Even though you probably will never read this response, We would be irresponsible not to send it - perhaps as irresponsible as your story on the Friday February 4th edition of 20/20. We do not watch much television, appalled by the quality of much of it; however, 20/20 has been watched more frequently than most shows. In the past, we have assumed that the shows were based on at least some actual investigative reporting. After the show on organic farming, we must revise that assumption. Since we know about organic farming, as 25 year organic growing veterans, and therefore know that the show was yellow journalism at its worst - a tissue of facts, quasi facts, innuendo and outright lies - we now question whether ANY of the work 20/20 does has any basis in fact and will no longer view it, assuming that it does not. Additionally, we will furnish a copy of this rebuttal to anyone who expresses an interest or a concern about the subject represented - organic farming.
Number one on our list of concerns is the person you selected to denigrate organic foods, Dennis Avery. You really slid his introduction by quickly, and neglected to mention that he is nothing but a very well paid mouthpiece for the agri-chemical industry. He is employed by the Hudson Institute. A little investigation would have informed you that the Hudson Institute is funded by, amongst others in the Agri-chemical/biotechnology industry :
* Dow AgroSciences
* Monsanto Company
* Novartis Crop Protection
If you had included this information in his introduction, people would have immediately known he had a strong bias, and was not the knowledgeable expert you portrayed him to be. The man knows very little about farming at all, and absolutely nothing about organic farming in the particular. He showed his ignorance of organic principles with every lie and/or innuendo out of his mouth. In particular:
1. organically grown produce is grown in animal manures.
Fact: Organic growing regulations, and common sense, do not allow raw animal manures to be used on any food crop. Regulations require either composting, or spreading of the nutrients for a considerable period of time (at least 4 months) before any food crop can be grown. Although Mr. Avery is ignorant, apparently, of the way properly cared for soils work, this is more than sufficient time for a microbially alive soil to digest those manures, and turn them into humus (organic matter) to supply nutrients to the food crop. A soil managed organically has millions of "good" bacteria and fungi per cubic foot whose job it is to take organic matter and turn it into plant nutrients. By contrast, a "conventionally farmed" soil, has much less microbial activity going on due to the detrimental effect of many agricultural chemicals, and the "decay" happens much more slowly.
2. Organic produce is more likely to be contaminated with e-coli
Fact: Mr. Avery published this lie last year in the "Wall Street Journal", quoting a non-existent CDC study (CDC says it never existed), that organic produce was less healthy, and here you are facilitating his repeating it. By your own testing, the only organic produce that was contaminated with e-coli was sprouts and the salad mix. But both the organic and the conventional salad mixes were contaminated. This screams contamination in the processing. If it was contamination from growing with animal manure, how do you explain the contamination in the conventionally grown ? And sprouts are usually grown without soil, and without fertilizers. So there again, the contamination probably happened long after the product left the farmers' hands.
3. Organic farmers cheat to get high prices
Fact: Although there are undoubtedly a few organic farmers who "cheat" on the regulations, just as there are people who cheat in every facet of life, to brand them all with this designation is libel. ABC's pockets are too deep, and organic farmers are, at this time, too small to do anything about it, but shame on you for showing it. The high prices are mostly due to the demand for a product where demand outstrips production at this time. We submit that most of that price ends up in the hand of middlemen, just as in conventional agriculture, rather than in the hands of the farmer. We have been farming organically 25 years, and on this farm for 10, selling to people at farmers' markets. We can tell you that the prices we get are never above conventional, and rarely as much as a grocery store gets for conventionally grown.
4. Lack of productivity in organic production
Fact: The Rodale Institute has refuted this statement. You might want to look at their research on organic versus conventional production and the productivity. Properly managed organic farming can rival the productivity of conventional, and the farmer puts more in his pocket - partially because of premiums, mostly because farm chemicals are EXPENSIVE, and the agri-chemical companies want to keep it that way.