A Stanford Univ. study finds no advantage in organic

The New York Times  today is reporting the results of a mega-study conducted by Stanford University on organic produce and meats, looking at four decades of results. The over-all study 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."

The study had no external financing in order to avoid any trace of bias.

That's not to say that the study found no difference between organic and inorganic. The organic produce did have less pesticides as "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." However, all the residues on conventional foods were within safe limits.

And there were a few nutrients that were enhanced on organic foods, such as phenols and phosphorus.  Again, this was qualified, as "Other variables, like ripeness, had a greater influence on nutrient content. Thus, a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one."

You can read more on the results of the study at the New York Times, Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce, or at the Stanford Univ. Medical School website, Little Evidence of Health Benefits from Organic Food. It's an interesting study that, as the Stanford team noted, was to provide  "an objective review of the current science of organic foods, their goal was to allow people to make informed choices."

Fresh Vegies



5 Comments

  • ellabee  on  9/4/2012 at 5:04 PM

    This is a case where the NYT headline -- and yours -- will be used to dismiss and minimize the benefits of organically grown food, despite the caveats of the authors of the review. Given their assessment of the existing scattered and variable research, the big headline should instead be "crying need for large-scale, long-term, and systematic research into nutritional qualities and health impact of organically vs. conventionally grown food." The review actually underscores advantages of buying fresh, local, and seasonal vs. relying on long-shipped industrial-scale organic food -- but that probably won't be the effect of most of the coverage, either. "No advantage" is particularly misleading shorthand here, given that the review authors cite quite a few: "30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables ... lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets ... organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria ... organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids".

  • ellabee  on  9/4/2012 at 5:06 PM

    (cont'd, since the elimination of paragraph breaks makes longer comments near-unreadable): ..... These far-from-negligible benefits are in addition to the non-food-content considerations that the review authors mention: effects on the soil and water of soil-building vs. chem fertilizing agriculture, and the effects on the environment and animals themselves of pasture raising vs. industrial animal breeding/confinement/processing. A related consideration the authors don't mention (and the one most often ignored) is the effect of organic vs. chemical growing practices on the human beings who work in the fields.

  • Jim Redman  on  9/5/2012 at 12:03 PM

    Bioflavonoids and trace minerals anyone? The actual abstract of the study as published in Annals of Internal Medicine, sounding a bit different from the reporter's sensationalist blurb: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685 These are partisan sites, but list oodles of references: http://organic.lovetoknow.com/Nutritional_Content_of_Organic_Food http://www.ota.com/organic/benefits/nutrition.html And this: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf300051f Guess none of those were included. Wonder why.

  • Solarkite  on  9/18/2012 at 10:15 AM

    @ellabee: well said. Are these biased blogs going to standard around here? If so, I'll stop wasting my time at this site.

  • ellabee  on  9/18/2012 at 4:16 PM

    I don't think the blog post was so much biased as careless/thoughtless. There's so much of value at EYB that it would take a lot more than the occasional irritant to keep me away. From notes on recipes made to exposure to cookbooks new and old, hope you will find EYB's features as valuable as most of us do!

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