- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2000

Organic foods now are an official, "USDA-approved" scam. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just issued regulations defining what foods may be labeled "organic."

The regulations provide that fruits, vegetables and meat and dairy products may not be labeled as "organic" if they are produced with the use of pesticides, irradiation, genetic engineering, growth hormones, or sewage sludge.

Foods that meet the USDA criteria may carry the "USDA Organic" seal as early as next summer.

"Let me be clear about one other thing. The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is 'organic' a value judgment about nutrition or quality," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, in announcing the new rules.

Mr. Glickman's disclaimer is amply supported by scientific evidence and our experience with non-organic or "conventional" foods.

No data indicate legally applied pesticides have caused even one health problem despite more than 50 years of use on agricultural crops a fact that has even been acknowledged by leading pesticide critic Dr. Phil Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

By killing dangerous foodborne pathogens such as E.coli and listeria, irradiation reduces the risk of food poisoning. Biotech foods approved for human consumption are evaluated for safety before they are allowed to be marketed. Meat and dairy products produced from cows supplemented with growth hormones are physically indistinguishable from meat and dairy products from unsupplemented cows.

Foods grown with treated sewage sludge may seem unsavory, but is organic food grown with cow manure any more appealing? In any event, food grown in treated sewage sludge isn't a safety problem.

Despite Mr. Glickman's disclaimer, the rule is intended to do just what he says it isn't. About one-half of the public already believes that organic foods are healthier, safer and better for the environment, according to opinion surveys. The USDA label only serves to validate and encourage these beliefs. The label doesn't carry Mr. Glickman's disclaimer.

That's why the organic foods industry and its henchmen are so pleased about the new U.S.-government-sanctioned myth. Many activists make livings promoting fear campaigns around safe food while at the same time having personal financial interests in alternative, organic products that benefit from those fear campaigns:

Mr. Glickman announced the new rules at a recently opened Fresh Fields supermarket in D.C. Fresh Fields is owned by Whole Foods Market Inc., an organic foods business that pushed for the labeling requirement and markets itself by scaring the public about conventional foods.

Greenpeace just entered the organic foods business, announcing it will license a line of 12 organic products in Brazil.

After years of spreading fear about biotechnology, Lord Peter Melchett quit as head of Greenpeace U.K. to join Iceland Foods, a major U.K. organic grocer that supports Greenpeace. The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority censured Iceland Foods in May for a supermarket brochure that spread fear about biotech foods, even alleging that biotech foods were linked with deaths.

The Greenpeace-organic foods industry cabal operates in the U.S., too. Greenpeace's U.S. and U.K. operations share the same public relations outfit, Fenton Communications the firm credited with starting the 1989 hysteria over alar in apples. Fenton represents organic foods businesses, such as ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., working to scare consumers about dairy products from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone.

Mark Ritchie, a key organizers of anti-biotech and anti-conventional agriculture activist campaigns through the Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy, Genetically Engineered Food Alert, Crop Choice Coalition and biotech activist Listserv, also runs a for-profit organic coffee company whose sales increase with each new food scare.

Craig Winters, an activist demanding labels on biotechnology-produced foods, also is a lobbyist and marketing consultant to the organic food industry. Mr. Winters has publicly stated his goal is to achieve a ban on biotechnology crops through labels. His list of organic and natural products financial ties is easily found at his web site, yet few challenge his motives.

The president and members of the board of directors of Genetic-ID, the firm now famous for helping Friends of the Earth discover that some taco shells contained unapproved but safe biotech corn, also run a wide range of organic and natural products and services companies.

They belong to a quasi-religious cult that promotes organic agriculture and a political movement, the Natural Law Party. The NLP platform promotes organic methods and attacks biotechnology. Each food scare they help promote with clients such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace increases the cash flow into their various other interests.

Where does this cash come from? Consumers who are suckered into buying organic.

Organic foods cost an average of 57 percent more than conventional foods, according to Consumer Reports. These higher costs could amount to $4,000 annually for a family of four, according to the USDA.

Organic foods should be labeled. "Ripoff."

Steven Milloy is an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and publisher of Junkscience.com.

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