Dennis Avery is a Senior fellow of the Hudson Institute and Director of its Center for Global Food Issues, where his son Alex Avery also works. He is also an Advisor to the American Council on Science and Health, and author of 'Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic' and of a nationally syndicated weekly column for the financial newswire Bridge News.
Avery is a fervent supporter of biotechnology, pesticides, irradiation, factory farming and free trade.
Avery claims organic farming takes up too much land and thus destroys wildlife habitat. He argues that if it were widely adopted it would cause an 'environmental catastrophe' not to mention 'mass starvation'. Alternatively, says Avery, it would lead to measures for population control - possibly forced abortions. He has suggested its promotion may be part of a deliberate strategy to achieve such goals.
Avery is the originator of the 'E. Coli myth' - the idea that people who eat organic foods are at a significantly higher risk of food poisoning. Avery published an article entitled 'The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food' in the Fall, 1998, issue of American Outlook, a quarterly publication published by the Hudson Institute. Avery's article began, 'According to recent data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who eat organic and natural foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria (0157:H7).'
However, according to Robert Tauxe, M.D., chief of the food borne and diarrheal diseases branch of the CDC, there is no such data on organic food production in existence at their centers and he says Avery's claims are 'absolutely not true.' Even Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has commented critically on Avery's dubious use of statistics: 'looking at a few selectively reported cases from a single year doesn't seem to be convincing anybody who doesn't already have a predilection to believe you in the first place.'
However, stories about 'killer organic food' have appeared in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Ironically, a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report concludes organic practices actually reduce e-coli infection and reduce the levels of contaminants in foods. Avery's attribution of danger to organic farming on the basis that it makes use of manure is, in fact, nonsensical. In the UK, for example, conventional farmers use about 80 million tonnes of manure a year as a fertiliser. Just 9,000 tonnes goes on organic land.
The Hudson Institute is funded by many firms whose products are excluded from organic agriculture: eg, AgrEvo, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Novartis Crop Protection, Zeneca, Du Pont, DowElanco, ConAgra, and Cargill.
Before joining Hudson, Avery served from 1980-88 as the senior agricultural analyst for the U.S. State Department where he was involved in assessing the foreign policy implications of food and farming developments.
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