Organic Food

Organic Food Superstition Receives Yet Another Blow From Science

A new study finds that organic foods are not better for you than conventional foods.

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Amounts to a load of manure

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines superstition as:

…a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.

Using carefully selected studies, the organic food industry's lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Association, makes claims like …

On average, organic is 25% more nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals than products derived from industrial agriculture.

What can the hell can a phrase like 25 percent more nutritious mean? Never mind. A new comprehensive study, "Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?," published by researchers at the Stanford University in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) that looked at 240 different studies concludes that the answer is: No. As the New York Times reported:

They concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli.

The researchers also found no obvious health advantages to organic meats.

Conventional fruits and vegetables did have more pesticide residue, but the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits, the scientists said. The Environmental Protection Agency sets the limits at levels that it says do not harm humans.

"When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food," said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford's Center for Health Policy and the senior author of the paper, which appears in Tuesday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. "I think we were definitely surprised."

Surprised? That's kind of like being surprised when a voodoo ceremony doesn't cure the sniffles or a skin rash. A 2009 comprehensive review of the data comparing the nutritrional value of organic versus conventional foods in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had earlier concluded:

On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

So if organic foods aren't more nutritious than conventional foods, perhaps they offer other benefits? As the Times notes:

Dr. Bravata agreed that people bought organic food for a variety of reasons — concerns about the effects of pesticides on young children, the environmental impact of large-scale conventional farming and the potential public health threat if antibiotic-resistant bacterial genes jumped to human pathogens. "Those are perfectly valid," she said.

Regarding pesticides, the Stanford researchers found that 38 percent of conventional produce tested contained detectable residues, whereas 7 percent organic produce did. Does this matter? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors pesticide residues and its most recent report notes:

The pesticide residue levels found were well below regulatory standards. Results of baby foods tested in FY 2008 (and earlier years) also provide evidence of only low levels of pesticide residues in these foods.

The AIM study abstract noted:

Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences.

What about the alleged environmental advantages of organic farming? As I noted in my 2002 article, "Organic Alchemy," a 21-year Swiss study found some benefits from organic farming compared to conventional, including including greater water retention by the soil and a higher presence of beneficial insects. However, these benefits must be weighed against lower crop productivity. As I noted:

One of the most frequent criticisms of organic agriculture is that it is not as productive as conventional farming. The Swiss scientists confirmed this: Their organic plots were on average 20 percent less productive than conventional plots. For potatoes, organic production was about 40 percent lower. The researchers also point out that "cereal crop yields in Europe typically are 60 to 70% of those under conventional management." Furthermore, they dispelled the notion that organic crops are superior food by noting, "There were minor differences between the farming systems in food quality."

Catch that last sentence? Minor differences in food quality. And lower crop productivity means that more forests and grasslands must be plowed up to produce food.

What about differences in anti-biotic resistant bacteria? As the AIM study's abstract notes:

Escherichia coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce. Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork (risk difference, 33% [CI, 21% to 45%]).

Conventional farmers often dose their meat animals with antibiotics as a way to boost their growth by preventing infections. This does speed the development of microbes resistant to the antibiotics used, and the concern is that such resistant microbes will infect people or exchange resistance genes with human disease microbes. Earlier this year, the FDA began the process of limiting the use of antibiotics as animal growth enhancers. However, the New York Times noted that…

…organic meat contained considerably lower levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventionally raised animals did, but bacteria, antibiotic-resistant or otherwise, would be killed during cooking.

With regard to differences in the presence of microbes on conventional versus organic produce, a 2005 study of washed and unwashed spring mix salad greens reported:

The mean populations of mesophilic and psychrotrophic bacteria, yeasts, molds, lactic acid bacteria, and coliforms on conventionally grown spring mix were not statistically different (P > 0.05) from respective mean populations on organically grown spring mix. The mean population of each microbial group was significantly higher on unwashed spring mix compared with the washed product.

In other words, if you believe in the germ theory of disease, wash your vegetables. In any case, the Times is probably right when it observes:

The findings seem unlikely to sway many fans of organic food.

The question that organic proponents should ask themselves is: Is there any scientific evidence that would persuade you that you are wrong? If not, then you should just admit it's a superstitious preference and stop disparaging (lying about?) the safety and nutrition of cheaper conventional foods.

NEXT: Karzai Taps Suspected Torturer, Drug Trafficker as Intelligence Chief

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  1. Ultimately it’s not really a scientific issue, so both sides should stop pretending it is.

    We’re talking about a food purchasing preference. There’s no scientific basis for me to prefer McDonald’s fries to Burger King’s fries. I just do. It is beyond justification and no scientific discussion is required.

    1. McDonald’s fries are better. The secret ingredient is Love*.

      *salt

    2. WTF? McD’s fries are way better!

      1. Depends on what you are looking for.

        When I’m looking for a laxative, McDonalds fries *are* superior to Burger Kings.

        When I’m looking for a pleasant meal… oh, never mind!

        1. When I’m looking for a laxative, McDonalds fries *are* superior to Burger Kings.

          Oh god, shut the fuck up already.

          1. gulo gulo| 9.6.12 @ 11:09AM |#

            “”When I’m looking for a laxative, McDonalds fries *are* superior to
            Burger Kings””

            Oh god, shut the fuck up already.

