Who is behind the recent study of organic food and why?
Okay—let’s not miss the point about the Stanford “study” on organic food, the one released in early September that concludes that the scientific literature “lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”
Every reaction I’ve seen in the press grants that maybe organic food isn’t more nutritious, but it’s healthier in many other ways, like much lower amounts of toxic agricultural chemicals, and so on. But there are many studies that show that organic food is indeed more nutritious. To really understand those studies, you have to know who paid for them. If Monsanto or Cargill is paying a researcher at a land-grant university to look into the nutritional value of foods, there’s a temptation there to work the data in favor of the company paying the bills, especially if they like your work and order more studies.
So who’s paying for the Stanford study? The Stanford doctor who was the principal author, Crystal Smith-Spangler, M.D., writes that there was no funding for the study, which appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine (vol. 157, no. 5 [4 September 2012]: 348–366)—this despite the listing of 11 coauthors including physicians and health specialists along with Dr. Smith-Spangler. Since no funding is listed, we can’t know whether Dr. Smith-Spangler and cohorts did the rather exhaustive study out of the goodness of their hearts or if someone took them to lunch, so to speak. But even that isn’t the point.
The real question is, why do you think this Stanford study came out now? The title of the study raises a red flag as it asks, “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier than Conventional Alternatives?” Its conclusion states, “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” So it casts doubt on the value of organic food, even as it admits organic food has fewer toxic residues and pathogenic microbes. Yet I’m aware of several strong studies supporting the nutritional superiority of organic food,* and I looked through all 298 studies cited in the Stanford overview of the scientific literature, but they were nowhere to be found. But even that’s not the point.
Remember: This November, Californians will be asked to vote on Proposition 37, which will require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be so labeled. Remember too that organic food is not allowed by law to contain any genetically modified ingredients.
Now think about Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and other corporations turning out genetically modified farm seed. Why do you think they’re doing that? They say it’s to improve agriculture, to feed the world, to solve farming’s problems—but there’s another reason they seldom mention. When they make a genetically modified (GMO) seed, they patent it. And those who hold the patents reap the financial rewards.