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comments from the gruesome threesome
A comment from one third of the gruesome threesome, Avery,Krebs and
Trewavas on organic farming and the health benefits of nuerotixins and
carcinogens.I find it bizarre that Trewavas considers himself to be some
kind of midget ringmaster, cracking a tiny whip to dictate what credible
scientists must do to satisfy his greatly inflated self image. It may be
that by attacking the Prince of Whales he believes he has become the
supreme authority on what people should eat and do? He notes below some
popular toxins such as curare but somehow left out the popular botulism
toxin that makes him ever young and attractive.
Comments on the WorldWatch Study (>Study Affirms Benefits of Organic
- Tony Trewavas, AgBioView, Sept 14, 2002; http://www.agbioworld.org
The author of WorldWatch claims a study organised by Charles Benbrook
shows health benefits from reducing minuscule levels of pesticide residues
in fruit and vegetables to even lower levels purportedly in organic ones.
1. Where is the evidence that this improves health? Where is the evidence
that a lifetime consumption of organic food leads to a more healthy
existence? Where is the evidence that consumption of organic food is safe
over the long term? The only meaningful statistics we have concerns
conventional fruit and vegetable consumption.
2. What other chemicals are in organic food that are not found in the
conventional product? Different fertiliser schedules and lack of some
treatments will modify metabolism in ways that are not clear nor known to
be safe. Were organic pesticide residues also measured, if not why not?
3. The higher price of organic food is dangerous to health as indicated
A. Price determines consumption (well established observation) B. About
200 epidemiological investigations indicate that a diet high in
fruit and vegetables cuts cancer rates in half. These investigations
(summarised by Ames and Gold a number of times) used conventional fruit
and vegetables with their ubiquitous pesticide resides. If these are
poison some poison! The more you eat the healthier you become.
C. Higher organic price will reduce consumption more particularly in the
lower class white collar and blue collar workers. If they are told organic
is better (safer etc), they are more likely to purchase but the higher
price will ensure reduction of consumption.
D. Only 20% US citizens eat the minimum fruit and vegetables to produce
protection. 80% place themselves at risk of premature death. Higher price
will not encourage them to change eating habits and will see consumption
downward from this low figure.
E. The author of the WorldWide report and Dr Charles Benbrook will in part
be responsible in about 20 years time from which they will now wash their
F. Ignorance kills and science has an excellent track record of increasing
the perception of risks and informing people how to guard themselves
adequately against them. This Benbrook report is familiar organic
territory, and a good example how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
4. The assumption that a chemical that can damage at high concentration is
also damaging at low concentration but to a reduced extent has no basis in
fact but underpins the obsession with pesticide residues. In fact it is
directly contradicted by the following.
A) An aspirin tablet a day reduces circulation problems and two tablets
cures headaches and fevers. Same is true for ibuprophen, paracetamol and a
host of other medications used for particular conditions.
B) Appropriate doses of antibiotics cure disease. C) A shot of vaccines
prevents disease. D) Copper and iron, nitrate and so on at appropriate
increase crop growth.
E) Curare in small amounts is used to immobilise patients in hospitals and
for treatment of lockjaw.
F) Low dose of Atropine is helpful in eye examinations. G) Radon in
houses in the UK is correlated with lower lung cancer rates
than houses without radon.
H) Small amounts of sunshine are needed to form vitamin D.
I) Chlorine kills bacteria in water
J) Vitamin A in small amounts is necessary for health K) Two pints of
water a day are necessary for survival and maintain
L) Salt improves taste of food, etc.etc.,
The list is endless. In every case the chemical or treatment is beneficial
at low concentrations but high doses kill, destroy, induce anaphylatic
shock, poisons, induce skin cancer, damages bones and induces cancer;
three teaspoons of salt can kill a baby, drinking six pints of water in a
very short time has been known to kill. Low concentrations of pesticide
residues in food are helpful in keeping cancer rates lower. As indicated
above consumption of more fruit and vegetables improves health and that
means present residue consumption (if it has any effect) can be beneficial
in ways not yet understood although antioxidants in fruit and vegetables
are also thought to help. The present prognosis is for no effect because
the accepted level of pesticide residue in food is one hundredth the known
safe dose; that is the dose at which no effects can be observed. It is
like trying to sweeten your cup of coffee with a grain of sugar. So where
is Charles Benbrook's evidence that low doses of pesticides damage other
than the product of obsessively overactive imaginations?
