Well done to My Lord Melchett here, Oh very well done indeed My Lord.

No, not the Blackadder one, this is Peter Melchett of the Soil Association. He’s taken issue with something from yesterday and left this in the comments:

Peter Melchett
November 22, 2017 at 4:23 pm [Edit]
Tim Worstall says ‘to big up organic farming’ the Soil Association decided ‘to make up this stuff about a cocktail’ of pesticides. This week’s Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine heard presentations from scientists about recent (peer reviewed, published) scientific research. Papers cited include: Pettis, et al; 2013; PLOS ONE, 8 (7) 70182 ; and Traynor et al; Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 33207 DOI: 10.1038/srep33207, which suggest that mixtures or ‘cocktails’ of pesticides present at well below the official regulatory level (the MRL) pose a risk, and that eating a succession of pesticides at well below the MRL can also pose previously unidentified risks (Ashauer et al; Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (5), pp 3084–3092). No MRLs are set for mixtures or succession consumption, nor given the potential diversity of mixtures and successions, could they be. Given this, a scientist at the conference was asked what people should do, and he said the only way to minimise pesticide intake was to eat organic food.
Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association and organic farmer.

Hmm. Well, Pettis is here.

Recent declines in honey bee populations and increasing demand for insect-pollinated crops raise concerns about pollinator shortages. Pesticide exposure and pathogens may interact to have strong negative effects on managed honey bee colonies.

That’s not exactly about pesticide cocktails, is it? Rather more about the interaction between exposure and infestations with mites and the like.

Traynor is here.

This study measured part of the in-hive pesticide exposome by analyzing residues from live in-hive bees, stored pollen, and wax in migratory colonies over time and compared exposure to colony health.

Not really about cocktails either. Ashauer:

“The dose makes the poison”. This principle assumes that once a chemical is cleared out of the organism (toxicokinetic recovery), it no longer has any effect. However, it overlooks the other process of re-establishing homeostasis, toxicodynamic recovery, which can be fast or slow depending on the chemical. Therefore, when organisms are exposed to two toxicants in sequence, the toxicity can differ if their order is reversed.

Well, yes, if I’ve already fried my liver then booze will have a different effect than if I have the booze, recover, then fry. But then it’s not really cocktails, is it?

And let’s remind ourselves what the Soil Associations’s original claim was, the one I was commenting upon:

The number of chemicals on supermarket vegetables has increased by up to 17 fold in 40 years, data shows, as the organic food industry and scientists have warned that consumers are exposed to a “toxic cocktail” of pesticides.
Figures released for the first time by the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, show the number of toxic chemicals found in onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s.

Well, yes, two studies on bees and one on a crustacean, all about direct exposure to pesticides and none specifically about a cocktail of them nor the effects of, is used as proof that a declining level of pesticides, but more varieties of them, upon supermarket vegetables is a threat to human health.

Up to a point Lord Copper, up to a point.

Given this, a scientist at the conference was asked what people should do, and he said the only way to minimise pesticide intake was to eat organic food.

Well, yes, when considering the cocktail of natural and man-made pesticides in food eating only organic will reduce your pesticide exposure by perhaps 0.1%, maybe 0.01%.

So, hands up all who believe My Lord Melchett is attempting to advance science here and how many think he’s the head of a trade union for organic farmers trying to big up the practice?

23 thoughts on “Well done to My Lord Melchett here, Oh very well done indeed My Lord.”

  1. Now if he was not associated with anything to do with farming he’d be more authoritive. Rather than paid shill.

  2. The inorganic fertilisders produced by the company co-founded by Lord Melchett’s great-grandfather (and, of course, those produced by BASF and Union Carbide and other small producers but ICI wasa the most important) have done more to stave off famine and starvation in the 20th and 21st centuries than any other single thing,
    Lord Melchett may believe that since famine is cured one may relinquish the benefits of inorganic fertilisers: I beg to differ.

  3. On a peripheral matter, I wonder why the noble lord continues to style himself “Peter Melchett” when his family name is Mond. Is he, by any chance, trying to distance himself from his great grandfather, the 1st Baron, who created ICI?

