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Stanford Study Flawed: Organic Produce May Be More Nutritious After All 305

Posted by samzenpus
from the eat-it dept.
assertation writes "A few weeks ago an article was posted to Slashdot referring to a Stanford Study stating that organic produce, contrary to popular belief is not more nutritious. According to Mark Bitman of The New York times the Stanford study was flawed. A spelling error skewed the results as well as the study ignoring several types of nutrients."
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Stanford Study Flawed: Organic Produce May Be More Nutritious After All

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  • COME ON! (Score:5, Funny)

    by zippo01 (688802) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:06PM (#41555289)
    I just won the argument over this with my vegan vegetarian girlfriend. Now this! Damn it, Well, I won't being getting any for awhile. good thing the .XXX search is up.
    • Re:COME ON! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:14PM (#41555325)

      You should have known better.

      There is no such thing as 'winning an argument with your girlfriend' - there is only losing and 'delayed losing'.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nutria (679911)

      No you haven't. That idiot from the NYT has a really, really, really wrong definition of the word "nutritious".

      • Re:COME ON! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:25AM (#41555829) Homepage

        From TFA:

        "Yet even within its narrow framework it appears the Stanford study was incorrect. Last year Kirsten Brandt, a researcher from Newcastle University, published a similar analysis of existing studies and wound up with the opposite result, concluding that organic foods are actually more nutritious. In combing through the Stanford study she’s not only noticed a critical error in properly identifying a class of nutrients, a spelling error indicative of biochemical incompetence (or at least an egregious oversight) that skewed one important result, but also that the researchers curiously excluded evaluating many nutrients that she found to be considerably higher in organic foods."

        So, no, he doesn't have the wrong definition of nutritious. You just read the first two paragraphs or so.

        • Re:COME ON! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rioki (1328185) on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:02AM (#41556161) Homepage
          But "organic" was never about better products!!! It was ALWAYS about the ecological impact. It is about treating animals well, not killing non farm animals (e.g. insects) and ruining the land by doing massive mono culture and massive pesticide use. The better quality aspect came later, but it was never a focus of the movement. Why are we even debating it...
          • The article in its entirety explains itself: how the study became part of a wave of rhetoric dismissing the value of organic foods all around.

            (Organic is also not about not-killing-insects. It's about avoiding the unnecessary use of pesticides to do so. Fly swatters - and natural forms of pest control, and even some other not-natural ones - are completely OK for organic food.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hoboroadie (1726896)

            For some reason nobody else seems to be pointing out the fact that organic vegetables taste better. This alone compensates for any price differential, if you like to enjoy eating.

            • Have there been double-blind tests for that? It sounds quite likely to be a placebo effect if both have the same amount of nutrients (though it sounds like they may not, but nobody has given details so far..).

              • Re:COME ON! (Score:4, Funny)

                by ancientt (569920) <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:09AM (#41557037) Homepage Journal

                I think ripe fruit tends to taste better. Many small producers and farm-to-market niches are better at providing ripe produce than larger suppliers. Since the niche markets tend to also cater to people who like the word "organic" the consumers make the link between ripe tasting fruit and the process of production even when the two are not necessarily linked.

                I think there was a rigorous study documented by those bastions of science, Penn & Teller. Search for "Penn & Teller: Bullshit - Organic Taste Test" and if this one is still up, you can see a clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zqe4ZV9LDs [youtube.com] . Jump to 3:40 to see my favorite part: they cut a banana in half and pretend half is organic farmed and half non-organic farmed.

                [Humor disclaimer: Yes, I am speaking with tongue-in-cheek about the rigorous study and yes I do know that the referenced performers are primarily entertainers. I think they make a valid point and do so in an entertaining way but wouldn't use this bit as the foundation for your doctoral thesis.]

            • If this is true, you must be cautioned with "correlation is not causation". I am inclined to believe that "an average organic apple" may taste better than "an average normal apple". However, I doubt whether this would be a direct consequence of the growing process, but rather the result of the farmer's choice of crop variety.

              The most productive crops in terms of volume are often bland, tasteless and of poor nutritional value. I would expect that organic farmers are less inclined to use such crops and wo

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        It's a little more subtle than that and the "idiot from the NYT" addressed that subtlety.

