While organic foods provide us with a sense of nostalgia for 19th century agriculture, its claims of safety, sustainability, and ‘greenness’ can be distracting. Case in point, the recent recall of E. coli infested spinach, traced to a major organic producer, Earthbound farms. According to the Center for Global Food issues, organic foods are 8 times more likely to be recalled than conventional food. Although organic food makes up less than 1% of diets in the US, it accounts for 8% of all food E coli cases.
According to a University of Minnesota study, researchers determined that produce grown with manure aged 6-12 months was actually 19 times more likely to be contaminated with E. coli than foods grown with manure aged more than a year. USDA organic rules allow manure to be applied after just 3 days of composting—right up to harvest time and raw manure can be applied until 90 to120 days prior to harvest in most cases.
It’s true that conventionally growers may also use manure as part of their fertility program, but in a recent study published in the Journal of Food Protection, organic produce was 6 times more likely to be contaminated with E. coli than conventional produce. Conventional growers always have the option of reducing manure use and supplementing with synthetic alternatives that offer the same nutritional value with less risk and increasingly less damage to the environment as genetics and technology improve.
Perhaps that’s why the founder of The Whole Earth Catalog believes the environmental movement will soon reverse its trend of aversion to GM foods.