  4. ‘Organic’ is a con.

    Spraying crops with the toxin copper sulphate was (until 2016?) approved by the Soil Association.

    Also, organic vegetables have more bacteria on them, because they are fertilised by shit.

  5. If we were all being poisoned by dodgy food, wouldn’t it show up in our actual health?

    Yes there’s plenty of obesity / cancer etc, but cancer is largely caused by living longer, and eating organic will only reduce obesity insofar as it reduces the quantity of food you can afford.

  6. The funny thing is that studies show that farmers and farm workers are more healthy than the rest of the population. Which given they must be exposed to far greater doses of agro-chemicals, by contact during and after application, than the general public gets via food residues, means the idea we’re all being poisoned by our food treated with chemicals is bollocks. If they were as toxic as is suggested then farmers would be dropping like flies, and they’re just not.

    Unless of course they are homeopathic poisons – the lower the dose the more toxic they become. Perhaps if we reduced the amount of pesticides in food to one molecule in a trillion it would kill the entire planet……..

  7. Somebody pointed out yesterday that organic farming depends on pigshit.

    ‘I wonder why the noble lord continues to style himself “Peter Melchett”’: maybe because it is (or was) a quite common style for milords.

  8. Re organic fertilizer (aka shit). I wash organic vegetables before cooking them or indeed in many cases peel them. I also wash my organic salad ingredients. Result? No shit, Sherlock.

  9. @Tim Worstall,


    – Organic foods made illegal due to, say, fecal matter contamination

    – More resources available to grow non-organic foods

    – More efficiency & less spoilage/waste in distribution and retail as fewer SKUs


    – Lower food prices

    Yes? No?

  10. If we were all being poisoned by dodgy food, wouldn’t it show up in our actual health

    As I said yesterday, all of these ‘catastrophes’, “toxic cocktails” etc ad nauseum happen to have coincided with a period of uninterrupted growth in human lifespans to the point where humans have never lived longer; in fact human longevity and declining birthrates are an actual serious threat to western societies, but there are no well-funded political activists to push that.

    If you think these health scares are terrifying now, just wait until they actually start killing people.

  11. Hands up everyone who thinks that “Organic” means “No Pesticides.” You’ve been living in La-La Land, haven’t you?

  12. The soil association are a bunch of freaks who believe that cosmic energy enters cows horns and hence the ground via their shite.

  13. Andrew M – yes there have been people made ill by food. Usually organic.

    Some people take the view that if its organic its better. The answer is one of these yes and no ones.
    The food may be smaller, may have some disease, may be carrying a higher load of bacteria you don’t want, usually more expensive and there are those who will eat it without washing it thoroughly. Mind you those same people would if there were no organic be doing the same with the ‘toxic’ foods anyway.

    Organic does tend to mean other methods have to be used to prevent crop disease and damaged crops.

  14. Re organic fertilizer (aka shit). I wash organic vegetables before cooking them

    How about after handling them at the supermarket?

  15. I know of a (small-scale) pig-farmer who markets sausages made form “happy pigs”. The run around and do piggy things in a nice orchard. Wht not organic? Because to qualify would prevent them being treated for worms of some sort. Sounds a good idea to me.

  16. Chester – hopefully you wash your hands anyway before doing anything with them.

    Nautical Nick – I have known farmers who switched to organic. A business decision rather than an ideological one. Smaller market that can command higher prices and in some aspects have reduced costs.

    Like any business decision there are good and bad aspects – the farmer tends to be more realistic about the crops than the office worker, manager or fruit loon.

  17. I am a teacher. If I washed my hands before “doing anything” I’d never stop washing them.

    But avoiding pooey vegetables helps limit my exposure.

  18. The Soil Association certify Anglesey Sea Salt- you can’t get much more inorganic than sodium chloride. They can’t use ‘chemicals’ to clean their plant though- they have to use ‘organic’ vinegar to get rid of the gypsum that precipitates in the process (hydrochloric acid would work much better). This is the quality of SA science…

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