One of the most heavily quoted sources in John Stossel's "The Food You Eat"--in which Stossel claimed that "buying organic could kill you"--was an outspoken critic of organic farming named Dennis Avery. Stossel introduced Avery as "a former researcher for the Agriculture Department," but it was Avery's more recent position with the Center for Global Food Issues, a project of the conservative Hudson Institute, that informed his ardent support of chemical agriculture. The Hudson Institute and Avery's project are both supported by generous contributions from Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, ConAgra, DowElanco, The Olin Foundation and the Ag-Chem Equipment Company, all of whom profit from the sale of products prohibited in organic production.
Avery maintained that organically grown food is no more nutritious than conventional food (an unproven claim), that organic food had been found contaminated with E. coli (a true but misleading allegation, as most E. coli is harmless) and that pesticide residues had not been found on organic or conventional produce, a finding, Stossel said, of studies that had been contracted by ABC News to an independent laboratory.
After "The Food You Eat" aired, the network was inundated with angry mail. Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, who was interviewed for the show, called the story "distorted and inaccurate." Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group in Washington offered hard evidence that the studies Stossel said had been done on pesticide residues had never been performed. And Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, a New York media watchdog group, questioned Dennis Avery's claims and credentials.
ABC vice president Kerry Marash, whose job includes watching for infractions of editorial practice, invited critics in to present their case. …