You probably heard all the hoopla recently that organic foods are no better than conventionally grown foods.
“Do you really need to throw away money on organics?” has been the tease on local newscasts all over the country.
Surprising? No. Not at all.
Here’s how the negative spin was spun…
Stanford University sent out a press release with this headline… “Little Evidence of Health Benefits of Organic Food, Stanford Study Finds.”
The mainstream media fell right in line, of course. The press release told them how to report it. Then obedient reporters wrote it down as directed. But what’s worse, they treated it as if it’s the last word on organics. No further research necessary! This settles it!
Here’s how Stanford should have worded their headline… “Clear Evidence of Health Benefits of Organic Food.”
Elephant in the room
I don’t know what the Stanford researchers were expecting. Maybe they thought organic foods would double IQ scores, cure hangovers, and solve the debt crisis.
In any case, all they got in the way of benefits is summed up in this sentence from the study… “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Wait. What? I thought there was “little” benefit. Are you kidding me?
Let’s start with pesticide residues. The study found 30% less residue in organic products. And why is that significant? Because pesticides’ negative effects on your body are cumulative.
If you get a little pesticide residue today — no problem. But a little residue every day over a lifetime adds up to a slow poisoning. So would I like to reduce my lifetime poisoning by 30%? YES! Without question!
That’s significant benefit number 1.
And benefit number 2 is even more important. Choosing organic meats reduces risk of ingesting antibiotic-resistant bacteria by one third. Come on! How is that NOT considered HUGE?
Just in case it’s not clear, people die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria infections. For instance, MRSA is a deadly flesh-eating staph infection you can pick up from meat. And we can SIGNIFICANTLY lower our risk just by eating organic? Sign me up!
Those two clear benefits alone are enough to make the argument for organics. Period. But there’s one more benefit that Stanford doesn’t address. And it’s the elephant in the room… Genetically modified organisms.
One of the key arguments against labeling GMO foods is that consumers can avoid them by choosing organic. So…where is the GMO investigation, Stanford?
I think I can guess why the researchers didn’t open this can of worms. If they treat GMO reduction as a benefit, that means GMO might pose a danger. So rather than address it, they just ignored it.
Too bad. In years to come, we might find out that avoiding GMO is the most important benefit of all.
“Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review” Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 157, No. 5, 9/4/12, annals.org
Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review
“Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, Stanford study finds” Michelle Brandt, Stanford University press release, 9/3/12, med.stanford.edu
“Should you buy organic? Study complicates decision” William Hudson, CNN, 9/4/12, cnn.com