Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Stanford Researchers: "There Isn't Much Difference Between Organic And Conventional Foods"

Here's the new study on organic food that's been making headlines:
Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review, Annals of Internal Medicine, 4 September 2012

Which concluded:
"The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods."
A few comments:

1. Of the 240 studies it did include, it didn't include one that assessed diabetes risk (or other common mortality-related chronic disease like heart disease or cancer) relative to food contaminants.

For example, the study below found that people with high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides were 38 times! more likely to have diabetes than those with low levels (food is the primary source of POPs):

A Strong Dose-Response Relation Between Serum Concentrations Of Persistent Organic Pollutants [POPs] And Diabetes: Results From The National Health And Examination Survey 1999–2002, Diabetes Care, 2006

2. It found over 35% of conventionally grown produce contained pesticide residues, while 7% of organically grown did. Interesting that 7%. Is that drift? Spraying on the sly?

3. Review studies like this, and their take-home message...
"There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health," concluded senior study author Dena Bravata.
... Are unfortunate because they divert the conversation away from problems associated with conventional agriculture (such as contaminants in food, environmental degradation, and farm-worker hazards) towards a more remedial problem, vitamin content.


RB said...

Marion Nestle make the point in her blog that "Organics is about production methods free of certain chemical pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, GMOs, and sewage sludge in plant crops, and antibiotics and hormones in animals." She further says nutrients in organic and conventional foods should be about the same and that should not be a surprise to anyone.

I might also note the organics is also about sustainable, environmental friendly agriculture.

Basically, the study, or at least the reporting of the study, misses point about the rationale for organic foods.

Claudia said...

Marion Nestle said she wasn't surprised?! Arghhhh....

Bix said...

Lol, Claudia.

I wondered about that point Nestle made: "I can’t think of a single reason why organics should have fewer nutrients than conventional crops."

I read in the New York Times this morning:

"However, other variables, like ripeness, may influence nutritional content even more. A peach or berry that reaches peak ripeness with the use of pesticides could contain considerably more vitamins than a less-ripe organically grown fruit."

Organic Food vs. Conventional Food