retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press reports that Stanford University researchers have completed a study into whether organic food is better for people who eat it, concluding that "there's little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics ... Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children, but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday."

"I was absolutely surprised," researcher and internist Dr. Dena Bravata tells the AP. "There are many reasons why someone might choose organic foods over conventional foods," from environmental concerns to taste preferences, she said. But when it comes to individual health, "there isn't much difference."

The story goes on: "The Stanford team combed through thousands of studies to analyze the 237 that most rigorously compared organic and conventional foods. Bravata was dismayed that just 17 compared how people fared eating either diet while the rest investigated properties of the foods themselves.

"Organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. In two studies of children, urine testing showed lower pesticide levels in those on organic diets. But Bravata cautioned that both groups harbored very small amounts, and said one study suggested insecticide use in their homes may be more to blame than their food.

"Still, some studies have suggested that even small pesticide exposures might be risky for some children, and the Organic Trade Association said the Stanford work confirms that organics can help consumers lower their exposure."
KC's View:
Predictably, a lot of people in the conventional food business had a "told you so" reaction. And a lot of folks in the organic sector had a "not so fast, things are more complex than that" response.

Anybody who does not like these conclusions should just wait a few months. Or a few weeks. Because there almost certainly will be a study to come out that will contradict it, or elaborate on it in a way that challenges its conclusions. It's sort of like a city bus ... there will be another one along any time now.

In some ways, while I find studies like these to be interesting, I'm not sure that they change many minds. People who see value in organics - both in terms of their beliefs about personal health, as well as for their environmental implications - will pay for them when they can. And people who either cannot afford them or don't see their value will not.

It all becomes about personal choice and belief. And whole one study may say that organics offer fewer benefits than some believe, it does not seem to take a tremendous leap of common sense to suggest that the purer and less processed our food is - and maybe the more local - the better it will taste and the better it will be for us.