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Soapbox: Stanford Study Claims Organic Food No More Nutritious, But Is It Healthier?

Stanford's recent study meta-analysis conclusions reminds me of a national news story I watched a few years ago that shared "shocking" lab results concluding that organic produce has no less bacteria on it than conventionally grown produce. Hold up. Really?! This is news?  I spoke to the television. The camera panned to an organic potato just plucked from the ground with a lot of dirt on it.  Cue dismal background music.  The stone-faced reporter looked right into the camera and said, as if revealing catastrophic information never heard before: "our independent lab results found organic produce contains the same amount of bacteria as conventionally grown produce".  Cue gasps, raised eyebrows and hands over mouths?  Nope. Cue the crickets. Turns out this assertion was also made in the recent Stanford study.  Why go to all the trouble to do a study of the obvious?  These types of studies do prove something - that although more organic is being purchased than ever before, many still don't understand what "organic" means. 

Are we eating organic because we think it's more nutritious or are we eating it because it is h-e-a-l-t-h-i-e-r? There is a difference. 

I don't know about you but I eat organic because of what it isn't, more so than what it is.  I don't prefer my nutrition with a side of pesticide, a dollop of fungicide and a sprinkle of GMO. I'll just have my nutrition plain, please. 

What about the correlation between pesticide, antibiotic and genetically-modified organism consumption, including Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, and health?  That wasn't part of this study which is where Stanford researchers missed the mark.

If you've ever driven between Illinois and Missouri you know much of the drive is cornfields, cornfields and more cornfields.  It seems like corn is in everything these days and they've got to grow it somewhere.  As I drove through the fields on my way to Missouri a couple months ago I noticed a huge corn operation with big perfect barns, massive new tractors, huge white silos, shiny conveyor belts that went on forever and perfectly green stalks as far as the eye could see.  My gawking was interrupted by small bright yellow planes overhead that were flying really low and then high, dipping down and back up again, back and forth.  At first I thought it was an air show because it seemed like they were doing tricks until I saw huge clouds being released from the bottom of the planes when they would dip way down close to the corn. Six planes were methodically releasing pesticides on almost fully grown stalks and everything else below.  I immediately turned off my A/C, closed the vents and pushed on the gas.  I cringed thinking about the people and animals who lived in this area, worried about the air they breathe and the water they drink.  Do they eat that corn or do they know better?  I wondered if more people would wander to the organic section of their market if they saw this for themselves.  I wondered if the pilots ate this corn or if they quietly bought organic for their families.  I was already a believer in organic but witnessing this firsthand had a definite impact.  Does Stanford expect us to believe that spraying our food with conventional pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers is healthy for bodies, healthy for farmers, healthy for animals, healthy for water, healthy for soil and healthy for air?   

We don't need a study to dictate what is healthy in this instance, we need common sense.  What I would like to see Stanford spend their time and money on is a study of people who live in agricultural areas who are consistently sprayed and the percentage of illnesses compared to those who do not live in such areas.  Now that would be newsworthy. 

According to Stanford News Service:

"There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years." [Source]

I'm also interested in the study's source of organic produce as all aren't created equal. I tend to believe we'd find some nutritional variation depending on soil and water quality, environmental and farming practices.  I bet there would even be nutritional differences found between organics purchased at the grocery store, farmer's market and what is grown by our neighbor in their organic garden. I wonder when we'll see a study on that.

Via New York Times:

"The study’s conclusions about pesticides did seem likely to please organic food customers. Over all, the Stanford researchers concluded that 38 percent of conventional produce tested in the studies contained detectable residues, compared with 7 percent for the organic produce. (Even produce grown organically can be tainted by pesticides wafting over from a neighboring field or during processing and transport.) They also noted a couple of studies that showed that children who ate organic produce had fewer pesticide traces in their urine." [Source]

“What I learned is there’s a lot of variation between farming practices,” said Smith-Spangler. “It appears there are a lot of different factors that are important in predicting nutritional quality and harms.” - Crystal Smith/Spangler, one of the Stanford study authors [Source]

>Click here to read the Stanford study review<

Food for thought:

Organic Food vs. Conventional: What The Stanford Study Missed

Michael Pollan Responds To Study Finding 'No Significant Health Benefit' To Organic Food

Study: Eating Organic Produce Slashes Pesticide Concentrations In The Body 

Are Organic Foods Better?

Is Organic Food Healthier? New Study Fuels Debate

Organic Food Isn't More Nutritious, But That Isn't The Point

Stanford's Organic vs. Non-Organic Health Claims

Why do you eat organic?

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