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Give Us a Fake

Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Give Us a Fake

How ABC News Fabricated One Lab Study and Distorted Another To Debunk Organic Food

View and Download the report here: Give Us A Fake

On Friday, February 4, 2000, ABC News’ highly rated magazine program 20/20 broadcast a devastating investigation that created uproar in the rapidly growing, $6 billion organic food industry.

“The Food You Eat—Organic Foods May Not Be As Healthy As You Think,” as the segment was entitled, was introduced by ABC News Anchor Barbara Walters as a “special and surprising report” by correspondent John Stossel, a departure from his trademark ‘Give Me A Break’ contrarian commentaries that are a fixture on 20/20.1

Based on the evidence presented, the millions who watched the original broadcast might well have answered Walters’ questions in the affirmative. After viewing the segment, Walters said she might “cry.” The ABC News investigation seemed to offer compelling proof that millions of consumers were very wrong, indeed, about the benefits of organic food. Even more consumers saw the program when ABC News re-aired Stossel’s investigation on 20/20 on July 7, or in the somewhat condensed form the news division distributed July 11 for use by its affiliates, through ABC World News Now.

Taken on its face, Stossel’s hard-hitting story showed that organic food, far from being safer or healthier, was no different with respect to pesticide contamination than regular food, because neither one had any pesticide residues. Buying organic to avoid pesticides, the show conveyed, was a waste of money.

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