The Organic vs Non-Organic Debate: Know Your Sources

Posted on May 11 2011 - 2:34am by Mike Lieberman

One of my imaginary friends on Facebook, Michael Martz, said that he was listening to a local SoCal radio station. They were discussing how organic food wasn’t as nutritious as non-organic and that the farming practices couldn’t sustain the world.

He wanted my thoughts on this.

The show was titled The Non-Organic Future. I’ve heard these arguments and read these reports plenty of times before.
It all comes down to the same thing –

  • Who are the people making these claims?
  • What’s their affiliations?

Doing some quick research this is what I came up with.

Who is Pedro Sanchez?
The first “expert” was Pedro Sanchez, Director and Senior Research Scholar of Columbia University’s Tropical Agriculture & Rural Environment Program. He claimed the following:

If you ask me point blank whether organic-based farming is better than conventional, my answer is no.

Now coming from a professor at an Ivy League school this surely is a credible statement and one that we should trust. Let’s look deeper at Columbia’s affiliations.

Who funds Columbia University?
Back in 2006, Columbia University was awarded $15 Million to support science-based effort to end poverty in Africa from the Gates Foundation.

Ok, so this sounds great. What’s wrong with that? Let’s look into the Gates Foundation now.

What’s The Gates Foundation have to do with Monsanto?
According to this article the Gates Foundation was under scrutiny for heavily investing in Monsanto stock.

Ahh, now it makes sense why Sanchez would be saying that. He works for a University that has accepted money from a Monsanto backer. What do you expect him to say?

Who is Marks Rosegrant?
Now let’s move on to the other guest, Mark Rosegrant with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

When asked about organic farming he said:

It’s not an important part of the overall process to feed 9 billion people.

Who funds FPRI?
Let’s take a look into Rosegrant’s background. If you look a the very bottom of The International Food Policy Research Institute’s website it says, “IFPRI is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).”

What is CGIAR?
CGIAR, “…is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development with the funders of this work.”

This sounds great and wonderful, but after doing a quick search, I came up with this article from InMotionMagazine titled CGIAR Turns to Outsourcing.

The opening paragraph of the piece starts out with:

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), once the harbinger of green revolution that swept through parts of Asia and Latin America in the early 1970s and 1980s, is in an advanced stage of decay. In a desperate effort to survive against all odds, the 16 international agricultural research centers that operate under the aegis of CGIAR, have therefore donned a new role – to serve as an agricultural research outsource for the multinational corporations.

It then goes on to explain that one of the people in control of one of CGIAR’s main projects is an old Monsanto executive.

The USDA ain’t helpin
We shouldn’t be too surprised by this type of research and studies finding such information. An article in The GMO Journal titled Regulatory Independence Myth Lives On At USDA explains how the USDA is allowing these companies to perform the safety studies themselves or allow them to fund the studies. So what would you expect the results to be?

What to do?
When listening to the “experts” weigh in on such issues or when you are reading reports, do a little digging and see what the connections are. Don’t just take them at face value.

What are your thoughts on the organic vs non-organic debate?