While GM proponents continue to smear organic farming, a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report in July of this year concluded that organic practices can actually reduce e-coli infection that causes food poisoning (the exact opposite of GM proponent claims) and also reduce the levels of contaminants in foods. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is the largest autonomous agency within the United Nations. The full FAO report is available for download as a Word document from: http://www.fao.org/organicag/frame2-e.htm
Here are some excerpts:
TWENTY SECOND FAO REGIONAL CONFERENCE FOR EUROPE
PORTO, PORTUGAL, 24-28 JULY 2000
Agenda Item 10.1
FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY AS AFFECTED BY ORGANIC FARMING
[on - E. Coli contamination]
1. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) identifies the main source for human infection with E. coli as meat contaminated during slaughter. Virulent strains of E. coli, such as E. coli 0157:H7, develop in the digestive tract of cattle, which is mainly fed with starchy grain as research at Cornell University has demonstrated . Cows mainly fed with hay generate less than 1 % of the E. coli found in the faeces of grain-fed animals. It is one of the most important goals of organic farming to keep the nutrient cycles closed. Therefore, ruminants like cattle and sheep are fed with diets with a high proportion of grass, silage and hay. It can be concluded that organic farming potentially reduces the risk of E. coli infection.
F. Other Aspects of Organic Food Quality
2. The understanding of food quality has been expanded beyond mere definition by chemical content, technical characteristics for processing and storage, appearance and taste. Particularly in organic agriculture, but not exclusively so, other considerations like ethical values and production principles (environmental impact such as energy efficiency, non-pollution, animal welfare, aim for sustainability and social impact) are gaining weight as integral product values. In this context, organic agriculture's contribution to cleaner drinking water, e.g. in Lithuania's Karst regions, UK's environmentally sensitive areas and Germany's water protection areas, and to higher weed, insect and bird diversity or general environmental quality are positive values that are appreciated by consumers. Quality issues are receiving increasingly more attention in the public debate, particularly in the Nordic countries and Estonia .
3. Organic farming enhances genetic biodiversity including organisms living in the soil, wild life, wild flora and cultivated crops. Organic agriculture practices recover indigenous crop varieties and regenerate landraces with distinct quality characteristics such as the Genovese mountain potato in Italy (Quarantina bianca and Cannellina nera).
52. The "organic" label is not a health claim, it is a process claim. Nevertheless, in view of the reduced use of chemically synthesised inputs in organic farming, many studies have been carried out to investigate safety and quality implications of the production system. It has been demonstrated that organically produced foods have lower levels of pesticide and veterinary drug residues and, in many cases, lower nitrate contents. Animal feeding practices followed in organic livestock production, also lead to a reduction in contamination of food products of animal origin. In addition, the "organic" label provides assurance to consumers that no food ingredient has been subject to irradiation and that GMOs have been excluded.
4. Considering the potential environmental benefit of organic production, its suitability for the integrative role of agriculture in rural development and its aptness to current farming input and production levels in many CEE and CIS countries, organic agriculture should be considered as a development vehicle in the sub-region. The FAO Committee on Agriculture agreed in 1999 that properly managed organic farming contributes to sustainable agriculture and therefore organic agriculture has a legitimate place within sustainable agriculture programmes.