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Scientists Say Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the but-they'll-make-you-feel-nice-and-smug dept.

Science 497

Hugh Pickens writes "NPR reports that although organic fruits and vegetables, grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizer, comprise a $29 billion industry that is still growing, a new analysis of 200 peer-reviewed studies that examined differences between organic and conventional food finds scant evidence of health benefits from organic foods. 'When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,' says Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford's Center for Health Policy and co-author of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 'I think we were definitely surprised.' Some previous studies have looked at specific organic foods and found that they contain higher levels of important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. For example, researchers found in one study that tomatoes raised in the organic plots contained significantly higher levels of certain antioxidant compounds. But this is one study of one vegetable in one field; when the Stanford researchers looked at their broad array of studies, which included lots of different crops in different situations, they found no such broad pattern. Here's the basic reason: When it comes to their nutritional quality, vegetables vary enormously, and that's true whether they are organic or conventional. One carrot in the grocery store, for instance, may have two or three times more beta carotene than its neighbor. But that's due to all kinds of things: differences in the genetic makeup of different varieties, the ripeness of the produce when it was picked, even the weather. Variables like ripeness have a greater influence on nutrient content, so a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one."

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And? (5, Insightful)

Bradmont (513167) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279071)

Is anyone actually surprised by this?

Re:And? (4, Informative)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279141)

No. It's what's known as a "straw man".

"See, I told you organic food wasn't always more nutritious!"

1) Organic food has a bit of a wishy-washy definition;

2) Where the definitions exist, they are re farming methods;

3) Some people prefer to support those particular farming methods;

4) And those methods often produce tastier food.

The most "organic" thing you can do is not have children. Because we have reached the population point where it is very hard to use non-intensive farming methods.

Re:And? (4, Informative)

Robadob (1800074) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279207)

Blind taste tests have shown that the 'tastier' food thing is psychological.

Re:And? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279283)

Blind taste tests have shown that the 'tastier' food thing is psychological.

Citation needed.

Re:And? (5, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279409)

Google for "Organic vs Inorganic Taste Test" then select "videos"...eg this one [youtube.com]

Re:And? (2)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279389)

Possibly so, though it has been my experience that organic growers tend to choose cultivars for their flavor rather than other qualities, like resistance to pesticides, physical strength (13 mph tomatoes, etc), or ease of cultivating / harvesting with big machines.

Another factor is that taste is purely subjective, and influenced by a constellation of other senses, past history, and future expectations. It is very likely that knowing that a piece of food was grown on an organic farm increases its tastiness to treehuggers and others who care about whether modern farming is destroying ecosystems.

Careful technique vs organic (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279243)

4) And those methods often produce tastier food.

Debatable. While my own experience is hardly data, I've tried all sorts of organic and non-organic food and frankly I cannot tell the difference most of the time and I've never met anyone else who can either without seeing the label on the product. I defy anyone to take a blind taste test on eggs from your local mega-mart and tell me they can tell the difference between organic and non-organic. Same with produce or most other foods. It is true that with more careful farming techniques you can get better quality and tastier food but that is true whether or not you are using organic farming. Organic farming theoretically makes sense but in practice I'm not so sure the benefits are as significant as claimed.

Re:Careful technique vs organic (4, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279295)

We grow lots of our own food. We do "blind taste tests" from time the time and it is fucking easy to work out which is the home-grown stuff. If you operate on a small enough scale to watch your plants individually grow, pick at the right time and select the best fruits for next year's seeds, you are going to get the best food. Could we still operate non-organically? Well, we could use pesticides, slug-killers, etc., but I absolutely do not want to discourage cooperative insects or kill garden wildlife/cats.

So, supermarket organic stuff which is "organic" in the sense of merely sticking to some list of requirements (e.g. "no pesticide") may not be tastier. You are buying for the farming method.

But "organic" in the practical sense - at least in the UK (supermarket veggies when I was in northern VA were, without exception, ghastly) - tends to mean more than simply following that list. If nothing else, the produce is picked at the right time and arrives at the supermarket quicker and fresher.

Grocery store organic (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279385)

We grow lots of our own food. We do "blind taste tests" from time the time and it is fucking easy to work out which is the home-grown stuff.

Home grown is not the same thing and not what is being discussed. I have a garden too and our tomatoes (organically grown for what it is worth) taste better than anything I can get from the grocery store if for no other reason than I can actually pick them when they are ripe. But that's a different issue. I'm merely talking about food in the grocery store with the label organic on it. Quite simply I've never seen any persuasive evidence that organic food from the grocery store is tastier or more nutritious than non-organic food and I've never met anyone who could tell the difference just by taste or appearance.

So, supermarket organic stuff which is "organic" in the sense of merely sticking to some list of requirements (e.g. "no pesticide") may not be tastier. You are buying for the farming method.

Sort of. Unfortunately seeing organic on a label doesn't mean nearly as much as people think it does. It's a pretty narrowly defined term with loopholes you can drive a tanker truck through.

