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    Food Awareness Should Include Disclosing Pesticides On Organic Food
    By Hank Campbell | January 27th 2014 05:45 PM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    If you care about what is in your food, you have no greater sympathetic intellect than me.

    But if you are an anti-science activist, you may not understand the distinction between what is in your food and what it simply is - and there we part company. A genetic modification (GMO) is your food, for example, it is no different than any other food from a health perspective. Cataloging the numerous ways agriculture has genetically engineered food for as long as food has been grown is outside the scope of this piece, but GMOs don't bother me and that science shouldn't bother you either. (1) 

    Pesticides do bother me, and you have a reason to be concerned about those. If you think you don't need to wash organic food before you eat it, I think you need a sanity test. An organic pesticide is not superior to a synthetic one nor is eating animal feces on vegetables any smarter than eating man-made fertilizer.

    That is where anti-science activists miss the mark. Caring about one thing we know is harmless while pretending something we know is harmful is not, if it carries an organic label, is a real mistake for their credibility. I care about food but putting a label on every food that has a GMO (yet exempting mutagenesis, which is all the rage in Europe now, precisely because it is genetic optimization, but not the legally vilified kind) and not putting a label on pesticide-laden organic food would be silly.(2) 

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency did a study and found that organic foods contain high levels of pestcides.  Of course, it took the Canadian equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act request to get the study, for no reason anyone can discern the Canadian government opted not to publish results showing that almost 46% of organic food contained pesticides - and it wasn't just imported organic food, 43% of Canadian organic farmers are using pesticides and leaving enough behind they are easily detected.


    Should you be worried about pesticides on organic food? You betcha. Image link:jessandeeonline

    Yet they never bothered to mention it to the public. After the study results were disclosed, by journalists, not by the government, the agency rationalized that the pesticides were not high enough to cause worry.

    In other words, even when organic food levels were higher than the conventional food we are constantly told contains too many pesticides by organic marketing groups, they weren't high enough to warrant concern. 

    Given the same levels of pesticides, tell us again why organic products are so much more expensive? If they have the same pesticides, isn't it unethical to be charging organic shoppers, sold the mythology that organic food is pesticide-free, all that extra money in return for an intellectual placebo? (3)

    Obviously some organic food has fewer pesticides - if I grow food in my backyard it can have no pesticides at all, if I want. And if that makes you feel like spending more money, okay. But consumers in Canada are spending more and getting nothing, it's as fake as a lot of olive oil and honey. But in the case of Canada, where they import 80% of their organic food, this study being buried looks like Big Organic playing politics and getting a secret deal from an inspection agency, because the report was done over a year ago.

    The reason may be because food that actually has to meet the standards that organic companies promote in their marketing would not just be the 2-3X more expensive that it is now, it would be even more expensive than that. It would not be even close to viable.

    The US is in the same difficult position. The $29 billion organic food industry wants to promote every article they can showing the dangers of pesticides, but they are never going to advertise that their products have just as many pesticides that are just as harmful as conventional food, they are simply not synthetic. Literate people know that all of the "holistic" claims in the world will not make organic pyrethrin, rotenone, ricin and strychnine healthy to ingest in quantity. What science, and the US FDA, knows is that no pesticides are going to be consumed in high quantities unless you are really, really trying and labels won't help. If we want to use labels, your whole Thanksgiving dinner contained chemicals known to cause cancer in rats - even if it was entirely organic. And look at what an organic egg would look like if it had to have the labels man-made products have:

    Credit and link: James Kennedy

    We can't have no pesticides, the world would starve, and the good news for everyone is that pesticide use has dropped overall. I have written numerous times about the cutting-edge dematerialization that has been done by agriculture over the last few decades - and, whether you are afraid of science or not, GMOs are a part of that - while Steve Savage did an article specifically about the smarter use of pesticides overall.