            Actually, he has a point – they do include Teflon in the cooking oil, which makes your intestines better lubed than most Formula 1 racecars. Shit performance is vastly improved.

  2. Jedediah Bila was tweeting on and on about this the other day. “But the study was about X, and that’s not why most people buy organic, and blah blah….”SHUTTHEFUCKUP!

    God – who cares? Buy what the fuck you want, but PLEASE stop yammering on about it.

    1. Buy what the fuck you want, but PLEASE stop yammering on about it.

      Applicable not only to food, but religion, politics, entertainment…actually, the sentiment is just the core value of liberty, ne pas?

  3. I love it when Ron gets really mad about this stuff.

    You can’t reason (DRINK!) with faith. All you can hope for is huge outbreaks of currently unknown deadly virulent strains of foodborne illnesses. I mean at least that’s how I cope with it.

  4. As I’ve said before, I’m just too damn lazy to spray in my orchard — hence, organic! Plus, as a beekeeper, I suspect my hives do better than they would if I sprayed. But I have no scientific evidence for that.

    1. And also, I’m growing for my own consumption — so I don’t have to worry about yield to feed the rest of you fuckers.

      1. till your property taxes become too much to pay without selling your crops at least…

      2. also, Fried Commerce Clause

    2. Your lack of indignation and self righteousness fails to make your produce organic. It is the missing ingredient.

    3. You keep bees. I despise you already. Fucking hipster.

  5. Personally, I insist that all my food is Carbon-based.

    1. Personally, I insist that all my food is Carbon-based.

      Win.

    2. Why are you in the pocket of Big Chemical?

      1. Big Elemental?

    3. The first time I heardthe term ‘Organic Food’ my first thought was ‘Isn’t all food composed of organic compounds?’

  6. The pesticide residue levels found were well below regulatory standards. Results of baby foods tested in FY 2008 (and earlier years) also provide evidence of only low levels of pesticide residues in these foods.

    Do all the studies you want but until that number is ZERO you might as well not waste your breath on the organicoids.

    1. good point, but:

      but the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits

      I’m not asking for Zero, but, cmon, below the regulated limits at least. Otherwise, let’s get back to my plan of scrapping the USDA….

  7. I did this same work 15 years ago. No one cared. I wasn’t a PhD. You didn’t need to be. I observed that the force behind the organic movement was primarily one of class identity and psychology = the same reason people pay more for anything that is a consumer staple. I noted that the explosion of starbucks was parallel with organic food; a cup of coffee for $3 or more can only be possible when you have millions of people telling themselves they and the product are of a mystical, superior breed compared to the slovenly unwashed who stoop to something so ignominious as a dunkin donuts.

    1. yeah, but Dunkin’ Donuts coffee sucks.

      1. starbucks coffee sucks too – so what?

        My point is that people aren’t paying for the goddamn coffee anyway – they’re paying for a little reinforcement of their sense of *upper* middle-classness.

  8. It’s about sticking it to the corporations, man!

    You know? Big Agriculture! Those big profit mongering corporations that grow all the food! Stick it to ’em! Fuck yeah!

    We need to support local farmers, not big corporations!

    So what if it costs more, has lower yield, has no difference in nutritional value, and requires more land.

    WE’RE STICKING IT TO THE CORPORATIONS!

    DOWN WITH CAPITALISM!

    FUCK YEAH!

    1. Yes, except for the fact that the big corps are the ones providing most of the so called organic produce.

      1. They didn’t get big by ignoring opportunities to sell generic products for multiples of their commodity prices.

      2. Which bugs the hell out of the true organic fanatics

  9. So Reason says that pesticides and hormones in food is not important because the government says that its at a safe level. Next Reason will say that Federal Reserve pumping money into the economy is not important because the government says its at a safe level. Or should I trust the FDA more then the FED?

    1. Did you read anything besides the lede?

    2. DJF, as posted before, the average dose of common pesticides to cause problems in rats is over 100mg/kg bodyweight/day. The average person, even were they twice as sensitive to rats (affected at half the rat dose) would have to eat 30g of pesticide a day. The average skin concentration (before rinsing) was in the ppb range. That’s a lot of fucking roughage to get an affected dose. If you eat 30,000 pieces of produce a day, you might be in danger.

      1. You don’t eat pesticides with a spoon?

    3. Listen douchehat, maybe you should spend 10 seconds learning about “pesticides and hormones” before resorting to the determined ‘reductio ad ignorantum’. you get more of both in drinking water and in your regular old cobb salad than you do from produce in the supermarket, and if you’re convinced the things are so horrible to human health, you have a bit of an uphill battle to wage finding the first goddam example of any effect on the general population. But dont let anyone stop you from believing all sorts of things are invisibly doing unmeasurable damage to you at all times. If you pay a (#@*$ farmers market 3X as much for something just as bad, well, then you’re in the clear and as fresh and pure as virgin snow, and can sleep easy.

      1. So questioning the government at Reason makes me a ‘douchehat’

        So should I also stop questioning the FED?

        1. You’re not “questioning the government” – you’re being a persistent inveterate denialist. What organic food and the fed have to do with one another is only apparent to you

          1. The author used the FDA which is a government entity as the authority on the subject. The FED is another government entity so should I trust them as much as the author tells me to trust the FDA?

