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The myth of Escherichia coli / Faecal Contamination

(Last updated 17 August 2002)

Other pages -> Genetically Modified Food - News | What's wrong with Genetic Modification?
Who's spinning the pro-GM story?

A number of advocates of biotechnology would like us to believe that eating organic food somehow exposes us to a greater risk of food poisoning through consumption of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria which might be present in organic fertiliser.

In fact, organic argriculture does make use of composted animal dung as a fertiliser. However, conventional, non-organic agriculture makes use of animal dung, human waste plus many chemical compounds as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Thus, conventional agriculture exposes the consumer to exactly the same risk of E. coli, plus the added risks incurred through possible consumption of human waste, chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides used on these products.

Furthermore, in using Genetically Modified produce, the consumer is exposed not only to the dangers of consuming pesticides and herbicides, but also to foreign genetic material in the plant, whose effects have not been properly tested.

For more information about the issues of Genetic Modification see "What's Wrong with Genetic Modification"

Two examples are of biotechnology advocates who perpetuate the "Faecal Contamination" or "E. coli" myth in trying to discredit organic farming are : For more information about individuals and organisations who are promoting GM food and denigrating Organic food, see Who's Spinning the pro-GM story?

Professor John Hillman

Professor John Hillman is Director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) at Invergowrie, Dundee.

In this article which appeared on the BBC website on 2 February 2000, Professor Hillman is quoted in his Director's report as stating "Organic farming raises risks of faecal contamination not only of food but also of waterways, food poisoning, high levels of natural toxins and allergens, contamination by copper and sulphur-containing fungicides, production of diseased food, low productivity, and creation of reservoirs of pests and diseases."

What is not made clear is that Professor Hillman was also on the Board of Directors of the BioIndustry Association, whose tagline is "Encouraging and Promoting the Biotechnology Sector of the UK Economy".

A list of members of the BioIndustry Association can be found here.

Dennis T Avery

Dennis T Avery is a Director of the right-wing "think tank" The Hudson Institute

In the article The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food, he proposes that E. coli is a greater risk in Organic foods than in conventionally grown foods. He states "...people who eat organic and "natural" foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria (0157: H7)..."

The Hudson Institute is funded by, amongst others in the biotechnology industry :

It is thus very clear why both these men have a vested interest in the promotion of the use of herbicides, pesticides and Genetically Modified foods, instead of the acceptance of Organic farming.

For more information about the benefits of Organic farming, see these sites :

The Soil Association - UK
Organic Trade Association - US