An Earthbound Organic Farm/Natural Selection Foods sign hangs on a building on Sept. 23, 2006 in San Juan Bautista, Calif. With the outbreak of E. Coli being linked by the FDA to bagged spinach from a Natural Selection Foods plant, growers are trying to recoup losses.

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Organic Farming Criticism

There are mixed feelings from conventional farmers and the agricultural industry about organic farming. Many in the industry are not convinced organic foods are more nutritious or that organic methods trump scientific advances, citing for example that farming with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to help lessen world hunger outweighs any potential environmental risk.

Restricted use of antibiotics in organic farming has led to concern about high levels of microbes in manure, in turn causing food poisoning such as E. coli. There is a lack of sufficient evidence to prove organics suffer from a higher than conventional level of microbes, but right now studies favor organic products. The Soil Association suggests the handling of manures on organic farms are actually more likely to reduce levels of organisms, and that less than 5 percent of food poisoning outbreaks are due to fruit and vegetable contamination. Research continues to be conducted on the use of organic waste in all types of farming.

Additionally, a report in 2002 suggests organic and free-range chickens might be more likely to have Campylobacter infections, a known cause of food poisoning. Subsequent studies are underway.

Even as organic farming methods work to protect the environment by building healthy soils and emphasizing natural systems, without proper management and knowledge, organic practices can create pathogen problems.

The environmental benefits of organic farming are a hotly debated topic, and researchers continue to study how sustainable methods may help cure -- or at least help negate -- some of the effects of any environmental hazards produced by the modern-day agricultural system, hopefully reducing levels of chemicals put into the soil and atmosphere and our bodies. Conventional wisdom follows that the more we understand about our food sources and how they affect our bodies and the environment, the better.

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