            1. What the fuck *would* you trust that contradicts your preconceptions? NASSING LEBOWSKI!!

            2. The FED is another government entity so should I trust them as much as the author tells me to trust the FDA?

              Where did the author tell you to trust the FDA?

        2. DJF| 9.6.12 @ 10:26AM |#
          “So questioning the government at Reason makes me a ‘douchehat'”

          No. Your so-called reasoning makes you a douchehat.

      2. believing all sorts of things are invisibly doing unmeasurable damage to you at all times

        I contend that THIS is the source of those peoples’ maladies.

    4. DJF| 9.6.12 @ 10:15AM |#
      ‘So Reason says that pesticides blah, blah, blah…’

      No, DJF, ‘organic’ food is simply a waste of money; it has no measurable effects other than your wallet.
      But help yourself, and buy some lotto tickets while you’re at it.

      1. It was the author of the article who brought up what the FDA claims. So the author uses the government as an authority and I should not question that government authority.

        As to the Lotto tickets, I am not the one who is trusting the government.

        1. and I should not question that government authority.

          If you have evidence that the science is flawed, by all means have at it.

          1. R: Of course that’s the right answer – DJF is using the tiresome disinformation strategy of disparaging a source when the data don’t say what he wants them to say. If he had better data he’d cite them, but he does not.

          2. I am saying that the government is flawed and that includes the FDA and so I don’t consider it to be an authority on anything, even if the author of this article seems to think it is.

            1. DJF| 9.6.12 @ 10:47AM |#
              “I am saying that the government is flawed and that includes the FDA…”

              You’re grasping at straws to justify your bleefs.

            2. I am saying that the government is flawed

              Right, so cite to an unflawed source that counters the science.

        2. DJF| 9.6.12 @ 10:28AM |#
          “It was the author of the article who brought up what the FDA claims…”

          DJF, you can continue with your flap-jawing all you please, and you can continue to empty your wallet for nothing.
          Don’t bother trying to suggest it’s a result of anything other than stupidity.

      2. Organic food tastes way better, although that’s primarily due to pricing point reasons rather than the organicness per se. Organic heriloom tomatoes have way more flavor than the blah crap they industrial farms put out because the industrial tomatoes had all the flavor bred out of them in the process of making them easier to ship. Likewise organic meat tastes way better because it is priced at a point that makes it affordable to let the animals walk around so they have some muscle tone when they get butchered.

  10. I always suspected this. Anyway, the organic label was hijacked by huge corporations a long time ago as just another way to sell their produce.

    I live near a large asian market where I buy nearly all of my produce. I buy very little produce at Whole Foods because the Asian is 25-50% of the price, or even less, and typically it appears to be much more quality. And as far as variety is concerned, no comparison. I own a juicer and a nutri-bullets and I use them often. Asian market is saving me a lot of money. I always thought that Organic was mostly BS, just a way for liberal vegans to pretend to be elitist snobs. Oh well, they still have their tofu, humus, soy lattes, and other unpalatable crap to make them feel special.

    1. Dude, hummus is delicious.

      Don’t even begin to compare hummus to tofu.

      It’s got garlic in it, dude. You put enough garlic in dog shit and it would be delicious.

      1. I will put my garlic in something else then. I actually put garlic in lots of stuff. It is the garlic, not the hummus. Take the garlic out and then you won’t be able to tell the difference between the hummus and dog shit.

        1. All of the ingredients of Humus are quite flavorful. It really doesn’t belong on that list. You don’t have to like it, but it isn’t some sort of health-nut flavorless crap. It just happens to be vegetarian.

          1. It was a joke man. But it apparently has set off a shit storm of retaliation because hummus eaters are some sort of cult. I have never tried it, I just lumped it in with all of the hippy stuff, because I typically see it beside of all the other hippy stuff. And I like some vegetarian stuff, aka vegetables and fruits.

            1. Hyperion, once upon a time, I thought that hummus was just more hippie shit too.

              Then I had Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.

              Hummus is a manly, manly food.

              1. Damnit, Randian, now you have talked me into trying Hummus. But… I will have to go to the market late on a week night when there is less chance of seeing some guy with a pony tail and man purse putting some of it in his recyclable grocery bag.

                1. Get yourself some Keebler Club Crackers and go nuts. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

                  1. If you want to go healthy, try hummus on a stalk of celery. Also, I agree with Randian about red pepper.

                    1. My preference for hummus is one that has a sizable portion of tahini mixed in. The middle eastern place nearby does this with no flavorings and serves it with their fresh naan. Delish.

                    2. That’s what I was thinking. Am trying to get healthy, so the celery definitely better idea than the high carb crackers.

                    3. You’re all worried about your manly image and you’re fretting about “carbs”?

                      Geez, Kim Kardashian, I didn’t mean to damage your image.

                    4. Who is worried about their manly image? I didn’t realize that not only is there a Hummus cult at H and R, but also a Keebler cult. I will be expecting death threats soon, lol.

                    5. Those little elves work their collective ass off to bring you delicious American crackers, and you want to eat celery because you’re minding your figure.

                      Jeez nancy 😛

                    6. Dude, I’m fat, mmmKay? This is what years of unrestrained beer and food consumption does. My BP is up also, so I don’t have much choice now but to eat a little more healthy maybe 80% of the time.

