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    Organic Farming Practices Cause 200 Instances Of Serious Food Poisoning
    By Lee Silver | March 6th 2007 03:43 PM | 30 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    CORRECTION:  Charles Margulis -- who works with the so-called Center for Food Safety, an organic food lobbying group -- has called my attention to the fact that 200 people were made seriously ill (rather than dead) from eating manure-contaminated fresh spinach last fall. Only three people actually died.  My apologies for the unintentional error. 

    "Proper composting" of manure is supposed to kill off the trillions of bacteria that are naturally present in the fresh stuff (otherwise known as "poop" in the language used by my son).  But something went wrong at some point in the practices used by the Missions Organics farm, and the poop seemed to end up everywhere.  Synthetic fertilizer does not contain bacteria of any kind -- period. 

    So synthetic fertilizer cannot cause food poisoining - no need to worry if it's been processed properly.  (Bacterial contamination can occur at later stages of the food making process.)

    I've been traveling across eastern Europe and off the blogosphere for the past week, but this news item caught my attention, as it was relevant to my previous post on the problems with "organic food."

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Hollister, California - State officials have determined that spinach linked to last fall's nationwide E. coli outbreak was contaminated on a 50-acre farm in San Benito County. .  . The contamination occurred in a field transitioning from conventional to organic farming practices . .  . Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler, who is representing 90 plaintiffs in a suit related to the E. coli outbreak, added Salinas grower Mission Organics to the defendants in his lawsuit on Tuesday .  .  . On Wednesday, Marler told the Free Lance he has known since November that the E. coli contamination occurred on land farmed by Mission Organics and leased from Paicines Ranch, and that the state agency's investigation only confirmed that.

    This farm has been using organic fertilizer (i.e. cow manure) for the past two years, which -- based on straightforward scientific reasoning -- is almost certainly the source of the toxic E. coli strain that killed over 200 Americans who ate "fresh" spinach last year. (SEE CORRECTION ABOVE)

    So while organic advocates have worked themselves into a tizzy condemning meat from cloned cows and genetically modified crops -- which haven't caused a single stomach ache in a single person among the 300 million plus who have been eating this food for over 10 years -- organically grown spinach kills!   

    The easiest way to avoid the most significant harm inherent in food production (food poisoning caused by toxic strains of E. coli present in manure) is to avoid all unprocessed food grown on organic farms.    So-called conventional farms use only synthetic fertilizer which has no bacterial contamination.


    It also seems that the claim that natural foods prevent cancer is under question. Does anything not have carcinogens? No wonder people just give up trying to figure it out.

    Perhaps on an off chance some processed foods contain trace amounts of carcinogens.(In response to Hank, above).But I live in a suburb of Washington , D.C. , and I think I probably inhale more respiratory pathogens in the air than I could possibly get from food with additives or preservatives. Anyways, synthesized fertilizer is molecularly identical to natural fertilizer, so it couldn't possibly have adverse effects that wouldn't be found in organic foods. I personally feel that fertilizing food for human consumption with manure is barbaric, in an age when we can synthesize it more perfectly in a lab, without the risk of ingesting any bacteria from manure. By the way, I also feel this way about diamonds..why would you pay thousands for natural when you can achieve greater perfection at lower cost with synthetic?

    Lee Silver
    RIGHT ON Abby.  By the way, these are some of the well-characterized carcinogens in every cup of organic coffee: Acetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzofuran, caffeic acid, catechol, 1,2,5,6-dibenz(a)anthracene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, furan, furfural, hydroquinone, d-limonene, 4-methylcatechol, styrene, and toluene (http://potency.berkeley.edu/cpdb.html).  Actually, it doesn't matter whether the coffee is organic or not, the chemicals are still there. But here's the catch -- analytical techniques are so sensitive they can pick up chemicals that will only cause one cancer in 100,000 people.  There's a greater chance that you'll get hit by a car when  you cross the street then get cancer from coffee (or any pesticide residues on fruit).  So I'll take my chances and keep on drinking my cup of espresso every day.

