Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Studying studies

It had been a while since the media folks had any reason to stir up the organic vs. conventional 'issue' so I figured it was only a matter of time and they never let me down!  Yesterday, a study out of Stanford University (which must make it super awesome right?) came out, actually in favour of organics, but the media managed to swing it quite nicely the other way with some rather exaggerated headlines that grabbed the requisite attention of both sides.  The 'meta-study' (which is just a study of other studies (I'll take chicken gutting over studying other studies anyday!)) was first picked up by the New York Times so if you want to search it, that's one of the first sources of the article.

Of course, you knew I'd have a response.  And I have a variety of responses, but my biggest beef with the whole thing is the word 'healthier', which is what is emphasized because the study looked specifically at the nutrient content and deemed it to not be superior in organic food.  So that's the headline that was grabbed. "Organics is not healthier than conventionally grown food." 

This is my response:

If there were ever terms more subjective than “healthier” and “better”, I’m yet to run into them.  I will not question the merit of the recent meta-study out of Stanford to look at the nutritional benefits of organic food.  I will question the funding for all of the studies that they studied, since they didn’t actually look at organic food themselves and more accurately compiled the results of over 200 other studies.  How many of those studies were funded by multi-national chemical companies and how many fairly evaluated ones supporting organics could not receive funding to publish due to the content?   

But let’s assume for a minute that the world is a naive and beautiful utopia where money doesn’t influence any of our information or how we receive it.  Let’s assume that all of the studies that the researchers studied, were fair, objective and correct.

As a consumer of (nearly exclusively) organic foods, health is the only reason I buy it.  My physical health is better because my food choices are reflected in how I treat myself and my family and given that I have prioritized my spending on organics, I am more likely to be active and encourage activity with my partner and children.  My mental health is better when I know the steak I’m eating has lived on pasture, rather than a feedlot, or that my chicken has actually seen the light of day.  My emotional health is better when I don’t have to wonder how the pesticides in my celery will affect my children.  My reproductive health is better when I don’t have to wonder if the GMO’s in my breakfast cereal will affect me, like they are affecting herds of dairy cattle fed high-GMO diets.  The health of my environment is better when I know my organic farmer is using a longer and more varied crop rotation, letting the soil organisms do their work and building a soil that is better able to withstand drought or flood.   The health of my rivers is better when the fish aren’t washing up on shore as a result of a rainfall, full of freshly sprayed chemicals or fertilizer.   The health of my economy is better when I am buying meat from my local organic farmer who grows their own (non-GMO) grain and spends my money in our community, not exporting it to monopolies who could care less about our region. 

So, is organic healthier? You decide.

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