                2. Don’t buy hummus though. The prepackaged stuff is generally terribly bland.
                  Recipe from a little old Lebanese woman

                  1 can chickpeas
                  1 Tbl tahini
                  1 lg clove garlic
                  1 whole lemon, juice
                  Salt to taste

                  Blend the hell out of the ingredients and use extra lemon juice to obtain a smooth consistency.

                  1. Thanks! I will give recipe to wife and I am sure she will get it right. She just got a couple of recipes for Thai food from her Thai friend and OMG! I love spicey food though.

                  2. …that’s a pretty good recipe.

                    Or go to a middle eastern grocery store that has a significant middle-eastern clientele. Good stuff there too.

                  3. Should add a little more tahini (3 TBL or so) and only about 1 TBL of lemon juice, I also like to use a small amount of Olive Oil to smooth it out.

                    Top it with some more Olive Oil and whatever “spice” you want to liven it up (I either use red pepper or a good smoke paprika depending on my mood).

                    But there about a million ways to make real hummus (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon) balancing the garlic, tahini and lemon is the hard part of getting a good flavor.

                    1. Don’t talk about hummus until you go to a Druze village and try their hummus. I wonder if they export to the US…

                    2. Nah, too much tahini makes it chalky. But you’re right about a little bit of olive oil. I add that without even thinking about it so I forgot.

                    3. Instead of topping it with olive oil, use lemon oil instead. My wife makes hers this way–with lots of garlic and lots of tahini.

            2. Good god, people. If you’re all supposed to be on Paleo diets, you shouldn’t be eating hummus at all. It’s full of carbs. And you eat it with pita bread.

      2. I love hummus, except that it turns into gas once I ingest it.

        Just a couple bites and there’s a constant flow of air coming out of my ass.

        If I eat it before bed, when I return to the bedroom after taking a shower the room still stinks from the farts.

        If I eat it in the winter time, no matter how cold it is I’m still driving around with the windows down.

        If I eat it at work my coworkers go home sick.

        Did I mention that it gives me gas?

        1. I think you have given me just one more example of why not to eat hummus.

          1. You have a ‘not’ in your sentence that doesn’t belong.

            1. I see you are one of those hummus chewers also.

              1. Nah, I don’t care for it. But the potential for limitless chemical warfare is… intoxicating.

                1. It’s intoxicating alright, if you’re fond of oxygen deprivation.

                  1. Call me Michael Hutchence, then.

                  2. Ever tried Beano? It doesn’t work 100%, but it helps a lot.

          2. Also, those that confess to using ‘juicers’ and ‘nutri-bullets’ should not throw stones.

            With their pasty girl arms.

            Because they will throw like a girl and I will make fun of them.

            1. What is wrong with juicers? I still eat the manly stuff dude, but a few fruit smoothies or veggie juices does not make one have girly pasty arms.

              1. Oh sure, they told me just a few estrogen treatments won’t have any effect either…

                1. It helps soften your mustache.

                  1. nothing wrong with my mustache being softer, or so my wife says…

        2. Just a couple bites and there’s a constant flow of air coming out of my ass.

          Be careful, you’re probably giving a young Al Gore out there some ideas about a Hummus-based energy source

        3. My favorite thing to do when someone starts discussing vegan diets to me is to say something like ‘Oh but, don’t vegans have a lot of gas? I’ve heard they fart a lot. All those bean you know.”

      3. Tofu is awesome if it’s prepared right. Like boiled in infused oil or pan fried.

      4. I preferred tofu any day of the week. Of course, I also grow up eating it.

    2. I had no idea how defensive hummus eaters get if you defend their sacred cow. Wow, I would have maybe expected this at HuffPo, but not really here.

      1. I meant offend their sacred cow. FUCK HUMMUS!!!

        1. Why are you such an Islamophobe?

          1. Muslims eat hummus too? My Gawd, this world is going straight to hell.

            1. Arabs invented hummus.

        2. Just don’t get us started on pizza or liquor. We take our Epicurean delights seriously around here.

          1. I love beer but I don’t freak out like some sort of cultist if someone tells me they don’t like Ayinger Brau Weisse, even though I can’t conceptualize such a sentiment.

            1. Have you tried the Ur Weisse? It’s even better…

              1. They’re close, but I prefer the hef.

                1. No and Yes. I love the Hef with a lemon wedge, it’s one of my favorite beers. It is fantastic on tap.

      2. Hyperion| 9.6.12 @ 10:43AM |#

        I had no idea how defensive hummus eaters get if you defend their sacred cow

        jesus man, Garbanzo beans, not cow. Or chick peas, whatever. I prefer the word Garbanzo. Its got more style.

        1. Your Jib. The Cut Of. I like.

          Also….Garbanzo.

      3. What the heck is a Nutri-bullet? Sounds like something from Fifty Shades of Gray.

        1. It’s a little blender with a 600 watt motor. It makes smoothies. It’s very powerful and super easy to clean up, and compact. As far as juice is concerned, I recommend sticking with a juicer, but if you want to make fruit smoothies with apples, banana, orange, pineapple, etc. this thing rocks.

          1. I thought it was another term for SF’s mind missiles.

    3. the Asian is 25-50% of the price, or even less, and typically it appears to be much more quality

      My experience corroborates.

