Earlier this month, headlines all over the world rang out, “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce”. Really? How can this be so? Organic farmers reacted, and chemical companies rejoiced. Was it true?
The study, it seems, was full of holes. There was a comparable study, conducted by Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University, who published a similar review of relevant studies in 2011 and concluded that organic was more nutritious than conventional. Kirsten even identified a spelling error that swayed one of Stanford’s results.
It seems that Stanford found no difference in total flavanals between organic and conventionally grown food, but her results showed that organic foods carried far more of the heart healthy nutrient. It seems the team had calculated flavonols, spelled with an “o” not an “a”, so it was actually a different nutrient altogether.
That mistake was just the beginning.The study downplayed the higher levels of omega-3′s, as well as lower levels of pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in organic compared to conventional foods. Studies show that higher levels of pesticides can be harmful to our bodies, especially for small children and pregnant women.
Since the study focused on the nutrient levels of foods, and not the toxic pesticide load that our bodies absorb, the study and its resulting headlines were only offering up part of the information, yet companies, farmers, and individuals all over the world reacted as if this were new and reliable conclusion.
Brandt also noted this on the nutrients they studied and gave results for , “The choices they made don’t seem to make sense — they seemed to include ones (nutrients) where the difference was smallest to begin with,” said Brandt. “I’d like to know why they chose these and not others that were just as well-described in the same papers they included.” Brandt’s study included nutrients of value, where the difference between organic and conventional was significant, and created a case for buying organics.
Looking further than the fact that nutrients were seemingly omitted, and others that had a minimal change were included, and that the findings were summarized in an extreme way to give them the headlines they wanted, those who looked further found suspicions that Stanford downplayed the benefits of organic foods because they had received large donations from conventional agriculture giant Cargill.
Stanford denied allegations or associations to the Huffington Post, and said that the Cargill money had gone to a department not directly related to the study, according to a Stanford spokesperson.
Oh, that’s ok, then.
My guess is you’ll be eating organics this fall. You’ll continue to shop for the freshest, local varieties of seasonal produce and you’ll continue to reduce your personal toxic load. You’ll avoid heavily sprayed Autumn produce, like apples and pears, if they’re not organic.
What do you think about this study? What have your friends said about it? Did it influence your shopping habits? Are you ready to ditch the organics?
Share with us here.