Re:And? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279253)

I don't eat organic food for some people's claim (which I didn't believe to begin with) that they are more nutritious. I eat them to avoid pesticides, growth hormones, animal antibiotics and other crap from bio-accumulating in my system.

This study is a complete diversion and avoids dealing with the crux of the matter.

Re:And? (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279271)

Which, in my experience, is why most people eat organic foods. Why are there so many studies on nutritional content when that's not why most people eat organic?

I don't target organics in my diet personally, but I know a straw man when I see one.

Re:And? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279315)

If I had my cynical hat on, I'd say that it's hard to discourage people from eating organic "because it's better for you" or "because it's better for the environment".

So instead you think up random ways that it's not better for you. For example, contrary to popular opinion, eating organic bananas does not make your wang grow larger.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279437)

That is precisely the issue here. It's not an accident that this story made it out in the wake of GMO labeling on the ballot in California.
Nobody eats organic food because they are supposedly more nutritious. You eat them because they're not full of chemicals and pesticides and because you believe in sustainable, natural food production being better than poisoning the earth.

This story is a classic red herring... It's like saying "Airbags don't make riding in a car more enjoyable" or "Vaccinations don't improve icecream"

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279291)

All I know is that I prefer the taste of organic bananas, specifically, the ones from Ecuador. I don't like the organic ones from Peru. This is true at least where I buy them.

Re:And? (0)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279397)

"See, I told you organic food wasn't always more nutritious!"
Like everyone else here says, there are not many serious claims that it is.

1) Organic food has a bit of a wishy-washy definition;
A particularly stupid one for anyone who has studied organic chemistry. I have pointed many stupids towards looking up the meaning. Wikipedia has a good one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_chemistry [wikipedia.org]

2) Where the definitions exist, they are farming methods;
No it is to do with carbon, hydrocarbons and so on. This stupid name is a problem.

3) Some people prefer to support those particular farming methods;
Once you divorce it from that stupid name. If I eat something not "organically grown", it still contains all those organic compounds. It is also prone to containing a lot of other crap and leaving even more garbage in the environment.

4) And those methods often produce tastier food.
No. Ones that make me feel better anyway. Being happier about what they are eating can make people enjoy their food more.

The most "organic" thing you can do is not have children. Because we have reached the population point where it is very hard to use non-intensive farming methods.
This makes dodos highly organic. I had never considered dinosaurs environmentally friendly before. I think it would bet quite environmentally friendly to have 1 or 2 children as is now common in the west. Having none will lead us to become extinct. I see no point in that...

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279427)

No. It's what's known as a "straw man".

A straw man directed at who? It might not necessarily be a straw man because I have seen people say that it was healthier. So no, the argument does indeed exist.

Re:And? (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279431)

No. It's what's known as a "straw man".

"See, I told you organic food wasn't always more nutritious!"

1) Organic food has a bit of a wishy-washy definition;

2) Where the definitions exist, they are re farming methods;

3) Some people prefer to support those particular farming methods;

4) And those methods often produce tastier food.

The most "organic" thing you can do is not have children. Because we have reached the population point where it is very hard to use non-intensive farming methods.

Winner! Just being "organic" doesn't mean anything. Giant chunks of deep fried organic dog poop don't taste good.

However, good growing techniques coupled with organic farming can produce better tasting, healther product.

We buy from a company that's 3rd gen organic, and the products taste MUCH better than what you get in the supermarket, although some of that may be because what I get from them was picked in the last 48 hours, while what is in the supermarket may be a week or two old.

I would believe that random organic supermarket produce tastes worse and is less nutritious than some random non organic food. Probably looks better too.

The problem I have with nutritional studies is that A) they're gamed a lot, B) they often omit data or take sharp right or left turns to get a result, when the data didn't show that result, C) they don't have enough people or spend enough time in the study, D) they can't tell what or how much of anything people actually are and aren't eating, unless they're in prison or a hospital and you have full visibility. We also only see silo studies as to whether things are or aren't good for us. Maybe non organic GMO'd foods sprayed with artificial sweeteners turns out to have a health impact, while each of those separately doesn't show a problem.

All that having been said, we'd be a lot better off if people stopped eating sugar and worthless vegetable oils and worried about the organic/gmo issues after they slash 1000 worthless calories off their diet.

Re:And? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279151)

Nope.

PS: The flavor of a tomato depends 99% on when it was picked, nothing more.

(Yes, we did the tomato-taste experiment at home...)

Re:And? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279165)

Anyone who thought they'd get more vitamins or other nutrients from organics is a a moron. The whole point to organic over non-organic is to limit the exposure to pesticides, which are poisons not much different than agent orange. If these pointy-headed Stanfordites wanted to do a real service, they should have studied the effects on the human body of ingestion of combined pesticides from various foods and various sources. To tell us that a ripe peach produced with pesticides is healthier than an unripe organic peach is so laughably obvious (and like comparing apples to oranges) that it makes me think the study was done by third graders and funded by the Republican party.

