How’s the safety of organic food working out for ya?

ecoliThe anti-GMO crowd constantly points to the lack of long-term safety studies of foods containing GMOs. They continue with this meme even though there have been hundreds of studies over the last 16 years attesting to their safety and major scientific and health organizations have signed off on them. The Big Ignore is the fact that in that time there hasn’t been one negative health effect on humans. Not one.

In order to protect themselves from the scourge of GMO foods, many have extolled the virtues of organic food, touting its safety and the imaginary idea that a $30 billion/year business is all mom and pop.  But as  I noted last year in Should organic foods be labeled, “May contain E.coli or Salmonellathat trust may be misplaced.

The E.coli outbreak in Germany that killed 50 people and hospitalized thousands in 2011 was caused by organic sprouts. Also, last year, sprouts from an Illinois organic farm sickened people in 26 states. These outbreaks didn’t come from conventional or GMO foods.

This year, an organic farm was responsible for at least 10 people being diagnosed with Campylobacter infections.

Well, we have an update. The latest news about the safest foods in the history of the planet comes from Taylor Farms which  just had to recall its organic spinach in 39 states due to an e.coli scare.

Let’s see what else has been going on. Multistate Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Organic Spinach and Spring Mix Blend 

A total of 33 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) were reported from five states.

46% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.

When they’re not poisoning us they’re trying to kill us with foreign objects in there foods.

Annie’s Recalling Homegrown Frozen Pizza for Foreign Objects.

Rudi’s Organic Bakery Breads Recalled for Foreign Objects

Back in 2011, Lundberg Farms, who helped finance the Prop. 37 labeling campaign had to recall its Sea Salt Rice Chips in Canada due to undeclared soy.

I’ve made this suggestion before and I will make it again. There needs to be labels on organic foods. Consumers have a right-to- know whether we might be at risk of  e.coli poisoning or have our stomachs sliced open from the inside by foreign objects. And the children. Think of the children. 

Considering that in 2011-2012 there were almost two dozen recalls of organic products due to illness, hospitalization and death, we should impose a moratorium on organic foods until the industry can prove they are 100% safe. There have been no long-term studies of organic foods and the effect of foreign objects in it.

<\snark off>


GMO labeling advocate doesn’t label own organic products containing arsenic

This isn’t a new story. Last year researchers at Dartmouth discovered that brown rice, fruit juices and a widely used sweetener, organic brown rice syrup, contained high levels of arsenic. I wrote about it here  and here.

What brings me back to this subject is a blog from the NY Times I stumbled across from last November. Lundberg Family Farms of California is a producer of organic brown rice syrup, and various rices including brown rice. Readers were concerned and a member of Lundberg’s family agreed to be interviewed about the issue.

What the interview shows is how rationalizations and hustling take place when you have a horse in the race.  And yes, we can throw in a little smidgen of hypocrisy given that Lundberg was a big contributor vocally and financially to the Prop.37 right-to-know campaign.  During the campaign I wrote this:

The folks at say they are members of a coalition called CaliforniaRightToKnow. Now who are they? It was started by Grant Lundberg who runs Lundberg Family Farms in Richville, CA. It is a family run farm that was a pioneer in organic farming.

The farm consists of 14,000 acres and grows both organic and conventional crops. It has an annual revenue (2007) of $48.9 million. The farm is well-known for its innovative contributions to sustainable agriculture and treatment of its workforce. Lundberg is no slouch. He has a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics. So, the question is, how did he come to become an ardent supporter of an anti-GMO initiative, donating $200,000? We know that cross-pollination can happen in any method of farming.  But Lundberg grows 70% organic and 30% conventional crops.

If cross-pollination might occur, how does Lundberg ensure that there is no cross-pollination or drift of pesticides from his conventional to organic crops? I reached out to Lundberg via email to find out the answer to this question and a few others, but through a spokesman, he declined to comment.

On the NY Times blog, Tim Schultz, a Lundberg by marriage, did the smart thing and got out in front of the issue, answering readers’ concerns.

A few readers suggested we might be farming polluted ground. A challenge for us is that according to the 1984 U.S. Geological Survey, the average level of naturally occurring arsenic in U.S. soil is 7 parts per million or 7,000 parts per billion. It can be anywhere from .1 parts per million, which is 100 parts per billion, to 97 parts per million, which is 97,000 parts per billion. What this says to me is that arsenic is naturally occurring, and it’s not something we’ve done to the ground. ( my emphasis) I don’t dispute that we haven’t treated the environment particularly well as a society. However there is a lot of naturally occurring arsenic in the soil, and my guess is that it’s been there for millennia. (my emphasis)

We have continued to update our site with new information. We also attend any forums we hear about, where information is presented by arsenic specialists and rice researchers.

The biggest opportunity for mitigation we see at the moment is looking to reduce uptake of arsenic in the soil by the rice. Some varieties of rice seem to take up less and it appears basmati is that way. So we want to find out what is different in the basmati plant from, let’s say, the medium grain rice.

