While a review of current studies on the benefits of organic food by researchers at Stanford University and published in the Annals of Internal medicine offers a few nods of the cap to organic, primarily less pesticides, they even question the value of this benefit. Really?
As noted in CNN the report states that “no studies have been conducted to determine specifically whether pesticides at these levels consumed by children actually cause harm, although other research has shown a correlation between higher levels of pesticides in pregnant mothers and reduced IQs and birth weights in their children,” and concludes that “This back-and-forth evidence makes a parent’s decision less than clear-cut.”
The obvious answers to why buy organic are far more compelling. While current policies favoring and subsidizing high input chemical pesticide and synthetic fertilzer farming are unlikely to change anytime soon, they should. Yet reports like this create an atmosphere where it becomes easier and easier to ignore the enormous economic and ecological cost of this type of farm policy and the big corporate beneficiaries of this type of Agribusiness.
While common sense and intuition suggest the real truth rather than detail the benefits of organic better to point you to Maria Rodale’s call for an organic manifesto. There the answers on why organic is best are clear. It also becomes evident that the Stanford study seems more like just another bit of scientific poppycock with about as much integrity as previous studies claiming that the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer is unclear or those current researchers who conclude global warming needs more study.
Unfortunately, the first PR blast from the Organic Trade Association gauged the media’s take away about as effectively as the designers of The Titanic gauged the strength of the ship’s hull. The Organic Trade Association’s press release trumpeted: “Stanford research confirms health benefits driving consumers to organic market.” While they certainly got what we consider the real story, their estimation of the news media’s reporting is an unfortunate mistake.
We have no doubt they’ll have a better thought response come morning but this type of response shouldn’t have been surprising. News reports about how the benefits of organic are overrated, or why organic isn’t better than conventional foods are not quite as popular as Kardashian weddings or Super Bowl wardrobe mishaps, but come pretty darn close.
John Stossel’s ill-informed report on organic foods using untreated manure on ABC News in 2007 or Time Magazine’s poorly researched story on organic eggs are far too common. Expecting the media to cover organic food news well is a bit like expecting Sarah Palin to call Michele Obama to set up a play date for their kids or to ask the First Lady for recommendations on new books to read.
Meanwhile, the breakthrough report from the organic researchers at the Rodale Institute that shows how organic farming creates soil microbes that can minimize global warming has been ignored by most media outlets. If only those soil microbes were sexier and wore bikinis.