      I’m thinking it’s because of the customer base. Asians actually eat vegetables, know what they’re supposed to taste like, and won’t buy wilted, ripped, or bruised, almost-compost.

      1. Poor immigrants still know how to cook from scratch. Thus high turnover in the produce section.

        1. The prices are about 25% lower even than commercial prices in the mainstream grocery store, but after awhile the gargantuan size of the produce discomfited me enough to stop shopping there. Seriously, when your apples are the size of a small canteloupe, something is suspect. Still, hard to beat a pint of blueberries for $1.50. But I’d have to drive there JUST to get produce, because if I need to pick up anything else – “non scratch” stuff – like cereal or topilet paper or whatever – it’s about 60% more than in the regular grocery store.

  11. Organic Food Superstition Receives Yet Another Blow From Science

    How is that science? Where is the consensus?

    The majority of people who buy organic food believe it is better. That’s a consensus!

    Therefor your silly “science” is a bunch of shit.

    Consensus rules!

    1. Spending lots of extra cash on so called organic food is no different at all to spending lots of extra money on an electric car. Neither has any effect on anything except reducing your bank account balance and making you feel ‘special’

      1. At least with the car example, the internals of the two products actually function on different basii.

  12. I tend to agree with most of this article, to me the one exception with a lot of credible evidence is grass fed hormone free beef vs grain fed. The omega-3/omega-6 ratios are very skewed towards omega-6 in grain fed and the ratios are much closer to fish in grass fed.

    1. Fish? That’s almost like eating a vegetable.

    2. I might have to go along with you on this, although it is really not the same thing as organic produce.

      I bought some of the free range, hormone free, blah blah chicken at whole foods, and I am telling you the difference was amazing. The meat just seemed way nicer and there was hardly any fat and gristle on it at all. Typically if I buy a pound of chicken breast I am throwing out lots of gristle, but with this there was no waste at all.

      Also watching some documentaries where I have seen how they stick those chickens in a box and just feed them with who knows what, until they nearly pop is sort of gross.

      1. I’ll have to say grass-fed beef is more flavorful as well.

        1. I will have to try it. There is a market not far from me that has grass fed bison, which someone I work with tells me I have to try.

          1. H: Liberally douse with olive oil.

            1. I usually baste my meat lightly with olive oil before throwing on the grill so that it won’t stick. Why all the oil for Bison?

              1. Because ounce for ounce it’s one of the leanest meats there is.

                Now, is bison good? Yes, but I can’t for the life of me follow the logic of buying a lean meat for three times the price of its fatty counterpart and then proceeding to douse it in oil. What is the point of that?

                1. Because it makes the bacon stick to it?

              2. Bison like Venison has almost no fat. So it is very easy to end up with a very dry piece of meat. Marinate in some Olive Oil, salt, and pepper before grilling, then top with a good garlic butter.

                1. ^dis

                  Garlic butter is the key.

          2. I tried bison recently. Made chili the way I usually do, then didn’t tell any of the family that it wasn’t beef till after they tried it.

            Worked like a charm.

        2. WTF: I grew up eating our very own grass fed cows – more flavorful yes, but tougher.

        3. Try bison.

          You’ll never want beef again.

          1. A market near me carries bison. I will definitely try it.

          2. I eat bison frequently, but it has not flipped off the beef craving, especially at the respective price points.

            Bison is pushing 10 bucks a pound in my area. That’s way too expensive.

            1. Try long pig. Cheaper and better.

              1. So that’s why you moved to Africa.

            2. Randian| 9.6.12 @ 10:56AM |#

              I eat bison frequently

              Eating bison is no fun unless you’re also exterminating Native Americans.

          3. I prefer bison, and so do my kiddos, but the $$$ differential means we still eat beef 3-1.

      2. H: on the other hand, battery chicken operations have made this kind of meat much cheaper for many poor people living in places like Indonesia.

        1. I get that, but if I have a choice, which I currently do, I will probably go with the free range chicken from now on.

      3. The chickens in Africa are amazing. Smaller, obviously, but their diet and genetic diversity makes them freaking delicious.

        Unfortunately no one here knows how to cook worth a crap (including me), but still it’s hard to screw up a good ‘chicken heated on a metal grid over coals’. If the chicken itself is good quality.

      4. Some of them do pop. that’s how we get popcorn cicken.

    3. Fish? Never touch the stuff. They live in their own shit.

        1. Pigs produce bacon. Fish do not achieve these heights.

          1. There is not much better than a well prepared Rockfish or Chilean Sea Bass. Yummy.

            1. Except for the Tilapia that I once had, fresh caught from the Rio Sao Fransico in Bahia, Brazil. Or fresh caught Bluegill or Walleye. I love fish.

            2. Salmon. Period.

              1. The one fish that I don’t care for. Except for sashimi, I like it raw.

                1. Seriously? I love it! Though it does suck if it’s overcooked. I usually broil it until it’s a hair over rare, then let it rest for at least fifteen minutes.
                  One of my favorite dishes in the world is a leftover salmon omelet.
                  Or you can cure it with salt and sugar, then serve it sliced thin on crackers with creme cheese, cucumber and dill.

                  I’m getting hungry and I just ate.

