Monsanto and the Campaign to Undermine Organics

Monsanto and the Campaign to Undermine Organics
Source Watch

Monsanto partially funds the anti-organic Center for Global Food Issues, a project of the right-wing Hudson Institute. It is run by Dennis Avery and his son Alex Avery. Here find the latest on Hudson’s anti-environmental and pro-biotech spinmeister Michael Fumento, and his secretly taking money (at least $60,000) from Monsanto. See also [3].

Distortion of the Evidence

In 1998 Dennis wrote an article that 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)

Avery’s reasoning was that animal manure contained deadly microbes, and animal manure was used in the growing of organic foods, so therefore, people were at risk. As it the case when people have their own agenda, setting out to deceive, Avery had absolutely no studies, no research, no evidence to support his position. Avery, knowing people look for studies when encountering this type of information, went on to expand his lies claiming his his data came from Dr. Paul Mead at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite a public debunking of his statements in the New York Times in February last year, Avery continues delivering his message with op-eds like The Silent Killer in Organic Foods (still prominently displayed at the Hudson Institute website) and Wallace Institute Got it Wrong: CDC Data Does Indicate Higher Risk From Organic and Natural Foods, dutifully disseminated by Bridge News to between 300 and 400 newspapers throughout the country and approximately 500,000 other subscribers here and abroad, including government departments, central banks, and businesses. Bridge News took over Knight-Ridder and a number of financial news services and data providers and is now the number-one financial data provider in the U.S. and number two internationally.

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.’”


Following in his father’s steps Alex distorted a study from the Journal of Food Protection that showed that organic food does not contain more pathogens than conventionally grown, contrary to Avery’s claims.

He instead declared that the study showed the opposite, “According to Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, the report’s chief author and faculty member at the University of Minnesota, ‘I had a very heated discussion with Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute. They were very dissatisfied with our findings and told me that our interpretations were not “correct”’…. Dr. Diez-Gonzalez is not surprised to learn that the Hudson Institute, with its long record and the backing of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont, is now trying to use the independently funded, University of Minnesota data to discredit organic farming.

Commenting on the Diez-Gonzalez study, Alex Avery called eating organic food ‘a crap shoot’ and warned that potential cases of diarrhea, typhoid fever and Reiter’s Syndrome await its consumers.

‘This statement is total a fabrication and a gross distortion of the Diez-Gonzalez study,’ charged Kastel. ‘Alex Avery will say anything in his petty little war against organic food and farming’” Rodale Institute

GM Crops, Tested for Safety?

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.‘s job” declared Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications in the October 25, 1998 New York Times Magazine article “Playing God in the Garden”.

Yet says the FDA’s “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties” (GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992), p. 229 “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety”.

Proxy says, “Monsanto repeatedly states that GE products are reviewed by regulatory agencies. Understanding these agencies role is central to understanding the issue of liability. The biggest misperception about GE crops is that the FDA has tested these plants and declared them safe. What the FDA has done is approved GE crop commercialization based on Monsanto’s assurance that the products are safe…. The FDA does no inspection or monitoring for GE food after it is commercialized and is not legally or financially liable for these products.”
Concurring, a landmark three-year collaborative report that deals with Agriculture & Development, involving some 900 participants and 110 countries, by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) states, “No regional long-term environmental and health monitoring programs exist to date in the countries with the most concentrated GM crop production … Hence, long-term data on environmental implications of GM crop production are at best deductive or simply missing and speculative” [1]. See also Scientist: GM food safety testing is “woefully inadequate”. Also see Monsanto and GM Foods: Health Risks. For lots more quotes see Regulatory breakdown.

Superiority of Organic Food

Numerous studies have demonstrated that rather than harmful, organic foods are actually nutritionally superior to conventionally produced food [6]7. Recently the largest to date, the UK based Quality Low Input Food (QLIF) study says that organic really is better [8]. “Professor Carlo Leifert, the co-ordinator of the €18m four-year project, said: ‘We have shown there are more of certain nutritionally desirable compounds and less of the baddies in organic foods, or improved amounts of the fatty acids you want and less of those you don’t want’” [9]. See also [10]11.

