• Organic Food Study

    Asked by nancyjac on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    Organic Food Study

    There was an interesting article in my local paper this morning about a Stanford University study that concluded that organic food is neither safer nor more nutritious than non-organic food. They found that the chances of bacterial contamination were the same and that organic produce had only a 30% lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels (meaning that 70% of organic produce isn't really organic). The study directors determined that eating organic foods did not prove to be more nutririous than conventionally grown foods. That last statement was printed beside a photograph of organic radishes selling for $3.39 a bunch.

    What I found the most interesting was that I was able to figure that out for myself many years ago with being a Stanford doctor. Just another variation on snake oil.

    4 Answers from the Community

    4 answers
    • leepenn's Avatar

      Good morning NJ -

      I think there's a big difference between "detectable amount" and a coating of pesticide on produce. Further, many of the pesticides used are KNOWN toxins / carcinogens. Further, many of those compounds can cause substantial environmental and ecological damage.

      In our household, we rank produce like this: locally produced and organic, locally produced, organic but not locally produced, and "conventional" and not locally produced. This takes into consideration environmental and ecological impacts as well as health impacts and "how good does it taste!?" We also shy away from big grocery stores and shop much much more at our local food co-operative.

      In regards to food, we have realized that buying that beautiful little container of blueberries is about the same cost as buying some processed junk food.... or a cupcake or two... And so, we have drastically reduced the amount of processed food we buy and increased the amount of "expensive" produce items... and our overall food bill really has not changed that much. Yes - it is a little bit higher... but really, not that much.

      I think these questions are important to examine. And I'm glad you posted on this.

      Also, organic does not mean no pesticides, but it does restrict the pesticides that can be used.
      Also, there are many many people that do not want to see organic foods take a strong hold.
      So, when I read studies like the one you cite, I often wonder who's sponsored the research etc....

      At the end of the day, we should eat mostly plants... and very little processed food. This we know very clearly. So, any step that makes that easier for a person to do should be taken! And... food should be YUMMY! And I've gotta say, that little container of locally and organically produced blueberries .... YUMMY!

      Hope everyone has a great day.

      about 8 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      Just a quick followup - I had a look at the summary of the study...

      If you do a google search using: stanford organic food study
      You get quite a balanced range of information.

      Some key points.
      Organic foods have lower chance of having antibiotic resistant bacteria. Yes - both have bacteria... but the antibiotic resistance issue is important to consider.
      Children eating organic diets have lower pesticide loads... although that could be the result of a few different factors.
      Nutritional content appears to be about the same... That's great news....
      Environmental and ecological concerns are huge with fertilizers and pesticides....

      And more.

      In my very own opinion, I do not believe that organic foods are snake oil. In general, I think we need to reduce (not necessarily eliminate) the use of pesticides... and we need to eliminate the use of some specific pesticides and antibiotics in the production of food. I believe these things from a personal but also world/environmental perspective...

      Also, if you look at test results regarding pesticide contents of specific foods... one can choose a balance of organics and "conventional" foods in order to keep costs reasonable but also minimize pesticide consumption.

      Ok - this is a hot topic on my mind... I teach a class that has environmental issues at heart. And, we like to keep our child as organic as possible. Of course, the hot dogs he loves so dearly and eats at every possible opportunity (birthday parties, school functions) are a total disaster... but there's only so much we can do! Everything in moderation, is what we hope to teach him.

      Hope everyone has a great day.

      about 8 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      Hi Lee,

      The article did address the "detectable amount" and found that their was not a difference in detectable amount in organic vs. non organic. It also addressed the antibiotic resistance. This is a catch 22 though. Organic doesn't use antibiotics. If it did, then it wouldn't be organic. So that organic is less likely to have antibiotic resistant bacteria is really irrelevant.

      I agree with you regarding the environmental issues related to some specific pesticides and fertilizers, but to me that is a totally separate issue from organic food. I also agree that at the end of the day we should eat mostly plants and very little processed food. I just don't think there is enough scientific evidence to support the myth than eating "organic" plants is better than other plants.

      I don't know who (if anybody) funded the Stanford study and I'm sure there are lobbyists that might benefit from it's results. But organic food is a multibillion dollar industry already that is based on touting organic food as worth the exorbitant price because it is healthier and there just isn't any evidence to support that claim.....hence my designation as snake oil. For those that can afford and have availability to organic foods and choose to purchase them, that's great. But for those that are made to feel guilty for not purchasing organic or that have been duped into believing they are a "miracle cure" for whatever ails them, that in my mind is a crime.

      I use to teach a nutrition/cooking class for mothers in the WIC program (financially challenged). WIC provides food vouchers for eligible food products that are nutritional without being cost prohibitive. There are no organic products on the WIC list of approved/eligible foods.

      I wish I had a local food coop and convenient farmer's markets to purchase locally grown stuff. But putting a lot of ozone and carbon into the environment driving a lot of miles on a frequent basis to get a couple of tomatoes here and a couple of peaches there and so on isn't necessarily better for the environment and just isn't feasible cost or time wise for a lot of people.

      Have a good one.

      about 8 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      The antibiotic resistant bacteria is really very relevant because the antiobiotic resistant bacteria are common on the conventionally produced foods, which means that infections resulting from exposures could be untreatable... especially important for immune-compromised people and especially important as antibiotic resistance becomes more and more and more common. Thus, organically produced foods are contributing NOTHING to antibiotic resistance...and the risk of infection with a microbe that has antibiotic resistance is not possible from organically produced foods.

      I would further argue that the environmental and ecological damage is likely contributing to the prevalence of cancer. In other words, as the health of our planet deteriorates... so too does our human health.

      Our food coop carries many WIC-allowed foods... But you are right that the WIC program does not allow organically produced foods.

      At the end of the day, there are a lot of questions about safe levels of pesticide exposures, and some hypothesize that the current safety limits are not adequate. We do work with some of these pesticides, and I can honestly say that I do not want them in my breakfast!

      It's hard to actually have a double blind study in which we could truly detect differences in health problems as a function of pesticide consumption holding all other things equal.

      I'm very skeptical that there is no difference just because of what I know about these compounds. Many are not human health friendly compounds.

      Best wishes,


      about 8 years ago

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