LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Organic produce isn’t more dangerous

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David Mastio’s piece is biased, inaccurate and irresponsible (“Dead bodies demand organic food moratorium,” Commentary, June 9). For a newspaper in the nation’s capital to seize on a human tragedy to further political agendas is an abomination.

Food safety is an important issue for the entire food industry, and strong food safety regulations and practices are critical. All food, whether conventionally or organically produced, is susceptible to E. coli. There is no evidence that organic products are more likely to be contaminated by E. coli.

This attack is based on gross misinformation. All farmers have the option of using manure, yet organic farms are subject to more tightly controlled restrictions than any other agricultural system. These practices, including a ban on the application of sewage sludge, are science-based practices known to reduce pathogen loads. All organic farms are certified and inspected annually to guarantee they meet these requirements.

U.S. organic producers must comply with all U.S. food safety and other food regulations as well as meet the third-party exacting standards of the National Organic Program. These standards recognize the importance that sanitation plays in the safety of all foods and allow sanitizers in organic crop production and handling. In fact, traceability and other practices of organic production and processing were held as gold standards in congressional discussions on food safety legislation last year.

What organic practices do not allow are such “modern” practices as toxic and persistent pesticides linked to harming children’s cognitive development, sewage sludge, sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics linked to breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including virulent strains of E. coli, and synthetic growth hormones with questionable effects. Organic is the only agricultural sector that uses the precautionary principle.

A call for a moratorium on new organic farms is preposterous. Creating jobs at four times the rate of the economy, organic is an important solution in our nation’s future.

CHRISTINE BUSHWAY

Executive Director and CEO

Organic Trade Association

Washington

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