    Abby, being a biologist, I can tell you are not very familiar with the word "pathogen" and the fact that it will be quite different to "toxins" or "carcinogenics"... .Sorry I don't have time to explain more..., but this is a "Scientific" blog with some really ignorant coments.

    this is a "Scientific" blog with some really ignorant coments.
    Posting a "self-fulfilling" comment is not fair.
    And it just happened again: Salmonella finding prompts spinach recall. Spinach is having a tough decade, pathogen-wise.

    It may be barbaric, Abby, but it is OH SO STYLISH.

    One would rather LOOK good than BE good.

    I am horrified that they are using even Organic cow manure because majority of the idiot farmers around here feed soy. Soy is ALL GMO this has been proven in many countries who have paid for organic soy and have received genetically modified toxic waste instead. Conventional farming cannot be trusted at all since they are even more disgusting using human waste full of drugs and other carcinogens that are way out of control. So really the only answer is grow your own organic seeds and harvest your own seeds.

    By the way? Before nasty gmo's all farmers used cow manure on their farms and no one ever got sick. Isn't it time we banned the toxic waste experiment of Genetically toxic foods?

    No one EVER got sick?  Really?  No food poisoning before GMOs.  How do GMOs cause more food poisoning?  First, even if we accept this premise (which we don't), you are only asserting a correlation between GMOs and illness.  This does not necessarily imply causation.  Of course, the toxicity you are suggesting (i.e., negative reactions to compounds in GMO crops, which usually occur naturally in other edible organisms) is functionally distinct from the traditional food poisoning being discussed (i.e., bacterial infection).

    Personally, I find it hard to believe that fewer people got food poisoning before widespread, modern refrigeration than they do now.  Perhaps our sources were too busy with small pox, bubonic plague, and influenza deaths to note the relatively few deaths (let alone stomach aches) from food poisoning?

    Do realize how many people have to starve to death (not to mention the complete loss of quality of life sustaining productivity) in order for everyone to go back to "organic" subsistence farming, as suggested above?
    Of course different food poisonings have always been around but NOTHING like it has been since GMO's were introduced. Lets not forget the abundance of case of MRSA virus and other uglies. NOW everything is toxic waste from that nasty crap. You don't except the premise? Try you don't except proof, as it is out there in the millions. How is bacteria that is put into GMO's a good thing? How is gold or any other metals a good thing? How is mercury a good thing? How is nasty proteins that cause allergies to the point of death a good thing? How do you find that eating pesticide a good thing? How do you find eating herbacide a good thing? It has been proven to be toxic waste. But if you don't believe it? Eat up!!!

    People are still starving in every country since they made the toxic gmo's only now they are going hungry in america because they cannot eat the nasty toxic waste gmo's. Nice. Real advancement. Monsanto corp has basically set this country back 100 years!!!!!! Instead of advancement many are going to back to farming and canning their own. Grocery stores are going under. HURRAY!!! Good for the people to finally stop putting up with these toxic waste aholes and do something about it. Had I known you were so pro gmo I wouldn't have bothered leaving a message.

    I'm not sure you know what a Genetically Modified Organism actually is.  The use of antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metal pollution are separate issues.  Please provide sources to document widespread, new, and significant allergies to GMO products to support your claim. 

    Starvation is likely to be something we will always have to deal with.  As we expand agricultural production to allow/accommodate an increased human population, those foods are not evenly distributed leading to deprivation of some individuals (which is deplorable, yet hard to avoid, but also probably also exacerbated by current political policies).  What you are proposing, however, would essentially cause a dramatic reduction in the carrying capacity of the Earth, effectively requiring even more widespread starvation.  
    Had I known you were so pro gmo I wouldn't have bothered leaving a message.
    You posted this after my criticism.  Your previous posts were before my criticism.  I am disheartened that you only wish to converse with people who share your views.  I ask for evidence to support your claims, because in the presence of contrary data I always reserve the right to be wrong and change my mind.
    There's a greater chance that you'll get hit by a car when  you cross the street then get cancer from coffee
    Lee: if this is a linear correlation, I'm in trouble. Of late, I've been drinking ever more coffee.

