NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Chemically-Grown Versus Organic Foods

March 3, 1999

A number of experts say groups like the Consumers Union should pay less attention to chemical pesticides on foods and more to the risks of eating organically-grown produce. Not one death has ever been traced to chemical pesticide residues, but nearly one- fourth of E. coli 0157:H7 food poisoning cases in 1996 could be traced to organically or naturally-grown foods.

  • "Organic is now obviously the deadly choice in food," says Dennis Avery, director of global food issues at the Hudson Institute -- pointing out that composted animal manure used without chemical sprays and rinses to fertilize organic food may infect the food with deadly bacteria.
  • Lester Crawford, director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Georgetown University, says eating organic food carries "quite a risk" if farmers "use improperly composted manure."
  • Consumer groups "need to be scaring us about things like bacteria and viruses in the food, and they're still talking about things like pesticides," Crawford adds.
  • The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the strand E. coli 0157:H7 causes as many as 250 deaths and 20,000 illnesses a year.

While it was originally found in undercooked meat, more recently it has been traced to produce. This poses more of a problem since many fruits and vegetables aren't cooked before they are eaten.

In 1996, two of the biggest outbreaks of food poisoning from this strain were traced to organic lettuce and unpasturized apple juice sold at natural food stores.

Source: John Berlau, "The Risky Nature of Organics," Investor's Business Daily, March 3, 1999.


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