Consumer Report says study ignores many of the benefits of organic produce
I felt compelled to share a statement from Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director, consumer safety and sustainability for Consumer Reports, on the new study on the organic produce that appeared this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Consumer Reports is a source I’ve always trusted. In fact, pay to subscribe to their website. So when their statement said that Stanford University's study, which looks at the whole issue of whether organic foods are safer or healthier than conventional products, seems “somewhat distorted” I had to share it with you.
Dr. Rangan feels that the study ignores many of the benefits of growing, and eating, organic produce. His statement goes on to say,
Organic was meant as a healthier way of farming that is good for the environment—and that has been proven true. Fewer pesticides, antibiotics, 100% organic animal feed (which cannot have poultry litter and other animal byproducts), hygiene management on the farm—are all healthier practices for the environment and in some cases, humans too. We also see that organic farming, and sustainable agriculture practices can have health benefits for the consumer—and that, too, is demonstrated by many findings in this study. In fact, we are learning more and more about those benefits.
However, the study asks inappropriate scientific questions about health benefits such as whether organic foods are less allergenic. That isn’t part of what organic food production even is and it isn’t surprising to learn there may not be any difference—and it is interesting that the authors found one study suggesting it might be. They also concur that while children who ate organic diets do have less pesticides in their bodies, the authors could not find a clinical benefit among the studies published—but we are unaware of studies attempting to answer this question.
The fact that this and many other findings, including nutritional analysis, aren’t conclusive does not mean that organic has no nutritional, health or safety benefits, as the study’s authors have suggested.
The authors say that the clinical significance of pesticide residues in the body from not eating organic or eating it is unclear. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Cancer risks are calculated over long periods of exposure. Studies in farm workers and our knowledge of carcinogenic pesticides suggests that eating less of them is just better for your health. It seems bizarre that the authors cite some lack of clarity in clinical findings as not proving there is a clinical benefit.
“And even putting all else aside, the fact that organic production prohibits the use of antibiotics in raising animals has enormous public health benefits. That too is cited buy the study but is not captured in the headlines or the author’s reactions.” Dr. Rangan said.
The study concluded that while the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods, it showed that “consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Do you think that paying more to reduce pesticide exposure is worth it? I do.