The Center for Consumer Freedom recently addressed an American Chemical Society symposium on organic food, explaining the dirt-covered money trail from organic food companies and politically-motivated foundations to the practitioners of food-scare campaigns. Covering the conference, the Los Angeles Times reported: “[S]ince 1989, when organic-food activists raised a nationwide scare over the pesticide alar in apples, many scientists have seethed quietly at what they perceive as a campaign of scare tactics, innuendo and shoddy science perpetrated by organic food producers and their allies.”

Some schemers in the green fringe don’t even bother hiding their food-scare game plans. In April 2002, Organic Valley Marketing Director Theresa Marquez described her strategy of hoodwinking the public into thinking organics are always worth their premium prices: “We think it’s important that people pay more for food,” she said. “The question is: ‘Will consumers pay more for that?’ and ‘How can we convince them to do that?'” And citing over-hyped scares like mad cow disease (which has popped up on organic farms too), pesticide residues, and antibiotic resistance, the Organic Trade Association’s Katherine DiMatteo told the Times that the success of organic food has: “a lot to do with these food scares.”

At the conference, CCF exposed the close connections between organic marketers and leading food scare artists. For example, we showed how the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a mouthpiece for organic companies. Its president, Ronnie Cummins, shamelessly tried to leverage mad cow disease in 2001 into a business boon. He intoned that mad cow would cause “a crisis of confidence” in American food similar to the one that he claims drove British consumers to expensive organic options.

Like OCA, the Center for Food Safety (CFS — which might as well stand for Center for Food Scares) is led by a disciple of neo-Luddite Jeremy Rifkin, perhaps the most prominent opponent of modern food technology. And like OCA, CFS has close ties to organic marketers. Its board is comprised largely of organic activist leaders.

Summing up these discussions about the complex network of organic-only nuts, the Times reported that the conference

… traced the growing tentacles of a onetime counterculture movement that has begun to look and act more like an industry dedicated to expanding its market and increasing its influence on controversial issues of food safety and supply, such as bioengineered crops and irradiation of food.

Meanwhile, the Times discussed how evidence-minded conference participants

… presented data collected by the federal government, studies published in respected journals of food safety and nutrition and, in some cases, results from their own labs to show that differences [between organic and conventional food] are, at best, tiny and probably meaningless.

Rutgers University food science professor Joseph Rosen shot down the dubious health claims about organic food — frequently made by activists behaving more like snake-oil salesmen than sober scientists. Looking at studies on organic food, Rosen “said most were not designed, conducted or published according to accepted scientific standards, and many were done by groups that openly promote organic foods.”

So where’s the proof that organic food is better for you? According to the Times: “The short answer, food safety and nutrition scientists say, is that such proof does not exist.”