Go organic? Or not?

A controversial new metastudy challenges organic orthodoxy

September 17, 2012

In case you missed it a couple of weeks ago, a Stanford study recently proclaimed that organic food really isn't any better for you than conventional food.

Predictably, a media brouhaha ensued, with industry wags declaring “I told you so!” and organic advocates complaining that the study was flawed. On the Huffington Post, the Ask Healthy Living department neatly summarized the situation, including a breakdown of the study itself.

In a nutshell? The study — really a metastudy, reviewing other studies — found that organic produce isn’t more nutritious than conventional produce, and it’s not always safer, either, in terms of microbial contamination.

Nothing new there. But, as Twilight Greenaway pointed out on Grist, nutritional content alone isn't the only reason to choose organic. Other reasons, as Marion Nestle mentioned, may be more important:

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. This meta-analysis confirms that organic foods have much lower levels of these things. I’d call that doing exactly what it is supposed to.

Consumer Reports echoed Greenaway and Nestle, adding that long-term outcomes — ranging from human health to animal welfare to environmental health — simply weren’t documented in the study.

Meanwhile, Kim Severson is tracking our national shift away from foods certified organic — a term that many feel has been co-opted by Big Food to make processed food more profitable — and toward emphasizing food that has been "certified naturally grown," a new label dubbed “The Grassroots Alternative to Certified Organic.”

Bickering aside, Severson concluded with a quote from Alice Waters, the high priestess of fresh and pure food, reminding readers what the fight is really all about:

“Taste is what’s going to get us to eat seven portions of fruits and vegetables a day,” she said. “To not consider taste and quality in this whole discussion is to completely miss the point about food.”
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1. by Caroline Cummins on Sep 19, 2012 at 8:19 AM PDT

The Cornucopia Institute has also challenged the Stanford study on the grounds that the researchers' funding comes from Big Ag.

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