Another Unfounded Food Scare?
The scaremongers are at it again, and this time they are causing unnecessary alarm about a rapidly increasing and profitable trend in food production. Among their unfounded allegations are those concerning increased risks of liver cancer from aflatoxins in food, the heightened dangers of E coli 0157 poisoning and the presence of the potentially lethal organism Citobacter freundii. (Click here for an example.)
Not content with such alarmist tactics, they play on our fears and sensitivities with lurid images of the production methods themselves. Who wants to eat food, they say, that has been contaminated with the waste products of battery hens and slaughterhouses? Then, of course, they cleverly feed our deep but misplaced worries about the use of chemicals and pesticides.
The food, they claim, is routinely sprayed with substances known to be highly toxic. Rotenone, for example, widely used in these novel production methods, is claimed to have one of the highest toxicity ratings and allegedly damages the livers of cats. Application of other known toxins, such as those derived from nicotine (yes, we know that smoking it kills) and pyrethrum, which is harmful to frogs and reptiles, are seen as further evidence of a manifest disregard for human health and safety.
The use of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is also, for quite unscientific reasons, perceived as dangerous, even though it is approved by the Soil Association. When sprayed on crops it can, admittedly, kill a few Monarch butterflies. But surely, that's what pesticides are for! And the fact that Monsatan has genetically engineered Bt into maize plants, much to the disgust of the Greens, cannot be seen as at all relevant in this context.
The whining objections roll on with allegations about the use of sulphur, which contains lead, leaving dangerous residues in many food items that we buy. They even claim that some of the crops themselves are 'unnatural', having been genetically manipulated in laboratories – procedures which have involved, for example, 'tinkering' with nature by transferring genes from sorghum wheat into rice.
So what is this novel food production method which threatens to poison us all? It is, of course, organic farming. At the Social Issues Research Centre, however, we unimpressed by these alarmist tactics. We believe that organic food, despite the fact that is routinely sprayed with toxic chemicals, is every bit as safe as that produced by conventional methods or by genetic modification, if you wash it properly. While we can understand why some people might have ideological or aesthetic objections to organic methods and their products, that is not a reason for us to be subjected to such frighteners, nor for our freedom of choice to be restricted.
Another unjustified attack on organic farming is that the food tends to be more expensive. Organic farming is, of course, very profitable. Take Eastbrook Farm near Swindon, for example. This was described by Friends of the Earth as 'a good example of an efficient, lucrative business.' Fair play to them, we say. We also seriously question the recent comments of Professor Bruce Ames, even though he is a widely respected biochemist at the University of California. His devious argument hinges around the idea that high consumption of vegetables significantly reduces the incidence of cancers. So, he argues, if the cost of vegetables goes up as a result of an increase in organic methods, consumption will decline and there will be a consequent rise in cancer rates.
This, of course, is pure speculation. And what Professor Ames fails to realise is that we at SIRC and our friends in the chattering classes are paid sufficiently well to be able to afford organic vegetables very easily. Poor people are more unhealthy and die younger in any case, so eating fewer vegetables is unlikely to be of much concern to them. Let us put an end to the leftie carping that dredges up these specious notions, and to the irrational food prejudices of people who clearly do not know their onions.