    Behind all the hype and angst about synthetic fertilisers, there seem to be some basic truths.
    Excess fertiliser leaches into groundwater.
    Application of synthetics disturbs the natural balance of soil bacteria.
    Synthetics can deplete organic components that bind and aerate soil.
    Long term effects are poorer soil and less nitrogen fixing and other beneficial bacteria.

    I did a Google search for UK food poisoning.  It seems that the nice people at Google never heard of the war of independence -
    I select UK only and they keep giving me US results.  :)
    Anyway, serendipity rules, so I found this informative piece: here
    You see I am allergic to all GMO's. It is not by choice that I hate them, it is because I lost my job due to them, I cannot eat out due to them, I cannot have a CORNDOG for Pete's sake!!!! OK I know that it is silly to miss corndogs but when you have not been able to have one in 15 years it is frustrating. I cannot drink milk from a store I have to buy organic, not just any organic it cannot be Soy fed organic as this has been proven to be genetically modified even when they "Say" it is organic. I have many documents that not only support what I know from my own body but other's are writing articles too. Funny thing? GMO's are the only one of two things I am allergic to. I am allergic to Antibiotics and GMO's. So I get mad and frustrated when I see people blow me off as comments basically stating that you do not believe in the food allergies they cause. My doctor didn't prove it, I did. The AMA I feel basically is getting big tips from Monsanto and other corporate companies to NOT tell us what is making us sick. I had allergies so bad it would put me in bed. My doctor told me I had environmental illness and would have to quit my job. I did. I had a lot of free time to look up WHY I had environmental illness and a sudden allergy to wheat and milk. I am allergic to neither! I still to this day eat both wheat and milk just strictly organic and ONLY from certain companies because as Corporate jerkbags buy up organic, they pollute it. Their products I then can no longer eat it without breaking out in a rash and sneeze my head off. And occassionally I torture myself by going out to dinner once or twice a year. I am always miserable for days after this. I cannot eat anything like Domino's or Papa Murphy's pizza, which I love, as this gives me such a violent reaction I end up in bed for days!!! But if I make my own pizza at home with my own products I do not have a problem. But what is more? I am not the only one. I am on another site where many other people have discovered this very same issue. I feel very frustrated with people who do not get a reaction, for one they have no issues with it, but even the government knows it causes cancer and have raised the projected rate for cancer for this year due to all of the nasties in gmo's. The info is out there. Even in gov sites if you look. Me? I have to go. I popped back to realize I was a bit ornery with you. For that I apologize.

    Poor Lisa,
    You remember me of a friend whom I once had over for dinner. After we finished a shrimp cocktail for starters, she remarked:"This is wonderful, what is it?". When I told her, she ran to the bathroom and puked. She was seriously sick because, I hadn't realised, she was jewish. So her sickness was not because of the foos, but because of religion. I think your 'allergy to all GMO's' also comes from what you believe, and of, btw,
    "My doctor told me I had environmental illness and would have to quit my job. I did."
    If you so fundamentally distrust science, you might be more suspicious of your doctor.
    What kind of job was that anyway, that you couldn't combine with 'environmental illness'? Eating Domino pizza's all day? That would certainly make me sick.

    While it is plausible to be allergic to one GMO, it is implausible to be allergic to all GMOs.  Allergies are highly specific antibody mediated immune response to a specific antigen.  It is highly unlikely that you could survive "torturing" yourself by initiating the reaction (i.e., anaphylactic shock).

    I did not ask for many documents.  I asked for a single quality piece of evidence.
    Well maybe you should try and explain that to my body. Because ALL GMO's cause a bad reaction. Each one a slightly different reaction with sometimes worse symptoms. But either way my body always tells me when something is GMO and I never eat it again. I am glad for this as I do not want to eat Roundup bugspray or Roundup weedkiller which is known for a fact to cause skin cancer. "anaphylactic shock" doesn't happen to everyone who has an allergy. That is just ridiculous. But here is some studies from other countries.