        The original Standford Study was a bit of a false straw man and everyone ate it up. They forgot that much of the point of organic food is all of the other things besides vitamins. The whole "nutrition" thing is just a side show.

        I buy organic chicken to avoid antibiotic residue. The amounts in cheap factory farmed chicken are enough to trigger an allergic reaction in some people.

    • by jrumney (197329)

      I just won the argument over this with my vegan vegetarian girlfriend. Now this! Damn it, Well, I won't being getting any for awhile.

      I think you misunderstand the way girlfriends work. You won't be getting any for a while because you won an argument. Admitting that your argument was flawed and she was right all along, may, depending on the moon cycle, be a factor in resolving this problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dadioflex (854298)
      I expect a bunch of vegans went and "persuaded" the researchers they'd made a little mistake with their research, Tony Soprano style. Then they all had a lie down because that much activity is going to exhaust a vegan.
      • That this is a reporter commenting on the grammar and writing style of a scientific study ?

        So yes, organic food is NOT more nutricious, that part is true.

        This does not mean
        1) anything about pesticides
        2) scary bacteria
        3) that the sky will turn green tomorrow

        And the journalist claims that not explicitly mentioning this is causing mass confusion. Okay. However the writing style of the article kind of indicates that the journalist really really really wants the opposite to be true.

        But I would argue that the jou

        • by 3.5 stripes (578410) on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:50AM (#41556535)

          1. Roundup kills plants, and is full of phosphates. Your kidneys would be in a very very bad state.
          2. Natural fungicides are available, and most grain is tested for this sort of thing. Nobody uses antibiotics on plants crops, and the only regular bacterial infections from "organic" food come from e.coli infections due to the use of uncomposted manures, any responsible farmer uses dried and if possible composted manure.
          3. They're only more energy intensive if you ignore the energy expended in the creation of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it is a bit more land intensive, but seeing as a good part of US arable land is unused (farmers paid not to grow corn for example) it's not a huge issue, labor yes... large animals are not required, you can grow organically without the use of any manures, or manure from smaller animals like goats, rabbits, ducks, or chickens.

  • oh, heck! (Score:5, Funny)

    by macbeth66 (204889) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:15PM (#41555329)

    I ain't gonna even look at these damn articles anymore. I'm gonna stick with cigarettes and chocolate cake.

    And coffee.

    And bacon. mmmmmm bacon.

    "Elizabeth...I'm coming to join ya!"

    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      I ain't gonna even look at these damn articles anymore. I'm gonna stick with cigarettes and chocolate cake.

      And coffee.

      And bacon. mmmmmm bacon.

      "Elizabeth...I'm coming to join ya!"

      No, sorry. Coffee is off the menu. I guess that just leaves bacon, cigarettes and chocolate cake.

      http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251093.php

      Coffee consumption can lead to a greater risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma, the primary cause of secondary glaucoma, all over the world.

      • Coffee consumption can lead to a greater risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma, the primary cause of secondary glaucoma, all over the world.

        The coffee is only a problem if you don't combine it with enough cigarettes, chocolate cake and bacon. Once you have the combination right the secondary glaucoma will not trouble you.

  • by Archfeld (6757) * <treboreel@live.com> on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:15PM (#41555333) Journal

    just not covered in nasty pesticides and such. If it is tastier that would be a plus but I'd settle for not likely to introduce dna altering substances into my system.

    • by scourfish (573542)
      Organic produce usually does have pesticide residue on it.
    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:11AM (#41555991)

      Ya, one big pro-organic person said "duh" when he was told of this result. The point of organic isn't about the nutrition, it's about the other things.

      Too many people get all their basic knowledge from the internet and their neighbors, and they get it all wrong. Especially with foods and nutrition there are a huge number of just stupid ideas floating around and you can not dissuade those people that their idea is wrong because they read it on the net.

      The other factor is the person who diets, exercises, stops smoking, and also some fad health thing; when the person feels better they claim it is of course due to the fad health thing (colon cleansing,raw food, more water intake, acupuncture, inacupuncture, etc).

      • The point of organic isn't about the nutrition, it's about the other things.

