26 October 2002
RETURN OF CRAIG SAMS TO AGBIVINGSVIEW
One of the few pleasures of Prakash's AgBivingsView list used to be the interventions of Craig Sams when the Averys were making their usual E.coli claims, and the like, about organic agriculture. Up would pop Craig to demand one single example of a genuinely organic product (not something just labelled "natural" or the like) having given rise to a single incidence of E.coli poisoning.
None was ever forthcoming, though Andura Smetacek - one of Monsanto's fake persuaders - did present a long list which Craig Sams then demolished item by item. Finally, after Smetacek published a lot of personal and inaccurate information about Craig Sams after 9/11, implying he was a terrorist to boot, Craig vowed never to visit again.
But recently the Averys manurial fountain has been erupting all over AgBivingsView again...
[for more on the Averys:
for more on those behind the organic attacks:
for more on Bivings, AgBioView and Smetacek:
Today in AgBioView: October 24, 2002:
* Organic Food Debate
* ...Return of Craig Sams/ Avery Replies
* GM Foods and Organics
Two years ago you were kind enough to publish an exchange between myself and Alex Avery concerning the Hudson Institute's allegation that organic food carries with it a high risk of E.coli 0157:h7 poisoning. The discussion at that time was entirely based on the actual science of the matter and we agreed a conclusion free from supposition and speculation. I had thought it was settled and gradually the repetition of this nonsense has died down among people who should have known better in the first place, not least Professor Anthony Trewavas, a staunch proponent of GM crops here in the UK.
However, I was saddened to note that Alex Avery has forgotten that the main source of E.coli 0157:H7 poisoning is contamination of meat by manure from cattle that have been intensively reared on feedlots and slaughtered in high-speed conditions.
You have published his statement:
"Organic health risks from foodborne pathogens are an even greater concern. The bacteria E. coliO157:H7, a deadly pathogen found in every cattle herd the USDA has tested, is found in the manure which organic farmers use as a primary source of fertilizer. O157:H7 afflicts an estimated 20,000 people in the United States each year, killing up to 500;
When he refers to "0157:H7 afflicts an estimated 20,000 people in the United States each year, killing up to 500, he is referring to deaths caused by infected hamburgers and other meat products, water contamination from beef feedlot slurry and other sources. There is no recorded case of organic production practices causing a single death from E.coli 0157:H7 poisoning and this was made abundantly clear in the last exchange between myself and Alex Avery on your website. As McDonalds and other companies with an interest in encouraging public trust in beef products provide financial support to his venerable institute, drawing public attention to this issue again will inevitably work against their better interests."
I do not wish to resurrect that exchange as the facts are still exactly the same and are recorded faithfully in your archive. The publication of Fast Food Nation has confirmed the beef source of this fatal hazard even more conclusively. A year ago, to cheers from Mr. Avery, I promised not to revisit your site and do not intend to do so apart from to reassert this matter of correcting the record, which was agreed, albeit reluctantly, by Alex Avery at the time.
Too many scientists uncritically repeat this nonsense, make fools of themselves and do their own cause a disservice. Not that I mind, but unfortunately there are plenty of credulous non-scientists out there who swallow their pronouncements and then feel cheated when they find out they have no factual or scientific basis.
Kind regards, Craig Sams
Mr. Sams has once again stepped into one of his knowledge vacuums. According to the US CDC, fruits and vegetables have surpassed any single > meat class (beef, chicken. etc.) as the #1 source of foodborne illness.
Sams writes: "the main source of E.coli0157:H7 poisoning is contamination of meat by manure from cattle that have been intensively reared on feedlots and slaughtered in high-speed conditions."
Partially right. Cattle are the primary carriers of E. coli and the little buggers teem in cattle manure, including manure from organically raised cattle. There is no science to back the "intensively reared feedlots cause > O157:H7" argument nor large meat processing facilities. E. coli is natural and ubiquitous and very real. Again, according to the experts at the USDA's meat research center in Clay Center Nebraska, O157:H7 has been found in EVERY CATTLE HERD EVER TESTED -- including low-density, permanent pasture herds in the middle of nowhere. How do I know? Because I actually took the time to call them and discuss the issue with them at length. (Moreover, organic chickens have been repeatedly shown to harbor higher amounts of campylobacter and salmonella -- let's not forget these important food killers.)