    Immune study Italy GMO corn

    Study Finds GM Corn Disturbs Immune System of Mice
    By Ken Roseboro, ed.
    The Organic and Non-GMO Report, December 2008
    Straight to the Source

    To Subscribe to the Organic and Non-GMO Report call 1-800-854-0586 or visit http://www.non-gmoreport.com/

    Italy's National Institute of Research on Food and Nutrition recently published a report online in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (read study here) documenting significant disturbances in the immune system of young and old mice that have been fed the genetically modified corn MON 810.

    The study evaluated the gut and peripheral immune response to corn in mice in vulnerable conditions-either very young or old. Weaning and old mice were fed a diet containing GM MON810 or its parental control corn or a pellet diet containing a non- GM corn for 30 and 90 days. MON810 maize induced alterations in the percentage of T and B cells and of CD4+, CD8+, γδT, and αβT subpopulations of weaning and old mice fed for 30 or 90 days, respectively, at the gut and peripheral sites. An increase of serum IL-6, IL-13, IL- 12p70, and MIP-1β after MON810 feeding was also found. These changes were not detected in the mice fed the non-GM diet.

    The researchers said that the study's findings underscore the importance of considering the gut and peripheral immune response to GM crop ingestion as well as the age of the consumer when evaluating GM crop safety.

    A press release issued by the Institute of Science in Society stated, "It is clear that genetic modification is inherently hazardous, as it invariably results in unpredictable and uncontrollable changes in the genome and the epigenome (pattern of gene expression) that impact on safety."

    Wonder why everyone is always getting sick? GMO. Simple.


    In the U.S., food products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) do not have to be labeled as such. This is a big problem, considering more than 90% of surveyed consumers say they would avoid products with these ingredients and since most packaged foods on grocery store shelves already contain hidden GMOs. Although Obama stated publicly in his campaign that he supports mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods, OCA believes we will have to keep the pressure on if he is to fulfill this promise. In the meantime, here are some quick tips to help you avoid GMO ingredients and "Frankenfoods."

    1) Look for products that voluntarily label themselves as GMO or GE-free.

    2) Buy Organic: Products certified as "Organic" are not allowed to contain genetically modified ingredients.

    3) Avoid non-organic products that contain the most common genetically engineered ingredients: corn (corn syrup, corn meal, corn oil, etc.), fructose, dextrose, glucose, modified food starch, ingredients including the word "soy" (soy flour, soy lecithin, etc.), vegetable oil, vegetable protein, canola oil (also called rapeseed oil), cottonseed oil, and sugar from sugar beets.


    You asked for one example but it is obvious you really don't want examples as they are all over the net. Many other countries are doing studies. Not this one of course since we have the scumbucket Monsanto employees in our government offices. But pretty soon that is not going to matter.

    You definitely have to be careful with organic compost. Hopefully this incident will prompt greater attention to detail, and not derail the organic farming effort.

    "[GMO foods] haven't caused a single stomach ache in a single person among the 300 million plus who have been eating this food for over 10 years"

    Logical fallacy. GMO foods aren't labeled and there are no reporting practices in place, so even if one knew one was eating GM food there'd be no way to report it.

    Let's all continue this discussion... while large corporations like Monsanto laugh all the way to the bank.

    Gerhard Adam
    I think that much of this post is focusing on the wrong issues or drawing the wrong conclusions.

    The use of manure or other fertilizers isn't at issue if one is aware of what they contain.  However in large herds where diseased cows may be difficult to identify or quarantine, the possibility of introducing diseases into other steps of the food process become increasingly likely.  It's the large production processes that are difficult to control, not the individual items used.  So to argue that manure is bad is just as foolish as arbitrarily arguing that synthetic fertilizers are bad.

    The problems with GMO has little to do with food production and everything to do with patents and economic ownership of the organism.  Every genetically modified organism has the potential to work its way into the biosphere and exert unknown or unforeseen consequences.  This is amply demonstrated by the inability to keep genetically modified plants from spreading seeds outside of control areas.