Re:And? (2)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279395)

"poisons not much different than agent orange"

er, what? "Pesticides" are not a monolithic thing. Organophosphate insecticides (same pathway as nerve gas, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors) will hurt you quite a lot. Neonicotinoids (derived, as the name says, from nicotine) will hurt you a lot less. Pyrethroids are quite safe and degrade very quickly in sunlight. The Bt protein (the thing in GMO crops) is essentially completely harmless to mammals (and most insects). I have no idea about fungicides and so on.

And a ripe peach produced with insecticides used responsibly likely *is* healthier than an unripe peach.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279195)

Frankly, yes, I only suspected and never knew that scientists would take kickback from Monsanto and others to spout garbage like that.
But , then they probably eat out of candy machines and never have to bother with traces of fertilizer in their foods.
Did they happen to mention which fertilizers and pesticides were the healthiest?
Good God, now we can't believe science any more than newspapers.
How 'bout we start studying corruption in science and it's effect on mankind.

Re:And? (5, Informative)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279217)

Is anyone actually surprised by this?

Probably; Those people who for some reason think that scientists are uninfluenced by money in research or belive that research is neutral. Most slashdotters will also be "unsurprised" for the wrong reasons. They haven't actually read up about this but want to act superior to everyone else. All those groups are wrong (especially the bit about being superior).

This is the kind of totally stupid irrelevant research which becomes a "talking point". Without actually giving anything useful. "Organic food" is such a wide category ranging from people producing at home for themselves to massive agribiz producing in a way almost identical to the normal inorganic farmers. At the worst end of this they repeatedly crop the same area without replenishing the soil which means almost certainly worse soil nutriants than even a traditional "all chemicals" farmer who at least has a way of putting something, but not nearly everything, back to make up for what he takes out.

However; there is one key benefit of organic farming; no matter what. The chemicals don't get dumped into the environment; pesticides; basically developed from chemical weapons at low concentration, don't get dumped and don't damage the environment around farms. That directly and indirectly improves health. The people living around the farms stay healthier. The people away from the farms where the pesticides have less reach get a less dispoiled environment which means one which is more likely to survive to keep their descendents alive. Unfortunately this effect won't be measurable directly according to who eats what. Antisocial people in good areas will be healthier. Good people in bad farming areas will be less healthy.

If you want actual health with your food you will want to go and actually meet the people producing it. Check that they grow it till it's really ready to eat; check that you get it fresh; picked the previous day and not "looks like fresh" gas packed and 12 days decayed. Avoid like hell food from the supermarket in general and especially food from the middle of the supermarket (dried corn products etc..); if you have to shop there go for the edge (fresh unpacked). Make sure that you eat a variety of different things from different places. Make sure it's prepared in a traditional way and not according to some wierd health fad. Healthy is good; organic is good; they are just orthogonal.

Re:And? (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279233)

You know, I've been buying organic food for over thirty years now, and I can't think of a single time when I've picked an organic tomato over a conventional tomato because the organic one looked nicer. It's always been because I don't want to die early because I've been consuming endocrine disruptors and other scary chemicals my whole life.

Interestingly, this study actually mentions that organic produce contains less pesticide residue (surprise!). But the /. article doesn't mention that—it just accentuates the positive. I would accuse /. of having been bought by the factory food industry, but I suspect that this is just another badly written /. article by someone who only read the first paragraph of TFA.

Sigh.

Re:And? (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279415)

If "less" refers to quantities which are in any case measured in parts per trillion, do we care?

If various fungal byproducts will hurt me in large concentrations, and fungicide will hurt me in large concentrations, is it a good thing or a bad thing to use a fungicide which leaves a residue of one part per trillion in order to reduce the fungal byproduct concentration by a factor of ten?

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279263)

I'm shocked!

I bet next they'll tell us home cooked food isn't FAA approved or that water kills thousands of people each year.

Re:And? (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279297)

No surprise to me. This is expected when you have scientific investigation of religious beliefs.

My chicken egg "study" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279363)

I once took an "Organic Free Range Chicken" and compared it to an egg from a farm that has chickens crammed in their cages pumped full of god knows what.

1. The yolk of the Free Range chicken egg was orange yellow. The other pale yellow.

2. When cooked together, for the same times, the free range egg had a mellower taste. The egg has this harsh taste that I couldn't place.

This was only three different brands I tested (One organic free range, one just organic, and one cheap regular grocery store brand). The plain old "Organic" wasn't much better than the inorganic egg.

One of the brands was local - the Free Range one.

My comparison is by no way a true study and I admit to quite a bit of bias (I prefer Inorganic food because I hate the taste of carbon!), BUT for SOME products there does seem to be something to this whole Organic craze.

No surprise?? I dunno (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279073)

There's been no biochemical model that I know of that supported the organic is better assertion. Anyone know of one?

Re:No surprise?? I dunno (2, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279157)

Yes. Organic food is not sprayed with pesticides. Hence, it contains no pesticide residue. That is why people buy organic food. That is the biochemical model. As to the nutritional content of organic food, that ought to depend on the vegetables being grown and the soil in which they are grown; the only reason a pesticide would change that would be if it were actually metabolized by the plant, which would be a really impressively bad thing. Although I guess weed killers actually are metabolized by the plant, so maybe it's not _that_ far-fetched. But I don't know of any studies that have been done on roundup-resistant veggies specifically, and I don't think the Stanford study mentions this issue.

