June 9, 2011: OTA responds to "MASTIO: Dead bodies demand organic food moratorium" in The Washington Times
It is reassuring to see that The Washington Times continues to live up to its well-earned reputation for Yellow Journalism. For those of you too young to be familiar with the term, Yellow Journalism “exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers. i"
The piece written by David Mastio is biased, inaccurate and just plain irresponsible. For a newspaper in the nation’s capital to seize a human tragedy as opportunity to further political agendas fueled by misinformation is an abomination that can’t go unchallenged.
Food safety is an important issue for the entire food industry. That is why strong food safety regulations and practices are critical. All food, whether conventionally (chemically) or organically produced, is susceptible to E. coli. There is no evidence to indicate that organic products are more likely to be contaminated by E. coli.
This attack is based on gross misinformation. All farmers, whether organic or not, have the option of using manure. The truth is that only organic farms are subject to restrictions on manure use that are more tightly controlled than in any other agricultural production system. These practices, including an all-out 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 these requirements are being adhered to. The organic sector is prepared to have its scientifically based practices honestly shared with the public.
In addition, U.S. organic producers must comply with all U.S. food safety and other food regulations as well as meeting the third-party exacting standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP). These include recognizing the importance that sanitation plays in the safety of all foods and allowing for sanitizers such as limited use of chlorine materials, peroxyacetic acid and ozone in organic crop production and handling. In fact, in congressional discussions on food safety legislation last year, traceability and other practices of organic production and processing were held as a gold standard for other agricultural sectors to emulate.
What organic practices do not allow are “modern” practices such as using toxic and persistent pesticides that have been linked to harming children’s cognitive development, the application of sewage sludge on the land, the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics that have been linked to breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria including virulent strains of E. coli, and the use synthetic growth hormones that have questionable effects on humans. It is laughable that he cites the precautionary principle, as organic is the only sector of agriculture that does use this principle.
Organic farmers and processors, in the United States, have tools in their tool kits that place organic agriculture at no disadvantage in terms of food safety. This call for a moratorium on new organic farms is preposterous. The organic sector is creating jobs at four times the rate of the economy as a whole. So, in addition to our food safety tools in the kit, the organic agriculture and food sector offers one of the few tools in the nation’s economic recovery tool-kit.
The Washington Times should be ashamed for publishing such an irresponsible rant.
i The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.