        It isn't hard to find claims [organicconsumers.org] that it is more nutritious (although to be fair I can see how there may be some merit to some of those claims under certain conditions, given all the variables that go into producing crops), and if those other things are shown false, yet more other things will be brought in to justify organic. It sounds like the a classic moving goalpost to simply say that organic is all about other things.

  • ...and the idiot writing the hit piece doesn't seem to know that.

    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/07/does-banning-hotdogs-and-bacon-make.html [blogspot.com]

    "What may be more surprising to learn is that scientific evidence has been building for years that nitrates are actually good for us, that nitrite is produced by our own body in greater amounts than is eaten in food, and that it has a number of essential biological functions, including in healthy immune and cardiovascular systems. Nitrite is appearing so benefi

  • by stevez67 (2374822) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:22PM (#41555383)
    They both grow in dirt (organic and conventional), they are the same plant, they don't, on balance, have more or less of anything than the rest of the fruits and vegetables. Bottom line if you want to pay 3X as much for your food buy organic. If you just want to eat and get the most nutrition for your $$, buy conventional. And don't forget, we can't feed the world's population organically. Can't be done!
    • I like how you've been modded down except everything you've said is, at a very basic level, correct.

      When we're talking about organic foods being better for you, you're talking about very minuscule amounts. Nutrition doesn't even factor into the argument, or shouldn't unless you're already a brain-dead raving vegan and are just piling more stuff on to support your personal lifestyle choice.

      The real reason to choose Organic foods is to avoid the harmful pesticides. The only trouble with that is the "Organic"

      • by DrLang21 (900992) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:58PM (#41555515)
        I don't even really care about the pesticides. All I know is that when I cut open a conventional industrially grown greenhouse tomato and compare it to the tomatoes I get from the organic farm stand, the organic tomato is redder, smells better, and is a lot tastier. This is really all that matters to a foodie like me.
        • That's more of a matter of local and vine ripened vs. picked at harvestable maturity (in other words, green), shipped from wherever, and gassed with ethylene than anything (the local guys might also be using a different variety too; some tomatoes are bred for durability but lost some taste along the way). Organic or not doesn't matter, but buying local is usually a good bet.

        • by chthon (580889)

          That could also be the because the organic farmer chooses a tomato plant not based upon marketing and optimisation of the growing to delivery life cycle.

          One of the main benefits of organic producing is that all things get the time to reach their optimal taste, while in standard procedures everything is harvested too early, be it vegetable or animal.

      • I like how you've been modded down except everything you've said is, at a very basic level, correct.

        There's no "-1: Incorrect" mod, so why would correctness matter when moderating?

        • It really should on a tech site like Slashdot.

          Its unfortunate how many people there are even on a tech site like this with their own agenda and own lifestyle to push down others throats.

          Of course, since its Slashdot it tends to be more the Organic food-eating, sacrifice everything for green types who've just been fed wrong information by people marketing these "green" technologies and now are doubling down on their ill-conceived lifestyle changes. At least its not as bad as the idiot right-wingers on a lot

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      What the organic plant has less of is pesticides. That may be better for you. Stanford showed that they don't have more nutrients, on average -- unless pesticides are nutritious. In fact, I would have thought the extra bugs you'd be eating along with your organic produce would increase the protein content.
    • by rs79 (71822)

      The difference is, you're not gonna be certified organic if you're growing on top of a gas station or factory that was bulldozed but left oil, mercury, dioxin or who knows what in the soil as the soil has to be tested and certified as part of certification. It's a whole lot more than just no pesticides.

    • by Shompol (1690084)

      They both grow in dirt (organic and conventional), they are the same plant, they don't, on balance, have more or less of anything

      Care to explain why purchased (conventional) produce tastes like cardboard, while garden-grown stuff is delicious? To me that suggests some inequality on chemical level.

      Also your notion that they both "grow in dirt" is uninformed. There exists artificial soil, and even the dirt can be soaked in various chemicals so much that a better name for it would be "a toxic dirt-like stew that maximises vegetable size". The possible side-effects, such as maximizing risk of cancer, etc are usually overlooked.

      Honest

      • Care to explain why purchased (conventional) produce tastes like cardboard, while garden-grown stuff is delicious?

