Stanford Organic Food Study Flawed

The research asserted that there was no difference between conventional and organic food.


We broke the story of Stanford’s ridiculous organic food study the very night of its publication. Now, a month later, the media is catching on to the study’s flaws; New York Times Opinion columnist Mark Bittman apologized for hoping—in vain—that the study would have little impact on the media. “That was dumb of me,” he says, “and I’m sorry.”

Narrow Definitions and Egregious Oversights

The study suggests that organic animal and plant products are no healthier than conventionally grown varieties. Bittman puts it beautifully: “By providing ‘useful’ and ‘counterintuitive’ information about organic food, [the study authors] played right into the hands of the news hungry while conveniently obscuring important features of organic agriculture.”

The study authors narrowly—and misleadingly—defined the word “nutritious” and “healthy,” and on numerous occasions contradicted themselves. How can food that the authors admit “may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria” also be no more or less healthy than foods that don’t? How can foods that put less waste and toxins into the groundwater be no more or less healthy for us than foods that pollute our water and harm those—animals and human—who drink it? We already know of the many nasty effects of pesticides and dangers of GMOs.

Even within its narrow constructs, the study authors erred. Newcastle University researcher Kirsten Brandt last year published a similar analysis of studies to conclude that organic foods do contain more nutrients. How did Stanford miss this? By misspelling a critical class of nutrients found in produce that changed the results of the research: flavonols.

Accusations of Elitism Misplaced

Shortly after the study’s publication, fellow New York Times writer Roger Cohen “cheered” for its results and collectively called organic consumers narcissists. He does admit that organic farming is “probably better for the environment,” but crucifies it for being “an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype.”

Cohen’s accusation may be true for the likes of Whole Foods executives, who scream “buy organic” while filling their pretty stores with GMO-laden or GMO-supporting foods like Larabar, owned by General Mills, which has contributed over $500,000 to defeat Proposition 37. (If you haven’t seen the undercover ‘Organic Spies’ video about Whole Foods and GMOs, check it out in the past link.)

But the truth is this: organic farming is better for the earth and better for us. The cost of this can be quite high; that’s why we must join together to promote organic, biodynamic farming across the globe rather than subjecting farmers in Africa to Monsanto corn, debt, and health problems. Monsanto doesn’t care about underprivileged farmers. They care about lining their pockets.

Organic living should be available to all of us. It may seem like pie in the sky to some, but it isn’t. And we certainly shouldn’t be stopping the revolution.

To top it off, it’s worth noting that Stanford may have downplayed the benefits of food in response to a hefty donation from Cargill, the biggest private company in the US. Although connections to a political or financial body may not indicate guilt, it’s certainly not helping.

So, who’s elitist now?

Nature outsmarts genetically modified crops

by Anna Knapp
October 2, 2011

The organic food movement is all about ingesting food that is free of poisons. Conventional food is promoted as 1) being fresher longer due to genetic modification and 2) helping farmers keep more of the crops they plant, using plants that kill the pests that try to eat them, all while ignoring the need to understand the effects of ingestion of these foods. Buying local and organic at places such as Down to Earth, Garden Patch, the Farmer’s Market, and the Purple Porch Co-op, to name a few, is essential after learning of the scientific findings of this past summer.

According to Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, the industry that supports the genetic modification of our food has taken a hit this past growing season. It has been found that Monsanto’s Bt corn is not immune to pests’ destruction. In late July, scientists in Iowa found that the major pests that affect corn plants, corn rootworms, have been devouring genetically modified corn plants. Monsanto’s Bt corn has been designed to be toxic to these pests, but as usual nature always finds a way. The rise in these superinsects has also been affecting crops in Illinois and Minnesota.

A 2008 study was conducted by the University of Missouri and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on these rootworms. They found that within three generations, rootworms that ate Monsanto’s Bt corn were thriving at the same rate as rootworms that ate pesticide-free corn. It truly is amazing to watch nature at work.

So what’s next? More pesticides in our food? It is clear that nature trumps all and that no matter how much poison is genetically modified into our food, nature will always win out. If this version of Bt corn doesn’t stop the pests, and Monsanto tries yet again to create a stronger version, how much poison will have to go in the next batch? All the more reason to buy organic!