Re:No surprise?? I dunno (5, Informative)

andydouble07 (2344014) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279413)

Organic food is not sprayed with synthetic pesticides. They may or may not have pesticide residues, and the synthetic stuff is generally safer.

Re:No surprise?? I dunno (1, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279161)

Don't hold your breath.

Most health nuts don't read studies, they rely on their gut feelings plus whatever they hear that reinforces their beliefs.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279075)

Why are you linking this story from NPR and the NY Times when you could have gone to the Stanford site directly. Liberal bias?

Re:Why? (4, Informative)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279133)

Because if they'd linked to the Stanford site, they would have had to admit that this isn't actually what the study says. Yes, vegetables grown similarly with or without pesticides have similar nutritional content. Hardly shocking. But also, vegetables grown without pesticides don't have pesticide residue!!! Which is why people buy organic food. If you're buying organic because you want more vitamins, sure, switch back to your pesticide-laden foods instead.

I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279081)

with which my ancestors did not co-evolve, not because I think they're more nutritious. Who said they were more nutritious anyway? Did I miss another memo?

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279135)

Right, there are lots of reasons to eat organic. In my city for example, I am trying to support the local farmers (who are small). I'm not interested in getting more vitamins into my diet - well fed people get plenty of that, and if I didn't I would take a vitamin pill.

My pesticide concern one is not one of personal ingestion, but mass use damaging the environment. That is why I mention things like the biochemical model question.

So I am concerned that some silly ideas about organic foods negatively impact the definite good benefits. It reminds me of irradiated food - I could never get a clear explanation from my friends who opposed it what was wrong with it. It's not radioactive. Is it toxic? Etc.

Best to be scientific about organic foods and say upfront definite reasons we KNOW for using them.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (2, Funny)

simplexion (1142447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279137)

Do you know how much dihydrogen monoxide is in organic foods? I've heard that shit is potentially deadly.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (2)

broggyr (924379) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279201)

It's lethal if inhaled or ingested in large quantities.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (2)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279247)

Do you know how much dihydrogen monoxide is in organic foods? I've heard that shit is potentially deadly.

Potentially? Nobody has survived ingestion of that substance, in the long run - it is indeed 100% fatal!

changing the subject (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279275)

We assume that di-hydrogen monoxide is not a chemical the AC and his/her ancestors either did not grow up or did not evolve with. So you are changing the subject.

We are also pretty sure that non-dangerous levels of H2O are used in the production of organic foods, and non-dangerous levels are contained in them, as well.

Re:changing the subject (1)

simplexion (1142447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279345)

Remember kids, chemicals are bad.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279219)

Thing is:

a) Everything is made of "chemicals"

b) Some of the traditional "organic" chemicals are really really bad, much worse than the modern ones. eg. copper salts as pesticides - quite common among organic farmers.

c) There's no certification or control of what is/isn't organic. Mostly it's just colored stickers on things to increase their retail price. If you dig deeper the stickers mean nothing. It's just people meeting a demand for hipster food with high smugness pricing&labeling.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279351)

Can you find a study or article online that deals with the toxicity of copper salts like copper sulfate? I've only found ones saying its non-toxic to humans.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279393)

Thing is, you're kind of behind on what's been going on with organic food in the last few decades.

a) OK, yeah... chemistry can be used to describe living things. But we're talking about pesticides, not dyhydrogen monoxide.

b) Don't know much about copper sulfate myself except that it's mainly used in rice production (limted to once every 2 years) and can't be used as an herbicide in organic farming. It's also used in non-organic farming (especially aquaculture) in addition to other pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.

c) There's 3 tiers or organic classification according to the USDA Organic Certifications which include the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Program of 2002. [usda.gov]

There's also the US and Canadian Organic Standards Equivalency Agreement of 1993 where the US and Canada agreed to recognize each other's organic standards.

and the California Certified Organic Farmers [ccof.org] which has been around since 1973. There are other more stringent independent standards groups as well.

Re:I eat organic food to avoid chemicals... (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279425)

Wait, the organic crowd uses copper as an insecticide, and claims that this is healthier than pyrethroids?

I know better (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279083)

Whatever makes me superior to the common folk is good for me, because I am special and I deserve only the best and special things for me. If you do not understand and appreciate my specialness, then go ahead and eat garbage and wear unfashionable clothes but I will not defile my body that way because I am special, and probably a genius too, because I am so smart.

who paid for this study? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279085)

I'm curious to know who funded this study? My guess is on the non-organic industry did.. Academic research is four times more likely to be favorable to who paid for for the study.

Stanford's Monsanto Ties Cast Doubt on Study (3, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279231)

Amazingly, I watched this video, linked from Google News, about 3 minutes before reading your question:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vq8Klio60s [youtube.com]

Alan Watt covered this on his show and we have covered it on DeathRattleSports.com. Stanfords 'Anti-Organic' study does not address the real concerns of non-organic plants, which of course include GMO.