        That's like trying to compare stir fried food with yesterday's leftover. you are comparing two entirely different things. Of course something you grow yourself and eat fresh is going to be better than something that was shipped from California or Chile or wherever. That does not imply that a growing practice is the cause if it; the difference is in freshness, maturity, harvesting and post harvest treatment, and possibly variety. If you compared the non-organic tomatoes I've grown with an organic one shi

    • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:10AM (#41555987)

      What really gets me is the false dichotomy between organic and conventional. It reminds me of how medical quacks try to differentiate between conventional and alternative (or naturopathic or whatever) medicine when the rational thing to do is to focus on what works, not what it is called. Some organic techniques are good. A lot of biological techniques like intercropping, crop rotation, focus on soil microbes, insect mating disruption, passive pest control methods like use of predator insects, increased use of biodiversity, ect. are positives. But that does not mean you should be dogmatic about it, which is exactly what organic is: naturalistic dogma. A natural pesticides is fine in organic production (and before anyone assumes organic uses no pesticides, look up the approved pesticide list), but not a synthetic one, simply on the basis of its origin? That is the classic appeal to nature fallacy. And while it is true that excessive fertilizer use has many negative consequences, why should responsible use of synthetic fertilizers be forbidden? Soil fertility management is damned complex, and it is presumptive to think only 'natural' methods are going to be of sustainable benefit. Genetically engineered crops are a great example of the naturalistic nature of the organic dogma. You can apply Bt to a crop, but if the crop does it itself, it is suddenly forbidden? Even something as simple as an apple modified to not brown can never be organic. Why? It is not natural (or rather, it is not natural and is popularized, unlike things like mutagenesis and chemically induced polyploidy).

      My point is that organic has some things going for it, but not because it has some special label like 'organic'. What it has going for it are the biological techniques it uses. Of course, these techniques are not exclusive to organic; if you think your average farmer does not pay attention to things that can make their operations better, you are mistaken and have probably never even set food on an actual farm before. Ultimately, the focus should be on the scientifically verified merit individual practices, not on some label that represents a collection of practices grouped together based on the appeal to nature fallacy with some after the fact justification. The dichotomy misses the point entirely (unless the goal is marketing of course, in which case oversimplifications work great, and absolutes tend to create more true believers than nuance). Even if organic did produce more nutritious food, that would still not support the superiority of organic so much as it would indicate that there is an attribute of some growing method causing the increased nutrition that should be determined, explained, and focused on.

      • by KazW (1136177) *
        Incredibly well said, someone get this post some mod points!

        ... have probably never even set food on an actual farm before...

        That made me chuckle.

      • focus on what works, not what it is called

        They're one and the same thing. Anything that doesn't work has to label itself "alternative and complimentary" as a euphemism for "scientifically determined to not work, or at best no scientific evidence that it does work, and therefore does not qualify as medicine". Science focuses very specifically on what objectively works, not what people delude themselves into believing works.

  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:33PM (#41555437)
    First off, this is an editorial from the opinion section of the New York Times - hardly considered the once and future source of "News for Nerds - Stuff that Matters".

    Second, this is not a scientific article. It is an editorial. Yes, I suppose Mister Bittman has a valid opinion, even some good supporting information to demonstrate that he has some understanding of the subject under discussion. Nonetheless, I don't think Mr. Bittman is even remotely what would be considered an expert in the areas of horticulture, agriculture, food production, nutrition, animal husbandry or any of at least a dozen other disciplines which might make his opinion any more informed than my own.

    Not to criticize Mr. Bittman - he is an editorial author providing articles for a major news outlet. He has written a well thought-out, interesting editorial - but that's all. He doesn't have direct evidence to refute the findings of the Stanford Study - he doesn't even have any direct criticisms of the methodology employed by the Stanford group (which he should have, IMHO). What he has is an editorial opinion - well expressed, thoughtful, but at the end of the day still just his opinion.

    • by drolli (522659)

      i also thought the same thing:
      we have

      a) a meta-review carefully collected from over 200 studies by independent persons and peer-revirewed in an reputable journal

      b) A opinion article which overstates the original statement of the study, agrees with it in larger parts, event cites from it, and is, without anonymous peer review.