    In past attempts to create a competitive advantage using laws, organic food has been careful to exempt itself and consumers they don't want to enrage, that is why the California Proposition 37 regarding GMOs didn't include alcohol, organic food and restaurants. When it comes to pesticides, they won't be able to hide. While very few people care about GMOs are in their food, they do care about pesticides - and they should. 

    That means that if organic food ever gets the label laws they think they want, their products will have the same warning label everything else would have.

    NOTES:

    (1) The microbiome of you today and someone from a hundred years ago is not even close, only wild animals have a microbiome similar to what even recent ancestors had, so pretending agricultural was somehow healthier 15 years ago, before GMOs but with a lot more pesticides, seems a little silly. 

    (2) In California it would be just as pointless as seeing those carcinogen warning labels in every building you walk into. All those "cancer causing chemicals" warning labels did was make the lawyer behind it rich filing nuisance lawsuits, so it's no surprise he also wrote the California proposition that tried to put warning labels on GMOs.

    (3) US organic marketing peddles mythology too. Look at the dozens and dozens of synthetic ingredients they have gotten the FDA to exempt from organic food, in order to make it more economically viable.

    Comments

    I think you are missing the point of WHY there is elevated pesticides on organic food. Because of the introduction of GMO's we now have a higher use of roundup to the point that the water, ground and air is saturated with it. Instead of using roundup just when needed it now gets used every time, multiple times a year. Same with the neonics. They are on every GMO seed. The pesticides are being found on the Canadian organics because the soil and water is so saturated with them they can no longer be avoided not because they are being used by the grower. This is showing how we need to move away from chemical agriculture and GMO's not that we should question organic. I also have an issue with your comment about anti science activist. Not all activists have the same motivation. I have severe reactions to the GMO's and to pesticides. I want them labeled because I need to avoid them in order to not be sick. I don't care what any of the science says. I do however care what my body says. Now I honestly can not say if my reaction to GMO's is due to the GMO it's self or all the pesticides that go with it because none get grown without the pesticides. All I know is I don't want to be sick.

    Hank
    I'm not missing the point, the point is not valid. I have seen this claim numerous times and it is not evidence-based. The evidence shows just the opposite.

    80% of Canadian organic food is imported so blaming GMOs for everything (including all imported organic food) means people are going to find a way to blame science no matter what the evidence shows. It's fine for advocacy, it's not reality.

    People are welcome to grow their food without pesticides but you are claiming that no matter what, it will have GMOs and pesticides on them. That is a false assertion.
    I guess you just have not got around to reading some of the latest ongoing studies. Like this one. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/pesticide-contaminating-prair...
    This is where I get very offended by being called anti science. I DO read the science. I read the CURRENT science. I find most pro people to be stuck on 10-15 year old data. To me THAT is anti science.

    Hank
    You're reading newspaper articles that match your confirmation bias - that is not the same thing as reading the literature itself.  If you read science as much as you claim, where is your analysis of Bayer's studies on their neonicotinoids? It's easy to promote fear about pesticides, show us your data. 

    And now you are "moving the goalposts", which is among The Top 5 Reasons People Don't Reply To Your Comments. You will keep changing your argument and get more and more arcane, like you did just now.