5. The obsession of some people with chemicals in their food ignores the
fact that to your stomach every meal is simply a complex mixture of
several million chemicals; at least 10,000 natural ones have been shown by
Ames to be putatively carcinogenic (at high concentrations). This present
obsession with chemicals seems in its present form to devolve from Rachel
Carson's Silent Spring, a polemical text written by an ecologist with no
understanding of toxicology_and it shows! We know she was wrong about DDT
The obsession for food purity commonly found amongst what I call
Naturalistas (supporters of naturalism) was also shared by the Nazis and
was one aspect of National Socialist thought in the 30's where it extended
into obsessions with soil purity and early interactions with organic
associations. As we also know it extended to racial purity with hideous
consequences. All obsessions when they get out of hand are dangerous and
are mentally unhealthy particularly when so much effort is made to provide
safe food. The UK Food Standards Agency has issued figures indicating that
whereas 130,000 die from poor diets every year, none die from pesticide
residues in food. If Dr Benbrook is really concerned with the health of
his compatriots he would be better employed trying to get his countrymen
to eat a more balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables, to reduce fat
intake and stop smoking.
If his intention is to improve agriculture then I recommend that he
examine the detailed case for integrated no-till that is most easily
performed using GM herbicide resistant crops. Proper measurements in the
UK indicate that no-till, (directly compared with ploughed organic fields
on the same farm and using the same farmer) uses only one third fossil
fuel, uses land much more efficiently, reduces nitrate (and pesticide) run
off by at least half, increases soil carbon which is lost when ploughed,
bird territories are orders of magnitude higher (they like poking under
the decaying vegetation), soil erosion almost vanishes, soil invertebrates
such as earthworms soar in numbers, as do predatory arthropods to keep
pests down. Organic fields in the UK see a three-fold rise in weeds on
conversion that necessitates use of the plough. Crucially prices are kept
low with no-till! If you want environmental benefits for the present then
go for the current GM herbicide resistant crops although as weed
glyphosate resistance increases this may not last too long.
6. Since 1840, life expectancy has increased linearly in western countries
and without any interruption or any sign whatsoever of any change in the
last 50 years when pesticides were first introduced. Cancer rates in the
young and middle-aged particularly have continued their overall downward
trend as they have done for the last 50 years. According to Sir Richard
Doll (who first pointed to the link between smoking and lung cancer), it
is in the young and middle aged that we would first see any untoward
7. The damaging effect of some concentrated pesticides are found in some
farmers worldwide but the numbers of such cases are the same as the
numbers due to poisoning by overdose of aspirin. That suggests perhaps
deliberate consumption. If Charles Benbrook is to retain any credibility
then he should start to survey patulin in organic apple juice, fumonisin
and ochratoxin in organic pasta and wheat and aflotoxin in organic peanuts
and peanut butter. Currently we know from one report that ochratoxin
levels in organic wheat have been found to be six times higher than
conventional products! One report in the US indicates ten fold higher
level of patulin in organic apple juice. And do we know anything about
acrylamide levels in organic bread?
- Anthony Trewavas FRS, Professor in Plant Biochemistry, University of
Study Affirms Benefits of Organic Farming..... - Brian Halweil, World
Watch Institute Sep/Oct 2002 A recent study confirms what proponents
of organic farming have long argued: that organic foods carry less
pesticide residue than conventionally grown foods. Organic standards
prohibit farmers from using
synthetic pesticides, but few studies to date have compared the