After a review of 97 studies to date comparing the nutritional differences between conventionally grown and organically grown produce The Organic Center, states that the evidence positively shows organic agriculture is consistantly superior in nutritional quality. “Yes, organic plant-based foods are, on average, more nutritious in terms of their nutrient density for compounds validated by this study’s rigorous methodology…. The average serving of organic plant-based food contains about 25% more of the nutrients encompassed in this study than a comparable-sized serving of the same food produced by conventional farming methods” says their State of Science Review New Evidence Confirms the Nutrititonal Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods. See also concluding comments from a symposium of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) stating Scientists Agree That Organic Farming Delivers Healthier, Richer Soil and Nutritionally Enhanced Food.

By contrast, in another report by the Center Simplifying the Pesticide Risk Equation: The Organic Option, which quantifies and compares the exposures to hazardous pesticide residues on conventional vs organic produce, Dr. Charles Benbrook states that “recent USDA pesticide residue and food consumption surveys show that most people consume three to four residues daily just through [conventionally grown] fruits and vegetables. ‘Accounting for residues in conventional milk, tap water and other foods, the average American exposes him or herself to ten to 13 pesticide residues daily’” [12]. Agricultural chemicals have been linked to cancers, spontaneous abortions and other serious health problems [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]. See also [21].

Chefs Have Their Say

As an aside, Master Chefs around the world have repeatedly stated their opposition to GM food – examples [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27].

Said Chef Charlie Trotter, “I have concerns that this untested technology diminishes the purity and taste of food” [28].

An ironic and embarrassing episode occurred in 1999 when Monsanto’s own chefs banned the use of GM food from the company cafeteria at its main offices in Buckinghamshire in the UK,

“It must be the final insult. Having led the way in promoting genetically modified (GM) food, the food technology giant Monsanto has suffered the indignity of having GM products banned in its own staff canteen by the caterers, who say the move is ‘in response to concern raised by our customers’” [30].

The referenced articles states that the chefs decided that “In response to concern raised by our customers over the use of GMFs [genetically-modified foods], and to comply with government legislation, we have taken the decision to remove, as far as is practicable, GM soya and maize from all food products served in our restaurant…. We have taken the above steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve”.
The caterers however later ‘clarified’ the issue by claiming that no one at Monsanto asked for its removal, now citing only labeling laws that came into force at the time [31].
To add to the irony, in 2001 Monsanto became a sponsor of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s International Food Safety Council, whose stated goal is “heightening the awareness of the importance of food safety education to the restaurant and food service industry.” [32]

The Inexorable Demise of Organics?

