Here’s the NYT’s original coverage: Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce.
Scientists “concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli…. The researchers also found no obvious health advantages to organic meats.”
Yet the study makes a case for organic with a number of points. Organic produce, researchers found, was much less likely to retain traces of pesticides. Organic chicken and organic pork were less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic resistant bacteria than their conventionally raised counterparts. Plus, the study found that organic milk contained more healthful omega-3 fatty acids.
I’m not the only one scratching my head.
Tom Philpott at Mother Jones focuses on pesticide exposure: Five Ways Stanford Study Underestimates Organic Food. He points out that researchers ignore the “cocktail effect” of multiple pesticide exposures from a single piece of food, as well as the growing body of research showing that fetuses and young children can be harmed at low doses.
Via Grist, Michael Pollan says,
I think we’re kind of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down, the straw man being that the whole point of organic food is that it’s more nutritious. The whole point of organic food is that it’s more environmentally sustainable. That’s the stronger and easier case to make.
And Marion Nestle says (also via Grist),
Never mind the media hype. Here’s what the authors conclude:
The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Isn’t reducing exposure to pesticides and antibiotic use precisely what organic production is supposed to do?
Finally, further reporting by the New York Times indicates that other variables, like ripeness, may influence nutritional content. Organic milk has lower levels of omega-6, believed to be unhealthy for the heart. Regarding pesticides, the report notes that women with high blood pesticide levels during pregnancy had children who later tested 4-7% lower on I.Q tests.
I’ll still be eating — and feeding my family — as much organic food as possible.