      Big question: will people accept b) as a valid critics to a) on the same level. Obviously yes, on slashdot. The good title would have been: "some people dont like the results (as simpli

  • A flawed rebuttal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jammer170 (895458) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:36PM (#41555443)

    This rebuttal is exactly why news reporting is so poor. This author has no scientific training, and his specific claims of the study being flawed betray that lack. To make his point he has to redefine the definition of nutritious from "more nutrients" to "lacking pesticides". This is why scientists are needed to peer review results - not some John or Jane Doe off the streets, or a certain New York Times journalist in an opinion piece.

    The study is very clear - for a certain set of nutrients, organic produce does not have more than regularly grown produce. At no point does the author of this rebuttal ever attempt to show otherwise. The fact that the study didn't test everything doesn't make it flawed. The interpretation of the results - that organic produce is no more nutritious than regular produce - may be flawed. If the study contained the most important nutrients, then the interpretation is correct. Personally I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the Stanford scientist over the journalist until some serious peer review comes in. Frankly, there's nothing to see here but some journalist with an overblown sense of his own abilities.

    • by Dahamma (304068) on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:12AM (#41555785)

      Exactly what I was thinking when I read it - he basically seems to think that scientific studies are done to push their findings and make hard conclusions, rather than experiments that publish their findings. It was the ridiculous new media he's a part of that made the assumptions and conclusions he has issue with.

      It's almost amazing how horrible his understanding of scientific studies are when he talks about how it was "narrowly defined" (generally a GOOD thing!) and "isolates the findings from a larger context (also important to good science - the worst studies are the ones that try to make sweeping conclusions based on their results).

      Basically, don't knock the study, it was just a summary of collected data that was very clear about what it was saying. Knock the clueless journalists and pundits (of which BIttman is clearly one) for pretending it was any more than that.

    • "For a certain set of nutrients" = conveniently )or as the article put it, "curiously", not those nutrients which the research from Newcastle University found to be higher in organic foods.

      For a meta-study, that's a pretty bad.

  • Time to do a new study, then. Bjorn! Hans! To the sciencemobile!
  • by quantaman (517394) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:38PM (#41555455)

    Lets look at the meat of the article

    In fact, the Stanford study — actually a meta-study, an analysis of more than 200 existing studies — does say that “consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

    Since that’s largely why people eat organic foods, what’s the big deal? Especially if we refer to common definitions of “nutritious” and point out that, in general, nutritious food promotes health and good condition. How can something that reduces your exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria not be “more nutritious” than food that doesn’t?

    Because the study narrowly defines “nutritious” as containing more vitamins.

    So his problem is the authors were dishonest because they didn't adhere to his incorrect definition of nutritious.

    And near the end
    Like too many studies, the Stanford study dangerously isolates a finding from its larger context

    That's a feature, not a bug. The role of a research paper isn't to make some broad sweeping conclusion, it's to carefully explore a narrow question, were the organics more nutritious, and on that question the answer was no.

    • by MattskEE (925706) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @11:09PM (#41555549)

      You missed some important points when you draw your conclusion:

      That's a feature, not a bug. The role of a research paper isn't to make some broad sweeping conclusion, it's to carefully explore a narrow question, were the organics more nutritious, and on that question the answer was no.

      This very important section of the article (emphasis mine) is conspicuously absent from your post:
      Yet even within its narrow framework it appears the Stanford study was incorrect. Last year Kirsten Brandt, a researcher from Newcastle University, published a similar analysis of existing studies and wound up with the opposite result, concluding that organic foods are actually more nutritious. In combing through the Stanford study she’s not only noticed a critical error in properly identifying a class of nutrients, a spelling error indicative of biochemical incompetence (or at least an egregious oversight) that skewed one important result, but also that the researchers curiously excluded evaluating many nutrients that she found to be considerably higher in organic foods.

      At this point that given that two research institutions have published metastudies with opposite conclusions, and that errors and oversights have been identified in the Stanford study, I'd have to say that the jury is out on this topic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by quantaman (517394)

        You missed some important points when you draw your conclusion:

        That's a feature, not a bug. The role of a research paper isn't to make some broad sweeping conclusion, it's to carefully explore a narrow question, were the organics more nutritious, and on that question the answer was no.