Re:who paid for this study? (1)

quenda (644621) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279249)

I'm curious to know who funded this study? My guess is on the non-organic industry did.. Academic research is four times more likely to be favorable to who paid for for the study.

Which study says that? And who paid for it?

Re:who paid for this study? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279251)

Comments by anonymous cowards are four times more likely to be favorable to who paid for the study... wait...

Re:who paid for this study? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279267)

More than this - this study *appears* to be pro-non-academic food, but it isn't - all it does is debunk some claims about organic food being more nutritious. Meanwhile, it takes excessive care to avoid examining whether organic food is less *toxic* than non-organic food.

The reason I eat organic is not for nutrition, but rather to avoid pesticides, growth hormones, animal antibiotics and other crap from bio-accumulating in my system.

conventional foods enriched with other compounds (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279087)

Yes, but the non-organic foods were probably enhanced with pesticides, which are common endocrine disruptors in humans. Even if non-organic and organic foods are similar in nutrient values, I'll pass on the pesticides. Just sayin'.

Re:conventional foods enriched with other compound (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279229)

Do you post A/C because you know you're wrong or is there some other reason?

Healthy or Nutritious? (4, Informative)

crow (16139) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279089)

There's a big difference between healthy foods and nutritious foods. People don't buy organic for nutrition. That's what people buy vitamins for. People buy organic food for what it *doesn't* have, namely pesticides (and hormones for meat and dairy).

This study looks like one that is clearly designed to support industrial farming by distracting consumers. "Hey, you were buying organics for reason A, but it makes no sense to buy organics for reason B, so you should stop."

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (1, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279119)

You know, it's only in the US that animals are routinely pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. In the rest of the world it's discouraged if not actually illegal.

If I lived in the US I'd be vegan. Oh, wait, the vegetables are full of chemical crap too. Well, it's a good job I'm not in the US, then.

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (0)

simplexion (1142447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279175)

How is this insightful? Have the people who sniff their own farts converged on /.?

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279221)

FTA:

Most of the studies included in this collection looked at the food itself — the nutrients that it contained as well as levels of pesticide residues or harmful bacteria.

As you might expect, there was less pesticide contamination on organic produce. But does that matter? The authors of the new study say probably not.

If you are convinced that organic is better because it contains less residue or you fear drug resistant organisms then eat organic. But this study (actually a summary of hundreds of studies) didn't find any health benefit.

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279123)

This is an example of why you can't trust academic research anymore..

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279149)

Absolutely right. If you don't agree with it then it's obvious it can't be trusted!

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (4, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279167)

Actually, the study looks at both issues, and says that in fact organics do contain less pesticide residue. However, for some reason what's actually said in newspaper reports that link to the study is that "organics are no different." So don't blame Stanford for this—blame the reporters. If you ever thought the news was unbiased, this ought to give you some food for thought...

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (1)

whitesea (1811570) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279279)

Actually, the study looks at both issues, and says that in fact organics do contain less pesticide residue. However, for some reason what's actually said in newspaper reports that link to the study is that "organics are no different." So don't blame Stanford for this—blame the reporters. If you ever thought the news was unbiased, this ought to give you some food for thought...

Yes, but would this food for thought be organic, pesticide-covered or genetically engineered?

Organic Healthier (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279213)

You make the same distinction I do - Nutrition is a part of how 'Healthy' a food is, but not all of it.

Still, there's problems organic foods, in that farmers are still free to use fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. They just have to be 'organic'* ones, and some of those are nastier than the artificial chemical ones. Also, there's the question of food [nytimes.com] safety [organicconsumers.org] , as organic certification is separate from safety certification. Fecal matter, E-Coli, Salmonella, etc are all natural and organic, after all. I've read reports that *SOME* organic products have higher levels of contamination than their non-organic counterparts. Given how widespread the field is and how stuff constantly changes, I have no advice beyond 'pay attention to your food source, no matter whether it's organic or not'. For example, I don't worry about organic vegetarian** eggs, but I do worry whether the farm vaccinates the hens against Salmonella.

*Scare-quoted primarily because the distinction on what's organic and not varies by location and certifying authority(if any).
**WTH? I want eggs from omnivores - chickens that get sufficient insect protein produce better eggs! ;)

Re:Healthy or Nutritious? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279285)

There is a very good reason to buy organic food : sustainability. It causes less pollution and uses less synthetic additives (which are often derived from fossil resources).

The "good for your health" is more of a marketing tool for people too concerned about themselves than about the planet. It has always disturbed me that people call organic food healthier : in the past decades, food quality has gone up. Intoxications are rare, parasites are fought, rotten food is less hidden in processed food. Organic food partly comes back on the techniques that allowed this. When done correctly, it is an efficient fight against wastes, but I always fear that it could be done wrong and cause intoxication, especially given the number of people who combine organic food growing and some kind of alternative spirituality (not the majority, but these people do exist) that may make them believe that "natural" ways can not create a dangerous fruit or vegetable.