Genetic contamination, or “unavoidable” “adventitious presence” as Monsanto calls it [33], of genetically modified genes in non-GM crops (see Monsanto and Genetic Pollution) is becoming a big issue for organic producers which are increasingly finding that via cross-pollination their pure food has been contaminated thus ruining their businesses [34] [35]. “In 2002, Ontario farmer Alex Nurnberg had tests conducted on his 100-ton harvest of organic corn. Twenty tons were found to be contaminated by GMOs, which Nurnberg believes were blown by the wind from the corn on a neighboring farm. ‘I was not ready for it. I feel such a wrath about it,’ says Nurnberg” [36]. “‘Coexistence’ is a nice term, but it turns out that coexistence (means) we put up with their contamination” says George Siemon, head of the Wisconsin-based CROPP Cooperative, which includes about 670 dairy farms around the country whose milk is sold under the Organic Valley label [37].
There is, at present, a reluctance to test for GMOs on organic farms because of a fear of what they may find. “No one knows the extent of GMO contamination of organics. ‘As long as we don’t do genetic testing, we won’t know,’ says Hunter”, an Iowa-based organic inspector who conducts organic inspections for certifiers such as Quality Assurance International and Oregon Tilth, as well as audits for a non-GMO certification firm. “‘Having our heads in the sand doesn’t solve the problem. We are selling foodstuffs to the market that have GMO contamination’”. Producers will “be penalized in the marketplace, regardless of how the contamination occurred” says the article. “Former National Organic Standards Board chairman Jim Riddle says a GMO threshold in organics is needed to help organic farmers seek legal remedies for losses suffered due to GMO contamination (see The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February 2007)”. “Ultimately”, says Hunter, “consumer demand could dictate the need for testing. ‘If consumers started demanding no GMOs, we would test no matter the inconvenience’” [38].
Yet another area of alarm is the discovery that agri-business giants are quietly aquiring organic and health food businesses through “unfriendly takeovers” [39] [40].
(1) Monsanto is also a supporter of anti-environmental groups such as Consumer Alert [41]. “Another group that represents itself as crusading for scientific truth is the Washington-based Consumer Alert, founded in 1977. Although it describes its work as nonpartisan, Consumer Alert takes a pro-business, anti-environmental position on almost every issue. It denounces global warming as a myth, attacks the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, and denies the dangers of second-hand smoke. Most of its policy papers and editorials were written by Michael Fumento, a columnist who now serves as a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. Consumer Alert endorses the Cato Institute’s “Principles for Environmental Policy.” This proclamation, signed by a who’s who of “wise use” proponents, think-tank conservatives and “new consumerists” (including Whelan) calls for regulations to be wholly subordinate to private sector priorities. No environmental law could survive its seven principles” [42].
Notable Quotes

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.‘s job” – Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Playing God in the Garden” New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998.
“Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety” — FDA, “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties” (GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992), p. 229
“It is not foreseen that EFSA carry out such [safety] studies as the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate the safety of the GM product in question”. [43]. Comments from the European Food Safety Authority
“Genetically engineered food constitutes a massive experiment on the planet, with potentially devastating effects on human health and the global environment” Adam Kapp, Columnist for the Penn State Digital Collegian, Nov. 7, 2002.
“If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is the company hiding from the public now? This question seems particularly important to us as this powerful company asks the world to trust it with a worldwide, high-stakes gamble with the environmental and human health consequences of its genetically modified foods” [44].
Sourcewatch Resources

Monsanto, Genetic Pollution and Monopolism
Monsanto and GM Foods: Health Risks
Michael Fumento
News and Articles

Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods
Genetically Modified Foods: Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?
GM crops alter structure and function of liver
Study of Monsanto’s MON863 corn
Revealed: health fears over secret study into GM food: Rats fed GM corn due for sale in Britain developed abnormalities in blood and kidneys, Independent (UK), May 22, 2005.
Genetic Engineering – Public Health
Health Risks
Wild Bee Abundance and Seed Production in Conventional, Organic, and Genetically Modified Canola
Animals Avoid GM Food, for Good Reasons
Evidence for the Nutritional Superiority of Organic Crops
Biotech Foods Keep Coming Despite Monsanto Setback
Europe is united: no bioengineered food, International Herald Tribune, October 6, 2004
USDA Bets the Farm on Animal ID Program, The Nation, December 2007.
Books and Videos

Seeds of Deception
Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture
The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World
Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature
Eating in the Dark: America’s Experiment with Genetically Engineered Food
Living with the Fluid Genome
Redesigning Life? : The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering
Engineering the Farm: The Social and Ethical Aspects of Agricultural Biotechnology
The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment
Mad Cow U.S.A.: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?
Got (Genetically Engineered) Milk? The Monsanto rBGH/BST Milk Wars Handbook e-book
Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers
Video: The Future of Food

Organic Consumers Petition to Support Food Agenda 2015

Hudson Institute

Dennis Avery – Big Daddy of E. Co-Lie!

Hudson Institute Annual Report

The Food Revolution

Trashing Organic Food

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