can be so cruel. Just think how many times anti-GMO activists
have protested against the imaginary risks of food that has
been genetically modified. Now a favorite snack of those
protesters, the sacred granola bar, has been found to pose an
actual health risk.
engineering campaigns are among the activities bankrolled by
organizations such as the Clif Bar Family Foundation, which
uses the considerable profits it receives from selling
"healthy" and "natural" snack foods to
denigrate the products of modern farming and extol supposedly
superior organic alternatives. Like Clif Bars.
truth is that paying the "organic tax" — the price
premium associated with organic products — makes you no
healthier. Recalls of organic foods amounted to 7 percent of
all food units recalled in 2015, even though organic farms
account for only about 1 percent of agricultural acreage. In
early June, several types of Clif Bars were recalled from
stores because they contained organic sunflower kernels
potentially contaminated with a bacterium called listeria.
Food poisoning from this nasty bug kills hundreds of Americans
the problem was detected before anyone was sickened by the
Clif Bars or other affected organic snacks that were made by
Kashi and Bear Naked, both subsidiaries of Kellogg. These
products all contained seeds from SunOpta, which describes
itself as a "leading global company focused on organic,
nongenetically modified (‘non-GMO’) and specialty
similar sort of karmic revenge struck Chipotle Mexican Grill
last year. The fast-food restaurant chain had sought to gain
market share with ads that vilified conventional agriculture
and boldly proclaimed their move toward "no GMO"
ingredients. But the company proved more adept at marketing
than safe food preparation, and about 60 customers in 20
states were sickened by norovirus or bacteria (E.coli and
salmonella). Twenty were hospitalized.
superior safety and environmental benefits of food made from
genetically engineered plants have been proven over decades.
Many genetically engineered crops resist insects and
contamination with dangerous fungal toxins such as mycotoxins.
And unlike new crop varieties modified with less precise, less
predictable techniques that are permitted in organic
agriculture, genetically engineered crops have all been
exhaustively tested and are subject to government regulation.
farming practices reject many modern technological farming
advances as if there were some sort of golden age of
agriculture when primitive techniques produced better results.
That notion is complete nonsense. A 2012 report by researchers
at Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy analyzed
data from 237 studies to determine whether organic foods are
safer or healthier than nonorganic foods. They concluded that
fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for
"organic" were on average no more nutritious than
their far cheaper conventional counterparts, nor were those
foods less likely to be contaminated by bacteria such as E.
coli or salmonella.
the potential problems with organic produce seem like a matter
of common sense. Why on Earth would anyone think that using
raw manure as a fertilizer — in essence spreading feces on
food plants — produces healthier food for the dining table?
(It’s allowed, but the FDA requires certain intervals
between the application of raw manure and harvesting.)
widely held belief — which the organic industry promotes —
that organic growers don’t use pesticides is simply untrue.
Although modern pesticides are prohibited, according to data
from USDA, there is extensive cheating. Moreover, many of the
primitive pesticides permitted to organic farmers pose
evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcox explained in a 2012
Scientific American article: "Organic pesticides pose the
same health risks as nonorganic ones." For example, neem
oil, a bug killer, is considered "natural" because
the substance is found in the seeds of a tree, but
"natural" doesn’t mean safe. The stuff is known to
cause seizures and comas in humans if consumed in large doses,
and it kills bumblebees at very low concentrations.
science has designed far better pesticides than neem oil that
are safer, more targeted and much more effective at
significantly lower concentrations. Modern pesticide seed
treatments, for example, mean that crops can sometimes be
grown with little, if any, need for spraying plants.
the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of the safety of
modern agriculture, Clif Bar isn’t backing down. The company’s
website contains anti-genetic engineering propaganda: "GMOs
are simply the latest Band-Aid on a broken system — a faulty
tool in the conventional, chemically dependent farming
multibillion-dollar organic food industry devotes massive
resources to perpetuating the myth that 19th century farming
methods make food healthier and better for the environment
because it has to persuade consumers to spend on average an
extra 50 percent, or more, for its products. Better to be
guided by the facts instead of fears promulgated by
self-interested food activists.
I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a fellow at
Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the
founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA.)