The Jan. 12 Forum section had a piece titled “The Myth of Organic Agriculture.” Molecular biologist and physician Henry I. Miller used his microscope to look at a narrow view of a meta-study and concluded there are no benefits. Statisticians understand the inherent traps in meta-study conclusions, which sometimes try to fit square pegs in round holes. He calls it a “poor rationale” to avoid pesticides because tested foods were within “conservative safety thresholds set by regulators.” DDT was considered safe. Numerous U.S. farm chemicals like atrazine have been banned in the EU. Acceptable limits on chemicals are certainly different for small children, often only a fourth the weight of an adult.
Dr. Miller did not address the effects of farm chemicals in water, whether measurable amounts in the drinking and irrigation water of the Ogallala acquifer or our three rivers. Ask fisherfolk about how dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay from farm runoff affect their lives.
Recent studies in Europe dispute his conclusion that organic is harder on the earth with an opposite result: A German study says that organic ag puts less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and a Danish study says that even when organic agriculture’s sometimes lower yields are factored in, less energy is used to grow the same amount of (clean) food, supporting generally smaller, community-oriented farms that make the land around them cleaner.
Dr. Miller finishes, noting that organic farming is no more humane. There is no comparison between concentrated animal feeding operations and organic animal rearing in terms of humanity. Watching the movie “Food, Inc.” or visiting some factory farms and monitoring the ag chemicals in our land, air and water might change his stance.
Full disclosure: We have been certified organic farmers, food processors and handlers for more than 30 years. I serve proudly on the board of the PA Association of Sustainable Agriculture (www.pasafarming.org).
T. LYLE FERDERBER
Frankferd Farms Foods Inc.