When I buy organic food, I do it to preserve the planet, and I consider this a slight health risk. This would be a hard sell for most people.

Something wrong here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279091)

.....a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one.

anyone else see the problem with this statement......?

Re:Something wrong here. (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279197)

No, not at all. Whatever could you mean? It's a lush peach, right? Nom! Who cares if it's full of poison? What matters is the nutritional content, not whether eating it will kill you! Let's all sing the "accentuate the positive" song.

Pesticides (1)

todfm (1973074) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279095)

To me and everyone I know, we buy organic not because we think it enhances the nutritional value of the produce, but because we want to eat less (maybe a lot less) pesticides with our produce. Why they would study the vitamin content is beyond me. It's never been a concern, claim, or issue.

Re:Pesticides (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279301)

Organic food has plenty [berkeley.edu] of [sciencedaily.com] pesticides [ufl.edu] too [colostate.edu] . Most of them are worse than the synthetic ones.

Pesticide free...? Nature has its own pesticides. Many plants, especially fruit trees, produce their own pesticides when attacked by insects. These pesticides are *inside* the fruit and can be very toxic. You can prevent their formation (ie. make the fruit less toxic) by applying artificial pesticides when the insects appear.

Unripe peach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279097)

Who would ever want to eat an unripe peach?

Re:Unripe peach? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279159)

The people who buy them in the grocery store. They're almost never ripe.

Pesticide content (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279099)

I've always thought that people who eat organic food for health reasons do so to avoid ingesting pesticide residue, not because they think organic food is more nutritious. Yet every study of this type seems to look at micronutrient content and ignore the health effects of consuming pesticides in food.

Is there a health benefit to eating produce that doesn't contain pesticide residues? (Or at least, contains vastly smaller residues?)

Re:Pesticide content (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279353)

I've always thought that people who eat organic food for health reasons do so to avoid ingesting pesticide residue, not because they think organic food is more nutritious.

Thing is: The "organic" label is meaningless. It doesn't mean "pesticide free".

In most places the "organic" farmers are allowed to use anything that's found in nature, including the stuff that kills insects. So long as it wasn't made in a laboratory they can use it.

Guess what? Nature is full of nasty poisons. Most of the natural pesticides are worse than the artificial ones. [go.com]

Plus the strip mines where they dig out stuff like copper sulphate ( a common organic pesticide) are environmental disasters in their own right. The copper sulphate also washes into the water system, poisoning everything in it - double whammy.

Bottom line: Organic foods is bullshit worthy of an episode of Penn and Teller.

follow the money (0)

0xdeaddead (797696) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279105)

its brought to you by the same people who went along with smoking is good. this is just a larger move to discredit the whole 'organic' thing, although now its a big business, 'big organic' is pretty much pointless these days. try supporting local growers, the 3-5 that still survive.

Re:follow the money (2)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279193)

You could be right about who funded it. But then you don't point out who did so I'm guessing you just made an assumption because you disagreed with it. I think organic is great for those who want to pay twice the price for the same fruit and vegetables. I bet you don't know for sure if those "organic" fruit and vegetables are really organic though, do ya? I've grown fruit without pesticides and it's a hell of a job. Try it sometime. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any problems with people who want to eat only organic. It's the ones that try to ban pesticides for the rest of us that don't want to double or triple our food budget that annoy me.

Re:follow the money (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279361)

try supporting local growers, the 3-5 that still survive.

This.

The FU? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279109)

There's this problem of comparing unripe apples and ripe oranges. What the fuck, dudes?
First of, there's this stupid comparison of ripe X versus unripe Y. Then, I'd take a less nutritive organic peach over a pesticide-filled ripe peach any day. Sure, might take me two over one in terms of nutrition, but at least those two are not sprinkled with shit.

Re:The FU? (1)

whitesea (1811570) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279307)

If they are organic, then this is probably precisely what they are sprinkled with. After all it's an organic fertilizer :-).

Obfuscation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279121)

The real benefit of organic is less pesticide and herbicide in your diet and a smaller carbon footprint. Trumpetting the "lack of higher nutrient value" in the mainstream media is an agricultural industry propaganda coup.

mush (2)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279127)

"Scientists" may be using poor analysis methods; journal may suffer various biases including membership and advertising income sources. The paper sounds more like oranges, apples and orangutans were compared for a new agenda driven Rorschach test.

THAT'S NOT THE POINT!!!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279129)

OK, I've worked on cooperatives, and generally hung out with the "hippie" crowd quite a bit, but never once did I hear any of them claim that organic food contained more nutrients etc. It is, and always was, about keeping the pesticides off our food. So you say that organic isn't more nutritious? Well NSS.

Re:THAT'S NOT THE POINT!!!!!! (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279383)

I have heard them say that they have more vitamins, but these are the same kind of people that worship the sun, practice astrology and think that vaccines cause autism. Its not all organic enthusiasts that are crazy, but there is a non-zero population of crazy ones. I understand the anti pesticide, environmental arguments for organics that many of them make and will buy organic if its not terribly more expensive.

