Letter: Don't be misled about organic farming

Posted: Tuesday, July 03, 2001

If you read the opinion column of Sunday, June 24, entitled "What the extra money for 'organic' buys," you may have found its comparisons between conventional and organic farming of dairy cows unusually biased and somewhat incredible. I sure did. It turns out there may be a good reason to be skeptical of what Dennis Avery has written. In a San Francisco Chronicle article dated Aug. 21, 2000, Brian Halweil of The Worldwatch Institute reported that Avery "... of the agribusiness-funded Hudson Institute ... manipulated data from the Centers for Disease Control in order to back his claim that organic produce carries a greater risk of E coli than nonorganic produce. CDC officials have stated that their data do not support Avery's claims..."

Did Avery mention that 70 percent of all antibiotics made in the U.S. go to fattening up livestock? (As reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists) Did he mention that many conventional dairy farms do not grass-feed their cattle? Instead, the animals are raised in feedlots, packed in like sardines, and there is no grass to be found anywhere. Animals raised in this manner are more susceptible to illness, another reason for maintaining them on antibiotics. Conventionally farmed dairy cows also receive rbGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone. This is a genetically engineered product that is used to increase milk supply. Despite our government's claim that there are no health risks involved, the U.N., European Union and Canada do not agree and will not accept milk from cows given rbGH. Additionally, some studies have shown that cows given rbGH are more likely to contract udder infections. Milk from cows given rbGH is not required to be labeled in the U.S, even though polls have shown that Americans are concerned about this practice.

As reported by The Worldwatch Institute, retail sales of organic produce and products in North America have registered 20 percent annual growth rates since 1989. Organic farming is reshaping the face of modern agriculture as people become more aware of the ecological and health benefits. It appears to me that Avery is a pawn in a P.R. campaign, funded by multi-national agribusiness, intended to slow down or stop this trend.

Bret Schmiege


Drainage problems

Myself and a number of neighbors have water drainage problems in the Mendenhall Valley due to the lack of adequate drainage. There are either non-existent ditches, too small ditches, large culverts leading to small culverts or perched culverts placed too high up to be of any good. There are even covered ditches that drain into people's backyards instead of into ditches that go somewhere.

A drainage plan for the Mendenhall Valley needs to be a priority! I'm putting together a map with all of our situations to give to our elected officials. If you have drainage and/or water problems please e-mail me at Flood13@hotmail.com with a brief description of your situation and where you are located.

Judy Smathers


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