably account for more than 100,000 deaths a year; food poisoning for between 50 and 300. There are no known deaths from pesticide residues (or GM foods). A cup of coffee contains natural carcinogens equal to at least a year's worth of carcinogenic synthetic residues in the diet. If people are worried about the effect of pesticides in farming on wildlife or human health, they should promote pesticide-resistant GM crops, which reduce their use.

It is said that organic food tastes better. Yes, if it is fresh. But blind tests have shown fresh organic food tastes no better than fresh food grown conventionally. Furthermore, about 70% of organic food is imported and is not fresh, and since it is imported by air, it is not exactly environmentally friendly. [why not encourage it being grown more locally then?????]

It is said that organic farming benefits wildlife. True, many people become organic farmers for environmental reasons, and achieve their aim. But studies show that environmental effects depend on the style of management, not the system of farming. In general, integrated farm management achieves the best results. What is most beneficial to birds and wildlife is low-till farming, which is made possible by cultivating GM crops. Organic farmers depend on the plough, which disturbs the ecology of the soil, releases more carbon dioxide, uses more fossil fuel and drives out nesting birds.

Even if most claims made for organic farming could be substantiated, its main disadvantage is its inefficiency. Organic food costs more because average yields are 20-50% lower than those from conventional farms. Its inefficiency is highly relevant to the hungry and the poor.

While there may be food surpluses in some areas, we need to treble food production in the next 50 years to feed 3 billion extra people and meet higher living standards at the same time. We face an increasing shortage of water and of good agricultural land. In many places the only way inefficient organic farmers can feed an expanding population is by cutting down more tropical forest. Every form of technology that increases efficiency in farming will therefore be needed to contribute to the production of more food.

What contribution can organic farming make? In the words of the Indian biologist CJ [CS] Prakash, its only contribution to sustainable agriculture will be "to sustain poverty and malnutrition".

Lord Taverne is chair of Sense About Science, and author of The March of Unreason, to be published in November

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