22 November 2002
OPEN LETTER TO PROFESSOR TOM HUMPHREY OF THE FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY/FSA CONFIRMS OPPOSITION TO GM DERIVATIVES LABELS
for why the FSA won a Pants on Fire award for their organic attacks and supportive attitude to the biotech industry:
The "Brussels Board Meeting"
"The Board...reaffirmed its earlier decision on the labelling of GM derivatives [is not to support this], given the continuing doubts over the ability of the proposal to deliver a reliable and effective information system for consumers" (!)
Open Letter to Professor Tom Humphrey of the Food Standards Agency
To: Professor Tom Humphrey
Food Standards Agency Epidemiology of Foodborne Infections Group
From: Marcus Williamson
Editor, Genetically Modified Food-News
22 November 2002
Dear Professor Humphrey
An article titled "Food-poisoning warning over organic chickens" appeared in the Independent on 20 November 2002. You provided information for the article. However, the information presented requires clarification in several areas:
1. The campylobacter strain found in organic chickens has *not* been identified as a "food-poisoning bacteria", as you state in the first paragraph. This error has been made in the past many times by confusing harmless and harmful strains of E.coli, for example. Please let's not see this mistake repeated with campylobacter.
2. The study does not distinguish properly between "free range" and "organic".
3. Organic chickens are not fed antibiotics whereas conventional chickens are routinely given antibiotics in their diet. As you are aware, the result of this is to reduce the usefulness of antibiotics for animals and humans.
4. The study does not make clear whether this bacteria would present any risk after cooking of the chicken.
5. Organic and free-range chickens are more likely to host more bacteria (not necessarily harmful bacteria) because they are allowed outside.
6. You presented this information at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) meeting on organic food on 6 November 2002. These errors were pointed out to you at that meeting, by Peter Melchett of the Soil Association, and by myself, amongst others. Yet you are still trying to insist that this is a particular problem with "organic" chicken.
7. John Krebs stated at the beginning of the meeting of 6 November 2002 that the FSA is not anti-organic. Yet, you were allowed to make a non-scheduled anti-organic presentation which was not based on good science.
Could you comment on the above points and indicate why you are allowing this kind of misleading information to be produced by the Food Standard's Agency?
Look forward to hearing from you and to seeing a follow-up clarification from the Food Standards Agency on this issue.
Thanks & regards
"...if the FSA is to be anything more than a useless and expensive clone of MAFF, it needs to represent informed consumer opinion. Post-BSE, consumers have shown very clearly what kind of food they trust: it's no coincidence, after all, that our supermarkets are now brimming with organic food, while GM food is being forced off the shelves. Yet the FSA seems to be pursuing a curiously contrary agenda..." - Joanna Blythman writing in the Guardian , November 4, 2000