    I just got done writing that organic food should have warning labels too, and so you went off on newer pesticides, which are not even mentioned. Anyway, I think she has a point, her criminal behavior (she stole "confidential data" from the Canadian government?) aside. An advocacy book in the US got DDT banned for pesticides and since then there have been any number of attempted replacements. Clearly the solution is to go back to DDT. The mythology built up around that was shown to be lacking any evidence basis.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    You're reading newspaper articles that match your confirmation bias - that is not the same thing as reading the literature itself.  If you read science as much as you claim, where is your analysis of Bayer's studies on their neonicotinoids? It's easy to promote fear about pesticides, show us your data. 
    Hank, this week this article in Science Codex called 'Studies show how common crop pesticide harms bees' possibly contains the supporting data and scientific literature that you are asking for? It claims that :-
    A pair of new studies reveals the multiple ways that a widely used insecticide harms bumblebees and honeybees. The reports, one by a U.K. team and one by a French team, appear online at the Science Express Web site of the journal Science, on 29 March, 2012. 
    Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit, international science society. Both of the Science studies looked at the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides, which were introduced in the early 1990s and have now become one of the most widely used crop pesticides in the world. These compounds act on the insect’s central nervous system, and they spread to the nectar and pollen of flowering crops.
    Bumblebees pollinate many of our crops and wild flowers. The use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops clearly poses a threat to their health, and urgently needs to be re-evaluated,” said Goulson. In the other Science report, a French team found that exposure to another neonicotinoid pesticide impairs honey bees’ homing abilities, causing many of the bees to die.
    The bees in these scientific experiments were only exposed to very low levels of neonicotinoids but even so the adverse effects were very significant and the potential colony collapse disorder that can result is a world wide phenomena especially where these pesticides are being widely used.
    The authors note that even though manufacturers are required to ensure their pesticide doses remain below lethal levels for honeybees, the studies used to determine this lethality level have probably underestimated the ways that pesticides can kill bees indirectly, for example by interfering with their homing systems.
    "Our study raises important issues regarding pesticide authorization procedures. So far, they mostly require manufacturers to ensure that doses encountered on the field do not kill bees, but they basically ignore the consequences of doses that do not kill them but may cause behavioral difficulties," said study author Mikaël Henry of INRA, in Avignon, France.
    The general public are naturally worried about the disappearing bees because even one of the world's most famous scientists once said “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

    ― Albert Einstein



    BTW, I totally agree with you that organic foods should also have labels showing the organic pesticides and fungicides that they have been sprayed and treated with. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. They should also have a health warning if they are potentially contaminated with harmful bacteria from manure, blue green algae etc.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hi Hank -
    You bring up some good points that I believe consumers should be aware of, such as the "Big Organic" industries desire to create exemptions for organic certifications and to make certifying organic products costly thereby reducing the ability of small local farms to become certified. In order to validate this one only need to talk to their local farmer at a farmer's market.

    But you fail your readers by not taking into account the whole supply chain. First start with the bio-diversity of the soil, then look at who owns the seeds, the growing methods, the labor force and finally the nutrient density of the final product and how it is treated on the way to the market. If you take the time to understand this industrialization of food, whether GMO or conventionally grown you'll find one of the biggest threats to human life on this planet.

    Since you're someone interested in science I leave you with two sets of facts:

    #1 - Largely because of the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds, HR crop technology has led to a 239 million kg (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use across the three major GE-HR crops, compared to what herbicide use would likely have been in the absence of HR crops.

    #2 - Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied. (http://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns)

    I take offense to your notion of someone disagreeing with you as "Hi Hank -
    You bring up some good points that I believe consumers should be aware of, such as the "Big Organic" industries desire to create exemptions for organic certifications and to make certifying organic products costly thereby reducing the ability of small local farms to become certified. In order to validate this one only need to talk to their local farmer at a farmer's market.

    But you fail your readers by not taking into account the whole supply chain. First start with the bio-diversity of the soil, then look at who owns the seeds, the growing methods, the labor force and finally the nutrient density of the final product and how it is treated on the way to the market. If you take the time to understand this industrialization of food, whether GMO or conventionally grown you'll find one of the biggest threats to human life on this planet.

    Since you're someone interested in science I leave you with two sets of facts:

    #1 - Largely because of the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds, HR crop technology has led to a 239 million kg (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use across the three major GE-HR crops, compared to what herbicide use would likely have been in the absence of HR crops.

    #2 - Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied. (http://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns)

    I take offense to your assertion that if someone that disagrees with using chemicals that have a negative effect on humans, particularly unborn babies, is labeled an "Anti-Science Activist". In time the truth will be revealed. The only reason our land and water is being laden with toxic chemicals is because agri-business corporations want to provide the highest returns to shareholders. They have no accountability to the future generations that will inhabit this earth. Using 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides worldwide year after year is clearly not the answer.