    More importantly, if companies can claim patent rights and ownership over such fundamental resources, then it represents a very serious problem that has been ignored or overlooked for far too long. 

    I don't want to find myself having to pay a licensing fee to raise a cow simply because the only breeds available are owned or patented by some corporation.  Similarly, I wouldn't want to be subject to lawsuits simply because I had a cow that was bred to a patented bull. 

    While I don't have a problem with the technology per se, I have a serious problem with biology (specifically food sources) are turned solely into business interests.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Who the fuck is this Lee Silver? Some Monsanto agent out to redeem some lost glory for the company. What a non-sense article. What does it want to prove? Stop eating organic and eat only GMOs.

    "This" Lee Silver is "a professor of molecular biology and public policy at Princeton University , Silver has a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard and B.A. and M.S. degrees in physics from Penn. Silver is the author of Remaking Eden (1997), Challenging Nature: The clash of biotechnology and spirituality(2006) and Mouse Genetics (1995). He is coauthor with Hartwell, Hood, and others of the textbook Genetics: from genes to genomes and editor of the volume Teratocarcinoma Stem Cells."

    Concerns about 'arguments from authority' aside, I kinda figure he knows a little bit about what he speaks on this topic. ;)

    All of which makes his mistakenly writing that 200 people died instead of the 3 who actually did all the more suspect doesn't it. You claim he must know what he is talking about but it is clearly obvious that in this case he didn't know what he was talking about and that is a huge mistake, off by about 197, most mathematicians would say that was just plain wrong. A mistake that huge indicates an agenda; and the fact that an organic food lobbyist would get in touch with him about it tells me there are other things here not being said. I am leaning toward others here who think person works for or at least actively supports the factory food industry!

    You're taking a blog post slip (which he corrected public and left for the record) as a disqualification of his entire career and then telling everyone his stature worldwide is invalid but you, with no knowledge at all but instead a misguided, uninformed advocacy position, know more than biologists.  It's the ultimate in anti-science belief.
    Organic spinach kills? Hardly. I think you mean Organic spinach with poop on it kills.
    You should wash the poop off the spinach.
    Even though it is an old article, I hope most can see through it.

    I have seen from my eyes a serious food poison case. It can even cause of death.

    well you cant wash the feces off of the food, if it is already contaminated it

    I don't quite understand most of what goes on in academia but it seems to me that proclaiming: "200 people were made seriously ill (rather than dead) from eating manure-contaminated fresh spinach last fall [when o]nly three people actually died," would be a fairly substantial error for a person with a PhD. in molecular biology and all the cross connections in different departments and so on that Mr. Silver has. And I'm wondering how a scientist could make such a grievous error. Furthermore, Mr Silver also works in public policy, and I am wondering besides pushing cloning what public policy issues he works on and what his connections to the chemical, agricultural and factory food industries are. In other words, I am thinking that the error was a result of a moment's excitement generated by a misreading and the facts were never double checked which would appear to be sloppy work for a professor and a PhD and very unscientific.

    Gerhard Adam
    And I'm wondering how a scientist could make such a grievous error.
    That's a ridiculous assertion and seeks to gain traction by suggesting that somehow scientists are incapable of errors.  Believe it or not, I'll bet even people like you make mistakes and often quite large ones.  There's nothing unscientific about misreading some data, or even putting something into an article and having it be wrong.  That can happen, and there's nothing intentional nor sinister about it.

    You're attempting to make this sound as if it were some scientific paper subject to review, or that it was a report on research.  It's an online article.   Let's stop pretending that a mistake (which has been corrected) implies some sort of conspiracy.

    After all, if you want to apply that standard to Mr. Silver, then perhaps we should discount everything you've written since you don't even have an account here.  Perhaps that means that you're being paid by organic farmers and that you're a lobbyist in support of organic foods?  After all, if you won't identify yourself or your credentials, then what makes you trustworthy?
    Mundus vult decipi