organics

New York Times columnist says 'Stanford Study' bashing organics is totally flawed

Monday, October 22, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Stanford, organics, junk science

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(NaturalNews) The conclusions arrived at in the infamous "Stanford study," which the mainstream media has been hyping up as "proof" that pesticide-ridden, conventional produce and meat products are basically the same as their organic alternatives, are flawed, says New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. In one of the few honest assessments of the study to emerge from a mainstream news source, a recent editorial written by Bittman explains that the Stanford study essentially compares apples to oranges, and misses the bigger picture as to why organic food is superior to conventional food.

Rather than carefully analyze the full implications of the 200-or-so existing studies they reviewed as part of their meta-analysis, Stanford researchers instead focused solely on an extremely limited scope of criteria in evaluating the potential nutritional differences between organic and conventional food, suggests Bittman. These researchers then extrapolated their incomplete assessment into a general ruling concerning organics, which suggests organic foods are not nutritionally superior to conventional foods.

Stanford study can't see the forest for the trees

To be fair, the Stanford study does explain that organic foods may contain fewer pesticide residues than conventional foods. It also highlights how organic milk is preferable to conventional milk, and that organic produce contains higher phosphorus levels than conventional produce. But the study's final declaration, which seems to discredit the overall value and benefit of organics, ignores these other findings, choosing instead to view the entire issue through the lens of strictly nutritional differences, which even from that angle led to a limited and incomplete conclusion.

"If I may play with metaphor for a moment, the study was like declaring guns no more dangerous than baseball bats when it comes to blunt-object head injuries," writes Bittman, illustrating how clueless the Stanford study researchers made themselves appear with their impotent assessment of organics. "It was the equivalent of comparing milk and Elmer's glue on the basis of whiteness."

To quote the words of Susan Clark, Executive Director of the Columbia Foundation, a human rights group, the Stanford study researchers "started with a narrow set of assumptions and arrived at entirely predictable conclusions." Even within the category of nutritional differences, which was their primary scope of comparison, Stanford researchers failed to evaluate the full scope of nutrients found in produce and meat, which falsely implies that there are no nutritional differences between organic and conventional foods.

Organic study that came to opposite conclusion largely ignored by mainstream media

Interestingly, a similar assessment by Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University in the U.K., which included many of the same studies analyzed in the Stanford study, found quite the opposite concerning organics. According to Brandt's analysis, which was published in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences in 2011, organic produce actually contains far higher levels of secondary metabolites than does conventional produce. These secondary metabolites are believed to be largely combative against a wide range of chronic illnesses. (http://phys.org/news/2011-05-fruit-vegetables.html)

The takeaway from all this is that the Stanford study is largely deficient in its assessment of organics, which means the mainstream media has erred greatly, whether deliberately or out of ignorance, in its various declarations that organic food is a waste of money and effort. In reality, organic food continues to outpace conventional food in almost every way, a fact that even the Stanford study admits in spite of its erroneous conclusions.

Sources for this article include:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

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