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

Via elephant journal
on Sep 9, 2012
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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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14 Responses to “Mass Media agrees Organic Food “No Healthier.” WTF? ~ Virginia Moore”

  1. sayyapillai says:

    Thanks for your grateful study News informations.

  2. Rick says:

    Right on!
    Information (which we have too much of) must be diferentiated from wisdom.
    Thanks for your good work!

  3. Justine says:

    The question that has to be asked is: who sponsored the study/ survey?

  4. Michele says:

    Well said!

  5. Barbara says:

    just taste the organic and then tell me which is better. I find if you are mindful the cost is not much higher also.

  6. Judith says:

    What the media neglected to mention is that Cargill (Big Agriculture) has donated 5 million dollars to Stanford University! Can you say "Conflict of interest"?

  7. Phil says:

    F the Mass Media!!! Organic food, sustainable living and health cuts into their sponsors shares holds. The corperate Pharmas,the government and health care/insurance agencies want all of us dependent and under their systems! I think EVERYTHING the Media is Sh&%t and bias public relations. I'll live my own life thank you!


  8. Virginia says:

    Thanks everyone! And Judith…I can't say I'm surprised!

  9. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Of the links included, I only read the first one from CBS. It actually has lots of good info. Upshot is, for health, organic might be a tad better, but only a tad, especially in terms of reducing antibiotic resistant bacteria. Also, as the CBS article points out, there are good non-health reasons for going organic, like taste and helping the environment.

    From what I can deduce from the CBS article, suspecting the Stanford researchers of being bought out by big business is a bit over the top, moving into conspiracy theory territory.

    For myself, I do organic when possible. Unfortunately, possible for me mostly means only when I travel back to the States. So it’s good to know that at least I’m not putting my health at risk by living where organic is not easily available. In any case, I was never too worried. My personal approach to health is a triangle: good thinking, good eating, good exercise/stretching. But of the three, good thinking is the key, the center, the essential element. If you hold only good thoughts and are unable to do the other two, no worries. Think well of all others all the time and you will progress spiritually (the only progression that actually matters) no matter what you eat or how you exercise.

  10. Thanks for being a voice of reason and common sense. The fact that the majority of these studies only last 2 years is a tell tale sign that we are hardly looking at the big picture here.

  11. guest says:

    yeah, I thought that was a stupid article as well. off course organic doesn't have more vitamins etc but it does have less pesticides. Not more of something, but less of something else.
    glad you picked up on that.

  12. […] Citing studies is easy to sway an opinion. […]

  13. marilyn says:

    good point. And the new prop 37 ad against prop 37 is a Stanford professor

  14. […] that have no business being in our society. Labeling and packaging is confusing and ironic and sad. The organic movement is being scrutinized as not a valid way to eat, yet studies upon studies show that the closer to a grower’s backyard you can dine from, the […]