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Letter from an alumnus about Silver’s ‘sound bite’ insufficient

Date Posted: December 27, 2004

Your sound-bite presentation of Professor Lee Silver’s “refutation” of the value of organic foods (Notebook, Oct. 6) makes him sound like an apologist for agrobusiness. Surely, your readers have enough intelligence to warrant coverage of the professor’s viewpoint that is more substantive than a factoid about how many carcinogens are present in organic coffee.

Perhaps you could give him enough space to address the following: 1. Are all carcinogens equally dangerous? (Is chugging a cup of coffee as bad as downing a cup of DDT?); 2. What quantities of carcinogens are actually absorbed by the human body? (Both pro- and anti-pesticide camps generally measure the concentrations that are sprayed, not those that are consumed); 3. Do anticarcinogens naturally present in certain plants outweigh the effects of carcinogens present in those same plants if they are unsprayed? (For example, selenium in Brazil nuts, ellagic acid in strawberries, and phenylethyl isothiocyanate in watercress.)

Martin Schell ’74
Klaten, Central Java

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