Mr. Sams states that when I give O157:H7 statistics, that am "referring to deaths caused by infected hamburgers and other meat products, water contamination from beef feedlot slurry and other sources."
The CDC's tracking data clearly show that produce is the single greatest source of food poisoning incidents -- we do not have data to determine how many cases were organic or not. Foodborne bacterial illness is a real and serious risk, even -- perhaps especially -- in organic foods. You may disagree but most don't (See comment to USDA @ organic foods and increased foodborne illness risk from the Am. Society of Microbiologists [http://www.asmusa.org/pasrc/organicprogram.htm])
This does not mean that the Center ignores the very real foodsafety risks in food -- including the very real risk of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. That's why we -- as well as the CDC, AMA, WHO, FDA and others -- support irradiation as a truly effective foodborne illness preventive measure. This is in stark contrast to the highly expensive, erratic and ineffective half-measures that have been mobilized to date, such as visual and smell inspections by humans and processing plant closures. Mr. Sams and the organic industry are dead-set against this proven effective and proven safe technology, just as he's against ag biotech.
What really upsets Mr. Sams is that we at the Center for Global Food Issues continue to fight fire with fire. We respond to the never ending scare stories about non-organic and biotech foods emanating from organic marketers (who, like Mr. Sams, profit considerably by such scaremongering) by noting possible foodsafety risks from organic methods and products.
We've made a concious decision that if consumers are going to be constantly barraged with unsubstantiated claims of potential risks from non-organic and biotech foods, we'll remind consumers of the significantly less remote and better substantiated risks in organic foods.
So complain away Mr. Sams, but we're not backing down because of your bluster. We're in this fight for the long haul. LET'S ROLL!!!!
- Alex Avery, Hudson Institute
PS. Sams writes: "there are plenty of credulous non-scientists out there who swallow their pronouncements and then feel cheated when they find out they have no factual or scientific basis." Is Mr. Sams describing organic profiteers?
Alex Avery repudiates my correction of his wild claims about E.coli and organic food but my suspicions were aroused when he refers to CDC figures - this is exactly what his dad did when, years ago, he initiated the oft-repeated and scurrilous statement that 'organic food is 40 times more likely to poison you with E.coli' and quoted CDC figures. The CDC firmly repudiated his statement at the time, but little obstacles like that have never deterred the Averys.
Once bitten, twice shy. So, rather than take his word for it I checked out the CDC website. Here is what I found on E.coli:
Transmission Major source is ground beef; other sources include consumption of unpasteurized milk and juice, sprouts, lettuce, and salami, and contact with cattle. Waterborne transmission occurs through swimming in contaminated lakes, pools, or drinking inadequately chlorinated water. Organism is easily transmitted from person to person and has been difficult to control in child day-care centers.
(Please visit this site - it provides a clear, balanced and intelligent explanation of the causes of E.coli and how to avoid getting poisoned)
Last time I got involved in one of these torrid exchanges with Alex Avery I went out on a limb and asked him to refer to one single example of a case of E.coli poisoning that arose from organic production practices. There are none. There may be one or two cases of incidental contamination or someone infected from homegrown vegetables but the organic record is startlingly clean.
Mr. Avery sees irradiation of all food as the answer to E.coli, i.e. Kill the evil little bugs before they rot our guts and destroy our kidneys. As he puts it so neatly "we fight fire with fire."
Absolutely right on, Alex. I couldn't have phrased it better myself.
The organic way is: 'we fight fire with water.' That's why we're totally opposed to irradiation - we see it as a sign of failure to operate hygienic and preventive measures adequately. It's a diametrically opposite approach that respects rather than despises natural systems.
The success of HACCP in effecting the first downward turn in cases of E.coli contamination of beef shows that irradiation is not the only solution to the unspeakably filthy practices that some slaughterhouses allowed to develop in the past. Let's continue down that route of prevention and risk management, (even if it does eventually lead us to the doorstep of organic practice).