        This very important section of the article (emphasis mine) is conspicuously absent from your post:
        Yet even within its narrow framework it appears the Stanford study was incorrect. Last year Kirsten Brandt, a researcher from Newcastle University, published a similar analysis of existing studies and wound up with the opposite result, concluding that organic foods are actually more nutritious. In combing through the Stanford study she’s not only noticed a critical error in properly identifying a class of nutrients, a spelling error indicative of biochemical incompetence (or at least an egregious oversight) that skewed one important result, but also that the researchers curiously excluded evaluating many nutrients that she found to be considerably higher in organic foods.

        At this point that given that two research institutions have published metastudies with opposite conclusions, and that errors and oversights have been identified in the Stanford study, I'd have to say that the jury is out on this topic.

        Sorry, I did notice that section of the article but forgot to address it. Partly that's a bit of scientific he-said she-said that I don't have the expertise to evaluate, but the other part is I don't really trust the reporter.

        The reporter has both shown a strong bias towards organics, and a willingness to bend facts (the tortured definition of nutritious) to unfairly attack the author's integrity. So I don't know if the Kirsten Brandt study was a good one, or if the excluded nutrients were important ones, o

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          Sorry, I did notice that section of the article but forgot to address it. Partly that's a bit of scientific he-said she-said that I don't have the expertise to evaluate, but the other part is I don't really trust the reporter.

          Yep, he also quoted the "Columbia Foundation" response as fact refuting the study, which is about like quoting Fox News as fact that Obama is a muslim terrorist.

    • by Dan East (318230)

      Right. Let's just make "nutritious" and "wholesome" have the EXACT same meaning! Why do we need all these pesky words to have different meanings from one another anyway??

    • by brit74 (831798)
      After reading the article, I was about to post a comment similar to yours. I'd vote you up if I had mod points.
  • by no-body (127863) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @11:17PM (#41555587)
    It's not only about nutrients but the trace pesticides heavy metals, manipulated genes and what else is good to degrade your health.

    Not even talking about taste - compare an organic and not-so apple.
  • I may be off here but I thought the main argument for eating organic was that it wasn't covered with pesticides and herbicides that you end up ingesting.
    • It is one of the bigger points of organic food that is brought up every time the nutritional advantages of organic food is questioned. It is assumed that you pay for what you're not getting. Of course, that takes fro granted that you should be concerned about trace residues of those things, or that the pesticides applied in organic production are leaving safer residues, but nonetheless, that is still one of the arguments for organic food.

      • "Pesticides in organic production"

        You really are an idiot aren't you? Pesticides in organic production are things like lady bugs that eat aphids instead of spraying on chemicals.

        I think I would be able to spot it if there are lady bugs still present on the vegetables in the shop.

        • by mixmatch (957776)
          From epa.gov [epa.gov]:

          "Organically grown" food is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Pesticides derived from natural sources (such as biological pesticides) may be used in producing organically grown food.

          Contrary to your ladybug example, this is what the epa.gov [epa.gov] has to say about one biological pesticide option:

          Biochemical pesticides are naturally occurring substances that control pests by non-toxic mechanisms. Conventional pesticides, by contrast, are generally synthetic materials that directly kill or inactivate the pest. Biochemical pesticides include substances, such as insect sex pheromones, that interfere with mating, as well as various scented plant extracts that attract insect pests to traps. Because it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a substance meets the criteria for classification as a biochemical pesticide, EPA has established a special committee to make such decisions.

          I prefer organic produce personally, but that doesn't mean that I'm willing to misrepresent the facts and call people idiots over the matter.

    • I may be off here but I thought the main argument for eating organic was that it wasn't covered with pesticides and herbicides that you end up ingesting.

      And that it tastes better. Which, at least around here, it generally does. The taste difference between a cheapo mass-produced greenhouse tomato from the Netherlands and an organic one bought on the local market here is mindblowing.

  • Bittman says that Kristen Brandt of Newcastle University has found this spelling error. I find this interesting as a plant chemist. However, he just links to a HuffPo article that doesn't link to Brandt's comments. Every other study I can Google just links back to HuffPo or to nowhere.

    Does anyone know where I can read Brandt's claims?