Okay. What do you take away from that? What I take away is they don’t know what the health issues are, if any. Yet,  he doesn’t make any statements about putting a hold on their manufacturing of brown rice syrup or selling brown rice until the health effects are known.  They don’t offer to put a label on their products alerting consumers their products may contain arsenic. In essence, Schultz pretty much dismisses the possible danger saying the arsenic is naturally occurring.

Unfortunately, not much is known about how arsenic in foods affects human health over a long period of time.  But we do know it can be toxic.  The FDA only sets levels for drinking water. But, unlike GM foods which have no known toxins, brown rice and brown rice syrup do have a known toxin. And it doesn’t matter whether the rice is organic or not.  So, Lundberg Farms, big right-to know advocates, have a known toxic substance in their products.  Shouldn’t that require a label?

Schultz  doesn’t address those issues and he responded to suggestions that company perform its own tests.

 That was an interesting idea, but we think it would be challenging to match or exceed the kind of scientific research places like the F.D.A. or Codex do on a national and international scale. They’ve got such incredible scientific resources at their disposal and there are a lot of really talented people working on this.

But wait,  a November 2012 report by Consumer Reports quotes Grant Lundberg as saying they are testing samples batches and any information they learn will be forwarded to the FDA.  Kudos to them, but what about the right-to-know that Lundberg products contain arsenic?

I emailed Lunderg’s PR person asking if they label their products or have any plans to label.  After three days, I have yet to hear back.

The comment board was full of major league rationalizations. The anti-GMO crowd decries Big Organic, but given that Lundberg’s farm is 14,000 acres and their income is around $48 million/year, it is leaps and bounds over the average organic farm size and income.  But commenters rationalize its size by noting it is owned by a “family. ”

–I did not realize that Lundberg does not fit the 160 acre family farm.  I believe that is because they do still feel like a family farm, a close-knit community of hard-working people putting in the hours and dedication to produce the flavorful abundance we feast on. I especially love the colorful rice blends! I am glad though that they have the resources to spend on staying on top of current investigations.

–Lundberg is a family business. Their family is in the business of rice. The fact that they make millions of dollars (or even tens of millions of dollars) in revenue (or god forbid, profits) is of no consequence. They provide jobs to hundreds of people and they farm the land and produce a food staple that is a staple in our diets. They are a for profit company, and that is still a good thing in the US.

Wow. Just wow.

And here is my favorite:

While we’re all worrying about arsenic in rice, there must be areas of Asia’s rice-growing regions where higher levels of arsenic are naturally occurring. Are people who eat this rice historically sicker? Does anyone know? In the meantime I’ll keep enjoying Lundberg basmati brown rice.

The Koch brothers are family too.





They did respond, but when I asked about the label…*crickets*

The anti-GMO gang that couldn’t label straight

Throughout the Prop 37 campaign we heard the refrain from the GMO labeling crowd, “Just label it.” They wanted to know what Big Ag was hiding. It was, after all, just a simple label, May Contain Genetically Modified Ingredients. 

After a long battle the initiative went down to defeat. But supporters vowed to carry on in their quest. And they made good on their threat. From all accounts, around 30 states are considering labeling foods made with GMOs. This didn’t  escape the notice of Big Ag.  They needed a plan.

So, the 20 Big Ag and food families called for a sitdown in Washington, D.C with the FDA and two representatives from the opposing anti-GMO families. They decided it wasn’t worth it to go to the financial mattresses and keep fighting this war.

It made perfect sense. They knew this would be a never ending battle costing millions. They needed to hammer out an arrangement with the opposing families.

You would think the anti-GMO soldiers would have welcomed this meeting. You would have thought wrong.

The minute notice of the meeting was leaked by “Crazy Ron” Cummins, head of the OCA family, he cried conspiracy as did the others. He smelled a rat. Michelle Simon, consigliere of the anti-GMO families was equally suspicious. In a column on the site  Nation of Change, Simon wrote, “any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted.”

We have been told non-stop for over two years that it was just a simple idea of a label; the right-to-know that food products were made with GMOs. Then in the middle of that, it morphed into how GMOs cause  every malady known to mankind. Still, they kept saying it was simply, the right-to-know. Now the anti-GMO families are making noise about stronger local laws?

The anti-GMO families have been holding meetings across the country where a yogic flying dance teacher with no scientific credentials whatsoever gives his expert opinion on the dangers of GMOs. If he isn’t available, they screen his quackumentary*, Genetic Roulette. 

So, what is it? They can’t keep their motives straight. Do they want a simple label or do they want GMOs banned? Its obvious it’s the latter, but they still can’t keep chanting the it’s just a label mantra.

The anti-GMO crowd has to get real. They have to stick to one message and not be so weasly in their intentions. The bottom line is they want GMO foods banned because they think they are poison.  They should come clean that they are organic advocates that hate any kind of modern progress in regards to farming. They have to come clean that what they perceive as the dangers of GMOs have never been proven, despite the bogus science they believe.

As much as I hate corporations, they were smart to call this confab, where a strict code of omerta was observed, even by the opposing family representatives. I think the reaction to this meeting(s) show(s) the true motives of the anti-GMO crowd.

*Oh, man. I thought I invented that word, but a friend sent me some links where it was used, usually by crazy conspiracy theorists.