What's the Story?

By Keith Kloor | June 13, 2011 1:36 pm

The E. coli outbreak in Europe has been widely covered, so it’s unclear to me what Matt Ridley thinks the media and activists are being silent about.

That organic food is more dangerous that nuclear power and deep-water oil drilling? Is that what he is inferring?

MORE ABOUT: organic food
  • sharper00

    I suspect what he means is the issue hasn’t been framed to his tastes

  • harrywr2

    Rational discussions about risk management have been sorely lacking in public discourse on any number of issues.

  • tom fuller

    your question might actually have yes for an answer, especially if you include morbidity/mortalit of the poor who are forced to use organic…

  • Matt B

    Maybe he was thinking of this book, written 10 years ago:


    Of course it is from Stanford, known to be¬†in the pocket of¬†Big Pesticide……

  • Roddy Campbell

    In a funny way the comparison wasn’t uninteresting, just on deaths (not destruction).¬† It was a quote from someon else.¬† And I don’t know, from UK coverage, what exactly caused the deaths from this farm rather than any other.
    The post was a segue from his previous blog so don’t look at it in isolation.

  • Menth

    @4 Sounds like an interesting book, thanks for the link.

  • kdk33

    “That organic food is more dangerous that nuclear power and deep-water oil drilling?”

    Yep, pretty much.  Also more carbon intensive is my guess. 

    Not that I’m against organic farming – the food is fresher and varieties greater (e.g. heirloom tomato).

    I prefer the driving comparison.¬† If you’re truly scared of the nuclear plant down the road, how can you possibly operate a motor vehicle on a public roadway.

    Perhaps he is highlighting just how silly is the war on technology and business.  Sadly, the decarbonization movement just attracts too many of the similarly aimed, but weirdly motivated crowd: Luddites of various flavors.

  • isaacschumann

    What I would guess he is inferring is that if any entity that the europeans didn’t like; nuclear power, oil drilling, ge foods, food irradiation, agricultural practices invented after 1950… etc. caused the deaths of 36 people and the maiming of over 100, they would be screaming for a moratorium on whatever it was. Instead, organic promoters appear to be blaming abuse of antibiotics in CAFO’s(a good point, but irrelevant to the european outbreak) despite:

    1. Europe banned the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter some years ago.
    2. There is, so far, no link to an animal operation of any kind.
    3. The strain is suspected to have evolved in humans, and has never been observed in an animal.
    Many have said that the downside to organic farming, aside from lower yields, is also an increased risk of microbial contamination as more feces based fertilizers are used. People are notoriously bad at contrition and admitting they are wrong. When the destruction of public services causes the near collapse of american civilization, I don’t expect the republicans to own up, either;)

  • kdk33

    “When the destruction of public services causes the near collapse of american civilization, I don’t expect the republicans to own up, either”


    Pray tell, why are you expecting only a near collapse?

  • isaacschumann

    kdk33, I am literally predicting the end of everything good in this world if the political party I don’t like gets their way.
    It was a joke. Not a very good one, apparently.

  • Barry Woods

    George Monbiot and Mark Lynas recently made similar observations about nuclear deaths from Japan AND Chernobyl, as an example of peoples preception of risk, vs the coal industry.

    Their thinking, as climate change (man made?) is so important, closing nuclear  (Germany will close ALL their nuke plants in a few yeats) is irrational.

    they are not¬† AGW sceptics….

    Matt Ridley makes a similar observation about E-coli outbreak, and ‘what’s the story’ ?

    he is a AGW sceptic

    But they are making very similar obsevations about relative risk

    Of course, George amd Mark’s fellow environmentalists (according to Mark) were very upset by this pro-nuclear stance, and they were called ‘Chernobyl Death Deniers’.¬†

    ie thinking 50, plus 4000 effected, vs Greenpeaces ‘1,000,000 plus and counting Chernobyl Deaths….

    Matts Ridley’s story quotes somebody, and is just an observation, that reinforces and¬†demonstrtaes ‘green¬†silence on his earlier article, about how NOT using technologies can also cause deaths…

    Maybe Keith missed the earlier story.



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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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