Does the medical study currently in the news say there is no benefit to eating organic food?

English: Organic vegetables at a farmers' mark...

English: Organic vegetables at a farmers’ market in Argentina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow, this one is all over the popular press this morning.  It’s being widely interpreted to mean you’re wasting your money if you choose organic over conventional food.

Whoa.  Just cool it a minute here.  Deep, cleansing breath.

This is not a medical study.  It’s a meta analysis.  Meaning, some dudes studied all the study results they could lay their hands on conveniently and drew some inferences from it.  Every single study they used is presenting already widely known data:

1. The VITAMIN CONTENT of a plant food is more a factor of how long ago it was picked, how long it’s allowed to sit around in what kind of conditions, where it was grown, and what season of the year it is, than whether it’s organic or not.

2. The NUTRITIVE VALUE of a plant food can be higher in organics.  Eggs in particular, but to a lesser extent otherwise.  However, it’s not enough to justify the increased cost of the food and thus the smaller amount of food your food budget buys.

3. The CHEMICAL RESIDUE left in organic plant food is 1/4 as much as in conventionally grown food.  It should be zero, but we’re not there yet because of contamination from adjacent crops and contamination at the processing plant.

4.  Kids in totally organic families absolutely, as reported in the study, have less pesticides in their pee as other families.  It’s not enough of a difference that it has known effect, but look, you would not intentionally feed your kids pesticides.   I didn’t see this in the analysis, but the same holds true for antibiotics.  There’s an amazing amount of antibiotics floating in the water supply that come from the antibiotics proactively fed to milk cows to keep them from getting quite so sick from their unnatural diet of corn.   Cows are made to eat grass.  So much grass that we can’t make milk not cost $4 per half gallon like organic does, unless they’re confined and fed corn instead.

So what to do?  Frequent readers here know that we recommend the following hierarchy of choices for plant foods:

a. Food you grow yourself

b. Food fresh from a local farm

c. Organic, if it looks fresh and is of a similar price to conventional

d. Conventional.  For vegetables, fresh if it’s in season, otherwise frozen if it looks good, otherwise canned without added sugar or sodium as possible.

Much of this is contingent upon your finances.  It’s much better to go with canned vegetables than to have no vegetables.  Frozen you an afford is better than fresh you cannot, and especially if it’s shipped a long distance or not at the peak of its season, it’s going to be more nutritious.

Bottom line — organic is good.  Much of that goodness is that it’s a plant, and you were made to eat mostly plants.  Eat some.



When buying organic meat, there’s yet another incentive at work.  Organically raised animals have higher standards of care required; access to the outdoors for chickens, for example, and no tiny cages for calves and pigs.  It’s a matter of degree — the larger meat producers find ways to barely meet the wording of the standard, while small family farmers may have pretty much the same kind of laid back non-commercial looking environment you’d imagine.


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