                  1. I will have to take that back a little, sarcasmic. I do like Salmon patties.

                2. That and sardines. I’ve always got a couple cans sitting around.

                  1. love sardines

            3. The only food worth eating is strangled Chinchilla shish-kebabs

              They have to be strangled. I don’t know why, its just part of the recipe.

              1. clubbed baby seal is equally delicious.

                1. Hyperion| 9.6.12 @ 2:54PM |#

                  clubbed baby seal is equally delicious

                  I’ve heard that Lithuanians have a special way of preparing it where they first disembowel the baby seal mother right in front it, taunt it for a while, then club the shit out of it. They say the trauma adds flavor.

  13. Conventional fruits and vegetables did have more pesticide residue, but the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits, the scientists said. The Environmental Protection Agency sets the limits at levels that it says do not harm humans.

    I thought this was a Libertarian site?? Trust the EPA?? Go right ahead because REASON/LOGIC tells me that eating poison, no matter how small, is not a good idea. It also tells me that supporting Gov. subsidized farms IS NOT a good idea (just read Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell if you need more convincing). Finally, it (reason/logic for you short attention spanders) tells me that high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesiety are neither good ideas nor patriotic since the government will be controlling health care in the not so distant future, of course, I am not yet convinced this is any worse than the current state of big pharma controlling it all.

    Self sufficiency, independence, and freedom from doctors, will be a good start to returning our country to its roots.

    1. Go right ahead because REASON/LOGIC tells me that eating poison, no matter how small, is not a good idea.

      I take it you never fly in an airplane? Get X-rays from your doctor?

      Things are only poisonous at certain levels. A microgram of water is not poisonous for consumption. 20 gallons is.

    2. I thought this was a Libertarian site?? Trust the EPA?? Go right ahead because REASON/LOGIC tells me that eating poison, no matter how small, is not a good idea.

      You mean like immunizations?

      Or like Iodine?

      Or Sodium?

      Or a whole host of other things?

      I don’t think Ron is advocating trusting the EPA, but rather the studies that they funded. I don’t want to speak for him, but I’m sure he’d have preferred that they were privately funded, but that shit’s just not going to happen in this country.

      1. It’s not even just studies the funded. There are a shitload of studies they had nothing to do with other than use them as evidence to come to their conclusion.

      2. You forgot about fluoride.

        1. Floride – part of the communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. This is why I drink only distilled rainwater and grain alcohol.

          WillyWill| 9.6.12 @ 10:32AM |#
          …”REASON/LOGIC tells me that eating poison, no matter how small, is not a good idea.”

          Unsurprisingly I bet the guy nevertheless has a favorable view of Homeopathy. Stupid has a funny way of working.

          Plus, thank god you’ve never been vaccinated. That would be *insane*

          That word, “Logic”, you keep using… I do no think it means a what you think it means…

    3. “eating poison, no matter how small, is not a good idea”

      Well, you’d better stop eating then. There is a little bit of poison in everything.

      Not to say that people shouldn’t try to avoid ingesting pesticides as much as possible, but there is a safe level for everything.

    4. Fucking dose/response. How does it work?

    5. WillyWill| 9.6.12 @ 10:32AM |#
      …”REASON/LOGIC tells me that eating poison, no matter how small, is not a good idea.”

      Oh, goody! Another ignoramus claiming to know what the term ‘logic’ means.

    6. eating poison, no matter how small

      So you refrain from consuming anything with caffeine or alcohol in it? Do you eat peppers? Consult the chart in this article and get back to me, as capsaicin, alcohol, and caffeine are all “more poisonous” in acute dosages than Vitamin C or MSG.

    7. Consuming small doses of poison everyday is how you build up an immunity to it. That’s what I learned from The Count of Monte Cristo and The Princess Bride.

    8. I think you guys need to update the firmware in your sarcasm meters.

  14. I can’t believe that GMO foods were not even brought up in this article. That is the sole reason many people buy organic produce.

    1. I can’t believe that GMO foods were not even brought up in this article. That is the sole reason many people buy organic produce.

      Lies. Many people who buy organic are just as ignorant of biology as they are chemistry.

    2. Because that’s an even dumber reason than the faux health benefits.

    3. Hesta: As I have reported many many times – every independent scientific body that has evaluated the safety of foods made from bioenhanced crops has found them to be as safe as conventional and organic foods.

      1. I have always thought that the argument against GMO is irrational. I mean, why does something have to be worse for us just because it was modified? Why couldn’t it be better? Seems like it could be either. The assumption that everything is better left alone and that man can only make things worse than nature created it, it’s like a religion.

        1. Or the naturalism fallacy.

        2. It’s baffling because everything we eat is genetically modified.

          Wild corn is inedible.

          Wild almonds are IIRC chock full of deadly levels of arsenic.

          Aurochs (undomesticated ancestor of cows) like goring humans, etc.

          Where before farmers were counting on random mutations to modify the genes (or engaging in crude sorts of modifications liking splicing different tree species together), the mutations made my industry are far more purposeful.

          Eating GMO food is no different than drinking milk that’s had a few drops of green food coloring dripped in: it’s perfectly consumable, but our emotional instincts – evolved to keep us from eating bad stuff – are telling us falsely that it’s dangerous to consume.