    • Yeah, that for me was the most interesting bit, that a spelling error could cause a statistical error. Maybe we'll never know :(
    • Aha, someone further down here found the answer:

      Brandt wondered how the Stanford team, led by faculty from the School of Medicine and Center for Health Policy, could have found no difference in total flavanols between organic and conventional foods when her own results showed organics carried far more of the heart-healthy nutrient. Upon further inspection, she noticed that the team had actually calculated the difference in total flavonols, a different nutrient, and reported the result with the swap of an "o" for an "a".

  • I usually don't buy organic food because it's more nutritious or "better" in any sense. I do it because I want to support small farmers (they have small, but yet very important role of providing food in my country), and I want to support moderate farming - I don't deny modern improvements in it, I just want to be them applied with a care.

    Said that, there are lot of big mass producers who has knowledgeable people and who balance profit with long term thinking. So not so big difference in my region.

    • - Animals are typically better treated (yes organic doesn't mean free range, but in practice they tend to go hand in hand)
      - Less toxic residues (pesticides, fertilizers, other mystery chemicals which haven't succeeding in killing us off dramatically YET)
      - More Nutrition (grass fed beef vs cornfed) ---- this is the ONE item the meta-study researched
      - Better for the environment (see previous lack of toxic pesticides, fertilizers, etc)
      - Organic is usually produced by the smaller growers in the market
    • I was just on a small, local orchard the other day. Totally not organic it was. Don't assume that growing methods and small farms are necessarily connected; large operations want in on this market as well. You'd be better off hitting the farmer's markets or asking your grocery store about their suppliers than focusing on organic.

  • A well-researched Stanford study is refuted by an opinion columnist whose side job is selling books that tell you how to eat?

    Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Our snake oil is still good for you.

    • no, a well publicized Stanford study by people working outside of their fields of expertise is found to have obvious mistakes and draws sweeping conclusions from a curiously limited examination. Those conclusions also contradict other published studies.

      But you know, calling organic food "snake oil" is certainly a tip that your opinion has solidified regardless of any actual research.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        I don't think the organic food is snake oil, but the salesmanship of it has that taint. The writer of the article clearly isn't unbiased: he makes his money selling books of dubious merit touting inflated benefits of eating it. And I think the ARE good reasons for eating it as opposed to typical crops -- it has less pesticides on it and may be less likely to cause problems -- toxicity, long term risk of cancer, immune problems, etc. But SHOW ME don't just claim it's more nutritious.

        The specific claim thes

  • The MIssing Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:15AM (#41555801) Homepage Journal

    Brandt wondered how the Stanford team, led by faculty from the School of Medicine and Center for Health Policy, could have found no difference in total flavanols between organic and conventional foods when her own results showed organics carried far more of the heart-healthy nutrient. Upon further inspection, she noticed that the team had actually calculated the difference in total flavonols, a different nutrient, and reported the result with the swap of an "o" for an "a".

    From an article ad The Huffington Post [huffingtonpost.com]

    Technically it's a spelling mistake which in practice meant the equivalent of searching for apples but counting the number of oranges instead, then writing up a paper on the astonishing lack of apples found.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by brillow (917507)

      But that HuffPo piece doesn't link to a primary source outlining the specifics of the critique. Both flavonols and flavanols are actual plant chemicals, what the evidence its a mistake? How many times was it made? I've looked and looked and can't find any direct info from Brandt (the scientist who found this) on this. I could be missing it, but given that this story is all over the place now and I can't find an original blog post or something with 15 mins of Googling is disturbing.

      It's basically a singl

  • Too many variables ... and also one places "organic" could just be the standard practice in another place that doesn't have much of a pest problem and has decent soil.
  • by __roo (86767) on Friday October 05, 2012 @09:51AM (#41558703) Homepage

    The New York Times gets a lot of (often well-deserved) criticism for its science reporting—but in this case, this isn't science reporting at all. It's written by Mark Bittman, and according to his website [markbittman.com], Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], and various other sources [observer.com], the author is a food writer and editor with a degree in psychology whose background mainly consists of writing and editing cookbooks and cooking magazines (and driving a cab).

    Yes, pedigree doesn't mean everything and good science can come from people who aren't scientists. But still, consider the source and take it with whatever size grain of salt you feel is warranted.

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