    As someone focused on science I would hope you could take a step back from the headlines, and instead look at the science. Leave your desk and go to a local, river, stream or ocean to see for your own eyes what's happening. Go to a local organic farm, ask questions, go to a GMO farm, ask questions. The truth is out there in the water and the land, and if you don't believe it just test your own blood to see what chemicals may be inside you.

    Please remove this post. Sorry I had several typos..

    Hank
    Well, I have written almost 2,000 articles here, dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, and a book, so taking one article on a specific topic and saying 'you did not account for X' though it was far outside this specific article is not helping anyone. 

    Your point about all those carcinogens is cherry picking, so I will make you even more afraid but you will likely "take offense" to facts; I can tell you where to find rodent and human carcinogens allyl isothiocyanate, solanine, arsenic,chaconinecaffeic acid, ethyl alcohol, acetaldehyde, benzene, ethyl carbonate, heterocyclic amines, acrylamide, dihydrazines, furan derivatives, benzo(a)pyrene, coumarin, methyl eugenol and safrole and hydrogen peroxide right now. They are found naturally, in organic dinners, all across America. If they were not in there naturally, they would be banned by law.

    So taking a snapshot of chemicals and claiming they are all poisons foisted on us by agriculture means you either don't understand basic chemistry or you are putting advocacy ahead of educating the public about risks.
    BOY! Talk about anti-science! This article is so misinformed and biased that it simply has to be included in that junk-pile you refer to as 'anti-science.' In both the US and Canada, government health inspection and regulation agencies DO NOT test GMOs for safety. Instead they rely on the industry's science and research and accept it point blank with no questions asked. (Kind f like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse!) Any independent science criticising GMOs is viciously attacked by the industry, destroying careers and keeping the public misinformed. Let's be clear here: in this case 'anti-science' IS the science put out by chemical-ag industries like Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, etc. They don't even ALLOW independent research on their products! It is illegal to conduct such research! The naivety of some people is astounding...

    Hank
     They don't even ALLOW independent research on their products! It is illegal to conduct such research!
    There are two key mistakes in what you wrote; government agencies all rely on company data for testing. Cars, for example, get tested by Consumer Reports and not the Federal government, which relies on Ford to pass safety tests.

    What the government requires is substantial equivalence; since no product is harmless, if I want to create a fish that tastes like strawberries I have to demonstrate that my FrankenberryFish is no more harmful than a regular fish or a strawberry. You seem to think it must be harmful because it was precisely created rather than a natural mutation due to cosmic rays. That is not so.

    The second mistake is that it is illegal to test GMOs. No, that is not true. I can go buy a car and test it all I want and I can buy Monsanto seed and test it. In neither case are they obligated to give it to me for free and what anti-science activists won't do is spend their own money.

    You can go to any farmer and he will probably give you some seed. Run the tests, let us know what you find.

    But I am puzzled; why do most commenters here think that organic food should be exempt from the same pesticide labels other food should have?


    I'm afraid your mistaken if you think a biotech will allow independent research on their GMOs. It's simply not true. As for substantial equivalence -- if GMOs and other foods are substantially equivalent, the biotechs would not be allowed to patent them (as they would be substantially equivalent.) The only GMO testing that has been recognised is the testing done by the very corporations who want their products to go to market. Interestingly, corporations like Monsanto have played a "merry-go-round" game where their own employees get to go work for the FDA (ultimately to approve GMO or alter regulations to benefit Monsanto) and then they get nice jobs as a reward when they leave the FDA. (See Michael Taylor, for example.)

    JUNK article, JUNK "science" sponsored by GMO industry.

    Hank
    Yes, yes, anyone saying that pesticides on all food should be disclosed must be a corporate shill if some anonymous crackpot on the Internet says so in a comment.