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Why local trumps organic for nutrient content

November 4, 2012

I’m sure by now many of you have heard about the Stanford study claiming that organic foods are no healthier or safer than conventional alternatives.

There were so many problems with this study and the media reporting of it that it’s difficult to know where to start. To begin with, their results did not, in fact, support the claim that organic foods are “no healthier or safer” than conventional alternatives. Their data – if we are to take them at face value – suggest only that organic produce is no more nutritious than conventional produce. From their own conclusion:

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.

According to the authors, organic foods are no more nutritious than conventional foods. But, ahem, eating organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Somehow that last bit just slid right by in most of the media coverage of the study. The headlines were all about how organic is no better than conventional in terms of nutrient content, but few articles analyzed the significance of the increased exposure to pesticide and antibiotic resistance bacteria. No mention of the fact that pesticides, herbicides and other harmful chemicals that have been shown to cause health problems – especially in vulnerable populations like children. No mention of the 2010 report issued by a panel of scientists convened to study the effects of environmental toxins on cancer urging Americans to eat organic produce grown without pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals, because the U.S. government has grossly underestimated the number of cancers caused by environmental toxins. No mention of the especially high risk these chemicals present to unborn children, such as lifelong endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances and other problems.

As important as those omissions are, I’d like to focus instead on nutrient content – since that is what the media coverage of the study primarily focused on. Is it really true that organic foods are no more nutritious than conventional foods?

via Why local trumps organic for nutrient content.

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