A Load of Manure

A university study comparing the amount of bacteria on conventionally-grown and organically-grown produce found that the level of the common bacteria E. coli on certified organic produce was "not statistically different from that in conventional samples." Alex Avery, of the right-wing Hudson Institute's project the Center for Global Food Issues, attacked the researchers for their pro-organic "bias" in an editorial posted on the USDA's Food Safety Research Information Office's website. Avery claims, "The concern about manure and bacterial contamination of organic foods was originally raised in 1997 by a physician with the Centers for Disease Control." That would be Dr. Robert Tauxe, who told the New York Times in August 2000, "The big question is how to properly compost manure ... but our concern applies to both organic and conventional farms."


Has anybody bothered to deconstruct Alex Avery's credentials? (Aside from being his father's son?) His bio on CGFI.org is pretty slim for a place that pulls out the stops like they do. I don't see ANY degrees whatsoever. His McKnight fellowship is as invisible as all the rest; a search at Purdue.edu (or should I search Perdue?) did not turn up anything except a link to the McKnight foundation and their website had no hits on the term at all Anybody out there got the skinny on this?

I interviewed Alex Avery at the Avery Farm in Swoope, Virginia on March 13, 2006 and have an appointment to interview him again, along with his father Dennis, on March 31 (father and son share an office on the basement floor of the farmhouse where the father lives; Alex lives in town). A propos of nothing, Alex volunteered the information that he did not earn a doctorate from Purdue -- he mentioned something vague about his advisor's being mired in academic bureaucracy or something along those lines. At the time, I had no suspicions about his credentials.

Alex was kind enough to print off for me a copy of the ms. of his forthcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Organic Food. It is crudely illustrated with cartoons of evil organic farmers and is full of straw man arguments and caricatures of enviromental extremists and food faddists.

Oddly enough, at the beginning of the book, Alex takes on Goethe (of all people) in a way which makes clear that he has no clear idea of who Goethe was. In conversation he mispronounced the name, and I politely corrected him.

He was very cordial, and spoke with me for about two hours, but I sensed that much of his conversation consisted of a series of memorized talking points, many of which, I find, show up almost verbatim in his father's latest book, Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic.

I would be most eager to learn more and share more information.

John Siman