          1. The issue isn’t that it’s “modified” – it’s what it’s motified with. Pesticides. It should be enough to make anyone pause. At the very least, I’d like to see some longer term studies.

            1. Uh, so they use pesticides to genetically modify food?

              You are a huge portion of what is wrong with this country.

            2. Many GMO crops are modified in order to reduce the need for pesticides.

              Herpity derpity.

              1. So, what do they do to the crops in order to make them that way?

                1. Heata| 9.6.12 @ 1:47PM |#

                  So, what do they do to the crops in order to make them that way?

                  Ah, the cunning lad has exposed us!

                  He realizes that scientists must call upon the dark lord Satan and infest the produce with the urge to kill, Kill! KILL!… in its very presence all enemy insect life is eradicated mercilessly! And of course, this Evil Gene is passed onto all consumers of the food, making them more and more susceptible to our code of corporate mind control!

                  Uh, actually they just add Bt-generating gene to the plant. Harmless to humans.

                  Bt preparations are commonly used in organic agriculture to control insects, as Bt toxin occurs naturally and is completely safe for humans.

                  http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng…..crops.html

                  Yeah… but that’s *just what they want you to think*….

            3. The “pesticides” you mention (Bt) are the same thing “organic” farmers spray on their crops to control pests. They are actually not pesticides but harmless bacteria that kills certain insects.
              By engineering it into the crop, you make the crop pest-resistant, thus no need to spray actual, conventional, pesticides.

          2. I think the chemical in wild almonds is cyanide.

            1. No no… its Marzipan. Deadly, deadly stuff.

        3. The assumption that everything is better left alone and that man can only make things worse than nature created it, it’s like a religion.

          Actually, I bet that attitude is derived directly from the concept of Original Sin. “Man cannot modify Nature in a positive way owing to his sinful origins which Nature is free from.” etc etc blah blah blah. (apologies to SKR above if I just described “the naturalism fallacy”)

          1. That, and the whole FAUST thing.

          2. Nope. In that story, nature fell too.

    4. Because Mendelean genetic modification is cool, but more advanced techniques aren’t? Do you throw your sabots in steam looms because they are evil, too?

      1. well, like, yeah man, cause Mendel was a monk, so he, ummm, had God’s permission. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    5. That is the sole reason many people buy organic produce.

      back in the late 90s when organic started booming GMOs were hardly in most consumers vocabulary.

      The “sole reason” consumers buy organic is they like the branding. Everything else is an excuse for why they like the branding.

  15. Ron

    You’re basically calling a substantial portion of the female population, particularly those with advanced degrees, stupid and irrational.

    Not that I disagree.

    1. SIV| 9.6.12 @ 11:13AM |#

      Ron

      You’re basically calling a substantial portion of the female population, particularly those with advanced degrees, stupid and irrational.

      This is horrible and sexist.

      Men are equally as stupid.

  16. I will continue to produce at my local farmers market, whether labeled organic or not, because they taste better than supermarket produce. I understand there may be a slight increase in risk to foodborne disease because they are not sprayed, but I am willing to take that minimal risk.

    I do not spray my crops with pesticides, but I do use fertilizer that is not labeled organic. And all the feed I use for my livestock is general feed as opposed to the organic options that have no discernible difference in content (look at the tags on each).

    Small-farm food often tastes better because of less hormone treatment and/or less interference in normal growth cycles. I am fortunate enough to be able to grow my own food, but if the world’s food supply was grown at a normal (read: organic) rate with no manipulation from mankind, more people would starve to death. And there’s no way man can have a clear conscience with mass starvation while simple solutions like irradiating crops and speeding up growth of livestock is possible.

    1. I will continue to produce at my local farmers market, whether labeled organic or not, because they taste better than supermarket produce.

      This.

    2. I will continue to produce at my local farmers market

      Produce what? 😛

      1. Sloopy milk. You can even milk him directly into your mouth if you want!

  17. if there is any topic that leftists tend to be completely anti-science on, it’s food.

    i’ve challenged them dozens of times for studies that show organics have any nutritional benefit – crickets.

    they also make a big deal about hormones in beef cows. and again, i challenge them to provide any scientific evidence that trenbolone, etc. can negatively affect meat quality … crickets (it can affect IGF levels in milk, quite possibly, but i’m talking meat)

    and then there is the whole GMO thang.

    i grow a fair amount of my own produce (organically), fwiw. i buy grass fed beef because it tastes better and is far more nutritious and i know the cows are raised in a less cruel manner and slaughtered humanely.

    consumer choice is awesome. people who want to buy organic? knock yerself out. but don’t go spouting your faux science about how its healthier, because that’s a scientific claim, with ZERO evidence to support it.

    i have no problem with paying for VALUE. i have a big problem with paying for organics.

    1. I have to laught as I know, being from Seattle myself, you’re literally surrounded by both dirty food hippies as well Whole Food shopping lefties.

      1. They aren’t food hippies, they’re food bigots.

      2. cool. we feel each other’s pain. btw, if you are from seattle, you like food, and you haven’t been to PFI , yer missing out!

        http://www.bigjohnspfiseattle.com/

        tell em dunphy sent you.

        and try the olives!

  18. I think there’s something to be said for ideas like local farming, minimal processing, and especially scaling back the government fostered gigantism in agriculture, but the whole “organic” thing is nothing but a highly effective technique for hoovering money out of the kind of people who are terrified of dihydrogen monoxide.