Do Not Forget (4, Insightful)

assertation (1255714) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279145)

Don't forget that organic food isn't just about increased nutritional content( and that is assuming this study is telling the truth, for example, Stanford has ties to Monsanto).

Organic farming is also about food security. Having food at all. Conventional farming uses fertilizer made from oil. A finite resource that is running out. Making artificial fertilizer has been polluting and destroying our environment........including farm land and drinkable water.

Organic food is also about human health in terms of pesticide use. When you buy organic food you aren't consuming the pesticide that is used on other crops. You are also aren't contributing to the manufacture and disposal of pesticides which is getting into your soil, your water and effecting your health indirectly.

infinite resource (1)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279325)

Oily shit is an infinite, unending resource ... on earth as it is in heaven. Colorado is one giant lump of sandy-oil and Coors. So is Kanukland if you consider their bear-piss product beer. Some moons are made entirely of **gas** so we can drive 1959 Cadillacs all over the universe. Feckin-A drooling puss-puss energy-fags need to stick their heads in a wind-turbine so we can squeeze the oil off their bones.

I haven't tried (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279169)

I haven't tried eating inorganic food - whats it taste like without proteins, sugars and other carbon chain based compounds..

Study findings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279179)

Well, if you read the study, it did have some interesting findings:
1) Conventional produce has measurably higher levels of pesticides.
2) Children that eat conventional produce have measurably higher levels of pesticide in their urine.
3) Conventional meats have higher levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Now I consider these things to be valid health risks. I don't want multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria in my gut nor do I want to have enough pesticide in me to piss it out.

Yet with these results they concluded that the organic stuff really was no different than alternatives. Whatever. The researchers get their 15 minutes of fame.

Re:Study findings (1)

simplexion (1142447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279203)

If those things concern you, just remember to support GM foods.

Bullshit study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279183)

This is complete bullshit. Conventional vs. organic is a lot more than just whether it is nutritious for you or not. A conventional fruit and vegetable is created using an heirloom seed, one which has never been modified. It is also usually grown in soil which has not been stripped of its minerals and vitamins through overuse. A conventional food for its part is devoid of those same minerals and vitamins and is always covered in pesticides, herbides, growth hormones and so on.

On one side, the organic food tastes a lot better than its conventional counterpart. On the other, it provides you with the vitamins and minerals you need. In the last, it prevents you from feeling the effects of those herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones AND the modification of the seed which ranges from mild allergic reactions to kidney illnesses to downright sterility.

Stop believing the corporations and the media they paid to come up with such stupidity. Use your common sense: natural or chemical?

Electric cars arenot safer than gas-guzzling ones. (1)

Michael_gr (1066324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279189)

So, no point in switching to electric cars, right?

It's also worse for the environment (2, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279209)

It's also worse for the environment because it takes a /lot/ more land for the same yield [slate.com] .

Organic yields are substantially lower than conventional yields and the only way to obtain additional farmland it to take wildlands. According to Dr. Steve Savage who did the first comprehensive study of organic farming for the USDA in 2008 simply converting the United States alone to organic standards would require substantial [usda.gov] additional cropland.

        a switch to organic agriculture would require a 43 percent increase over current U.S. cropland, according to Savage. As he puts it, "On a land-area basis, this additional area would be 97% the physical size of Spain or 71% the size of Texas

Taking additional farmland (not necessarily explicitly for organic but the principal applies) is the leading cause of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. I don't think I need to cite the significant loss in biodiversity and carbon offsets from the loss of wildlands for conversion to croplands. The trade off in pesticide use is more than offset by other ecological costs.

The first comprehensive studies of organic farming came back saying that the health benefits are anecdotal and the loss of yield substantial. I'm inclined to say organic farming should be help in contempt and exposed as simple green washing. I think in years to come it will be looked at no differently than ethanol from corn.

The journal gives a better headline (4, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279211)

If you go to the Annals of Internal Medicine web page, they advertise the paper with this headline: "Are Organic Foods Healthier? There is little evidence that organic food is more nutritious but it may have fewer pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

This seems like a much fairer evaluation of the results than the NPR or Slashdot headline.

Re:The journal gives a better headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279339)

If you go to the Annals of Internal Medicine web page, they advertise the paper with this headline: "Are Organic Foods Healthier? There is little evidence that organic food is more nutritious but it may have fewer pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

This seems like a much fairer evaluation of the results than the NPR or Slashdot headline.

It's confirmation bias. Geeks are not exactly known for their healthy livestyle, and we like hearing versions that confirm others to be wrong.

Choices, choices, choices ... (1)

stevez67 (2374822) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279215)

Let's see ... I can eat vegetables grown using synthetically derived pesticides and herbicides that contain measurable, but infinitesimally small amounts, of chemicals shown to be dangerous at enormously higher concentrations ... or ... vegetables grown using manure (feces), compost (rotted organic debris), and biologically derived pesticide and herbicide chemicals (organic DOES NOT mean pesticide or herbicide free) that are just as dangerous at high concentrations as the synthetically made chemicals I'm trying to avoid, while paying twice as much for my food which was grown by a method that can't possibly feed the world's population. So I choose organic ... but a deer wanders through the field and poops on the organic lettuce that eventually ends up in my organic salad and I die from Salmonella or E. coli ... but by God my corpse never encountered round up ready corn! Mother Nature FTW!

