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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Organic foods vs. nonorganic foods

Pesticides change the equation

I disagree with the premise that we should not dismiss this study [“Health eating, organic or not,” Opinion, Lynne Varner column, Aug. 12]. We should.

I would bet that most people do not buy organic produce for the possibility there is a higher nutrient content than conventional produce. I would wager that most people, like myself, buy organic fruits and vegetables for one simple reason: They are free from pesticides.

Many pesticides are carcinogenic compounds, and while our world is filled with chemicals all around us, why knowingly ingest such compounds if you can avoid doing so.

While I do not see a need for spending extra money on organic groceries generally, I do think it is money very well spent to buy organic fresh produce — both for the environment and for your body. However, if one cannot afford organic produce, the benefits of conventional produce certainly outweigh the potential negatives of pesticides.

So, Lynne Varner is right, we can all agree on the importance of fruits and vegetables, but we cannot agree that conventional fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as organic; they are not.

— Jennifer Yahn, Seattle

Study supported by food industry

Lynne Varner comments that “The British study may allow us to relax our nutritional vigilance, go back to, say, nonorganic fruit washed before eating.” The study was funded by an organization that includes among its board of directors interested parties that hope for exactly her reaction.

Those interested parties seek ways to refocus our attention away from the dangers of genetically modified organisms and pesticide- and herbicide-intensive agriculture practices and the effects these practices have on our environment and in our bodies.

Let’s look at these biased interests, operating within the study funding source. The study funding organization is the Food Standards Agency of the British government. Dr. Ian Reynolds, deputy chair board member, has spent most of his career working for Cyanamid and other companies. Portions of Cyanamid have been spun off to BASF (2000), a German chemical company that is the largest chemical company in the world. BASF produces fungicides, herbicides, insecticides.

BASF is also cooperating with Monsanto Company in research, development and marketing of biotechnology including genetically modified organisms.

Should we go back to nonorganic fruit? No, we should not relax our nutritional vigilance. Those who funded the study have an interest in our being lulled into a false sense of security, never questioning the safety of our food.

— Barbara Simpson, Seattle

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