The latest headlines read, “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce, “Organic Food No Healthier than Non-Organic,” and “Organic Food Not Necessarily Better.” It was enough to make anyone following the science—and the WHOLE story—sick to the stomach. Thankfully I also saw some rational headlines, such as, “Roundup: Despite Study, Organic Food Still Worth It” and “Stanford Scientists Shockingly Reckless on Health Risk and Organics.”
First of all, adequate human studies of the health benefits of organic versus conventional foods would be extremely expensive, which is why none have been carried out in the United States to date. Diet studies that tease out individual diet components without influence from other health and lifestyle factors are complicated and expensive.
Thus, the current Stanford review of studies relied on limited evidence, a fact which they acknowledged: “There have been no long-term studies of health outcomes of populations consuming predominantly organic versus conventionally produced food controlling for socioeconomic factors; such studies would be expensive to conduct.”
At any rate, what the researchers did find was that conventional produce has a 32 percent higher risk for pesticide contamination than organic produce, and conventional chicken and pork have a higher risk for contamination with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Further, omega-3 levels in organic milk and chicken were found to be higher than in conventional versions. For some reason, these details were not mentioned with much enthusiasm. Instead, we heard about how the pesticide levels found in conventional foods are within maximum allowed limits. (As if the current maximum allowed limits make them safe. Ha!)
The potential health effects of exposure to chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are only relatively recently being explored and taken seriously. Take for example some recent studies that were conveniently not included in the Stanford review. Check them out here in my previous blogs: pesticides and children’s IQ, pesticides and ADHD, pesticides and irregular menstruation, pesticides and Parkinson’s (I could go on, but I think you get the picture).
From the harmful effects on the environment and farm workers to the potential and real harmful effects on our own health and the health of future generations, eating organically grown food simply makes sense. Yes, organic food is more expensive. But the overall benefits are worth it. If cost is an issue for you, check out the Environmental Working Group’s new Good Food on a Tight Budget shopping guide to help you stretch your organic dollars. And don’t let the media hype sway your gut feelings about organic food.