Overall health, not *my little personal health* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279225)

I'll let you into a little secret: I buy organic to increase overall health. That's why I buy local too (where in my case local trumps organic).

I'm not that worried by my personal health. Nor do I think that pesticides or (gasp!) GM is bad per se. But as long as those things are in the hands of criminals like Monsanto, I'll avoid them like the plague.

There's a missing feedback link here, as long as the likes of Monsanto get a reward the more pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and GM organisms are used.

What about? (4, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279245)

The other facets of organic vs. non organic?
Non-organic farming relies on fossil-fuel based fertilizers and pesticides in humongous quantities.
Why, to support soil depleting and disease susceptible monocultures. Without proper rotation of crops, this leaves the soil barren of nutrients unless you pump fertilizers into it, and when farming is done, contributes to soil erosion.
With a monoculture, one fungus or insect can destroy an entire crop, necessitating the use of pesticides and other harsh chemicals.
Even of organic does not offer much greater health benefits, it robs Monsanto, Cargill, Dow, and Chevron of a constant revenue stream.
It also reduced reliance on fossil fuels, reduces carbon emissions (both from the production and use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides), creates (at least anecdotally) safer food, and makes for a cleaner environment.
What is NOT desirable about that? Oh, profit for the megacorps, I forgot.

It might have a same amount of vitamins (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279261)

but it also has lots of pesticides in it.

Study the obvious to avoid the _real_ issue. (3, Insightful)

fygment (444210) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279273)

Who ever said 'organic' had more or less nutrients. It's always been about the growth environment ie. lack of pesticides, artificial growth supplements, etc. What's more frightening is that these were scientists. The comment about the variability of nutrients between plants is common knowledge which, you would think, would have rendered the need for the study kind of doubtful.

More useful would have been a study on:

a) the non-nutrient compound differences ie. besides nutrients, what compounds are present and how do they differ between organic and non-organic?
b) what of the non-nutrient compounds are good/bad for consumers and to what degree?
c) how have the levels of non-nutrient compounds changed over the years ie. have non-organic foods seen a rise or decrease in non-nutrient compounds and how does that affect consumers?

Pesticide is pesticide (2)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279281)

If you don't use chemical pesticide, you have to do something else to prevent the pest eating up/ruining all your crop. What do they use and how does it compare to "chemical" (seriously, what isn't "chemical"?) pesticide?

Nice try, but you missed the mark. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279321)

Most people who consume organic food are not necessarily doing it because those organic fruits and vegetables look SO much better than their non-organic friends. In fact in most cases, they appear smaller and not quite as ripe or "pretty" as the fruit we've been so accustomed to seeing in our grocery stores.

People are consuming organic food because they do not wish to ingest chemicals and pesticides into their body. Conveniently, this study managed to steer completely around this particular aspect of consumer buying, which is such a large factor here that it makes me wonder who really funded this "study"...

Wrong view on problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279323)

I don't want a mixture of pesticides in my carots. And I don't want "natural flavours" to make me feel like thee crew in "The Matrix".

hmm (3, Informative)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279355)

Haven't dug through the details to figure out who's more believable, but here [motherjones.com] are some criticisms of the study.

Ridiclous pointless testing (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#41279357)

They are effectively comparing one source of factory food against another source. The real issue is soil management, pesticides are only part of the problem. If the soil is depleted of copper, iodine and zinc no amount of nitrogen fertilizer will add those back, they are elements! Often they don't even suppliment iron and it's basic to plant health let alone human health. I guarantee 90% of all supermarket food is factory food whether it's organic or not and with most chains it's a 100%. Unless you actively restore the micronutrients then they are depleted. You can't keep taking them out of the soil and expect them to be there after a 100 years. Modern fertilizer is focused on nitrogen to make plants grow bigger. Factory farms make money off volume not mineral content. Also you only have to let a field go fallow for 3 years to call it organic. Most of the pesticide is still in the soil. That's why they still get moderate levels in organic foods. Also the farm up the hill may still use pesticides so it runs down onto the organic fields. I want a REAL test between managed soil and factory farms. It's like doing a chemistry test and leaving out half the chemicals. Why would you expect to get a good result??? This is purely about proving food raised on pesticides, sand and nitrogen is just as good as organic food that is raised on sand and nitrogen. It isn't even science it's common sense! Add in rock dust, kelp or worm castings then see what they tests show. Those things don't have a lobby so they aren't considered important. This isn't about feeding the world it's about making food more profitable.

It's about the soil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41279391)

Organic food is better for the SOIL.

If it happens to be more nutritious for people that's a side effect.

BTW, science's track record in understanding nutrition is not very good. Vitamins were called vitamins, because they were discovered to be 'vital' to the survival of test animals that were fed a 'complete diet' consisting of protein, fat and carbohydrates only.

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