September 9, 2012

Mass Media agrees Organic Food “No Healthier.” WTF? ~ Virginia Moore

photo: Bryonie Wise

There’s been a neat little story going around news outlets today concerning the health impact of organic foods.

A few examples:

CBS News: Organic Foods Hardly Healthier, Study Suggests

The Washington Post: Organic Food Adds No Vitamins for Extra Cost, Research Finds

BBC News: Organic Food ‘Not Any Healthier

Fox News: Organic Food Has Little Health Impact, Study Says

And the list goes on…blah blah blah.

Now, I’m not someone who buys organic exclusively or obsessively but I do try to buy my Dirty Dozen produce organic—and in cases where the price difference is minimal or it’s something I’m going to eat every day, I do if it’s available. In my case, after WWOOFing on an organic lettuce farm, it’s hard for me to imagine food being produced any other way.

You can imagine that when I saw these headlines, I said to myself: WTF mate? Am I wasting my money? So, I clickety-clicked.

And what I found is a bunch of misleading headlines touting something that’s not even really news at all.

The fine print? Well, this isn’t actually a study in the way most people think of it; it’s a “study of other studies,” about 200 in all.

Oh—and none of the studies that considered the health impact of organic food on humans (of which there was an astronomical 17!) lasted longer than two years. Mostly, the studies considered dealt solely with the nutritional makeup of the organic foods themselves.

Also, as almost all of these articles mention farther down, the study did indeed find that organic food is 33% less likely to carry antibiotic resistant bacteria and that non-organic fruits and vegetables were 30% more likely to carry pesticides. Clearly, these facts were not reflected in any headlines.

Another strange omission in this discussion of “healthiness”?

No consideration of the fact that organic food is not genetically modified or injected with growth hormones. Uh…I don’t know about you but that’s a pretty big reason why I buy organic.

Also absent: the impact on our environment and ecosystem.

So, basically a bunch of bored people associated with Stanford took it upon themselves to research a bunch of other studies, done by people of whom we have no information and decided that organic foods don’t have higher levels of vitamins in them (a claim that no organic food company I know of was making anyways) but that they do indeed have less pesticides, less mutant bacteria, no GMOS and no growth hormones.

And the media somehow reached the conclusion that organic foods are “not any healthier.”

Am I missing something here?

I’m guessing maybe the reporters all saw the words Stanford University and swooned over the pseudo ivy-league authority of it all. Perhaps a better headline would be “Inconclusive Study of Other Studies Discovers Things We Already Know.”

I’m no scientist but this all seems to me like a pretty obvious case of irresponsible, inflammatory journalism. Which, unfortunately, will probably turn a lot of people off to an industry that, when done correctly, has many benefits for both humans and the environment.

As for me, I’m still going to buy my organic blueberries.


Meet Virginia. Twentysomething yoga aficionado, recovering world traveler and aspiring writer, exploring the more mindful life. Currently in limbo between New York City and Boston, Virginia also blogs at The Life Found, where she covers topics such as yoga, food and the wonderful confusion of life in general. You may reach her here.
Editor: Bryonie Wise

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