The hype of the Stanford Food Study
If you have read a newspaper, news website, news or simply watched the news in the last couple weeks, you probably learned that a new study about organic food was recently published by Stanford University. The major finding was that organic foods really don’t have greater health benefits than their conventionally grown counterparts.
However, the Stanford researchers have been highly criticized in the last couple weeks by some scientists, the media and food activists for failing to acknowledge some of points they overlooked. (Side note: the funniest criticism I’ve heard is from Frances Moore Lappe who called the study “shockingly reckless”).
Anyway, here are some of the criticisms:
- The Stanford study (a review of 240 smaller studies) found that organic foods do not contain additional vitamins or minerals; however, they chose not to include vitamin C as part of their study. For those of you who don’t know, vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins we get from fruits and vegetables and other studies have found that vitamin C levels are higher in organic produce.
Yet, they fail to acknowledge that the other largest review that studied the nutritional difference between organic and conventional found that there was a 12% higher nutrient content in organic produce! Instead of acknowledging that, researchers ignored it (which to me, means they can’t).
- Researchers found that organic produce and meat have lower levels of pesticides and antibiotic resistant bacteria, yet for some reason, researchers didn’t consider that as part of the “health benefits”. Maybe because we have yet to conclusively find the long-term effects of pesticide ingestion.
However, there’s plenty of research from top universities and hospitals that would argue there’s a huge effect from pesticide ingestion (i.e. lower IQs in children when pregnant women were exposed to high levels (conventionally grown) produce. No one can deny that a 30% lower risk of exposure to pesticide residues is unrelated to health benefits. Plus, what about the farm workers exposed to high levels of these chemicals?! Farming communities that use conventional methods have higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, as well as 5 types of cancer!
My feeling is that the net health of a food (yes, I just made that term up) does not merely include the nutritional benefits, but also deducts for the potential hazards.