  19. Really? Who comes up with a ll that crazy stuff.

    http://www.IP-Masking.tk

  20. It’s amazing how hostile Reason readers are to the tree-hugging organic-heads they imagine so blindly buying everything marked with the big “O.”

    And it’s surprising how hostile some are to the suggestion that perhaps FDA pesticide limits are not to be trusted. I haven’t seen a good answer to the question why we ought to believe Ron Bailey’s citation of the FDA’s numbers as authoritative, when we are right to be skeptical of much else of what the federal government does.

    Lost in this tirade and the comments on it is the reality that not much Reason is involved in our present industrialized food system. Organic may be little more than a label at this point (it’s owned by the FDA, after all!). But it’s the best foot in the door of mainstream ag that we have.

    1. You are free to read all the scientific literature and check to see if the FDA’s numbers are valid. From the studies I have read, they are.

    2. But it’s the best foot in the door of mainstream ag that we have.

      On what criteria?

      It’s *not* better for the environment, it produces significantly greater atmospheric carbon, it consumes significantly more energy, it requires significantly more human labor, is far more likely to be damaged, spoil, or become infested, and has no demonstrated health benefits at all. Oh, and it costs way more.

      Other than all that… where’s *all Teh Awesome* we miss?

  21. Like many labels, “organic” can be misleading. I have no confidence when I am shopping at Kroger or Publix that the organic produce is a lot different than the other stuff.

    I do occasionally shop at farmer’s markets or organic food co-ops. While the produce is more expensive, it’s a hell of a lot tastier. And with the food inflation that has crept into the economy in the last few years, it’s not that much more expensive.

    One can argue about nutritional value, but from what I’ve read it drops pretty quickly after the fruit is picked. So if it takes a week to show up at your grocery store, it’s no wonder there is little difference. If you are buying it from farmer Joe down the street, it may be a different story.

    But one thing that is undeniable is that modern agriculture depends on fossil fuels. If the price of fossil fuels go up (as environmentalists and the bunch in the WH want), the cost savings will slowly disappear. Just because it’s cheaper today doesn’t mean it always will be.

    Personally, I think it’s wise to keep your options open. There may come a day when being a loyal customer of farmer Joe is a very valuable thing.

    1. But one thing that is undeniable is that modern agriculture depends on fossil fuels

      … the derp is strong with this one.

      You *are* aware organic production methods require *significantly more* use of ‘fossil fuels’ compared to, say, modern forms of GMO no-till crops?

      One can argue about nutritional value, but from what I’ve read it drops pretty quickly after the fruit is picked. So if it takes a week to show up at your grocery store, it’s no wonder there is little difference. If you are buying it from farmer Joe down the street, it may be a different story

      Uh, this whole article is about how they *had* this argument, and the end result? No health advantages of organic. End of argument. I guess you didn’t notice that part.

      And your assumption that “joe down the street” is somehow part of a super-efficient and timely distributor of foodstuffs when compared to a trillion dollar food industry that can get you fucking fresh fruit out of season in the most remote parts of the country… well all I can say is that your self-delusion efforts are paying off admirably.

      Look = you eat organic because you are a sucker for the branding. Don’t let that convince you that you are ‘informed’ in any way about health, the food industry, or anything else. Your comment itself reveals nothing but a series of misconceptions and bullshit magical thinking.

  22. For someone new to the comments section of Reason, it’s interesting reading the comments here. It seems that points are awarded for obscenities, and ad hominem attacks. I don’t see how that adds to the discussion.

    I am surprised that no one mentioned the obvious. Conventional food production relies on significant inputs of fossil fuels. Can we objectively compare “conventional” food production to organic, when conventional farming is only competitive due to the application of fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides?

    While we’re at it, let’s also compare the environmental costs of soil erosion and chemical runoff from conventional versus organic farming. Which kind of farm would you want live downstream from?

    As for the levels of pesticides, herbicides, anti-biotics, growth hormones, etc in our food, I don’t know about all of you “death to the FED” libertarians, but the level I want to eat is zero. You don’t trust the FED to set interest rates and money supply, but you’re okay with USDA limits for organophosphates? Curious, indeed.

  23. This is a very enlightening posts. Maybe this will eliminate the most common argument of organic foods advocates that organic food is safer more nutritious than the conventional foods sold in most supermarkets. I think with these new results, the main argument now is not which is really healthier or beneficial for the body, but more on how far one is willing to spend for his health. Organic foods are more expensive, but are “cleaner” so they say because of the absence of residues from pesticides in vegetables and “antibiotics” in meat products. The chemical residues are claimed to be present in conventional foods. I am advocate of the Paleo Diet but I’m not quite “dogmatic” about its teachings. I try my best to go organic but when circumstances prevent me from using one like for example the non-availability of the food item in the farmer’s market, I can use the conventional food as substitute every once in a while.

  24. I would like to say that it is always good, even necessary, to be critical of any kind of perceived herd mentality, including the organic food “movement”–which is often uninformedly grouped together with the overall “foodie” movement, veganism, and such absurdities that people swear by such as the paleo diet. But as far as I see it, articles like this are just as guilty of creating that intangible, blind-to-science “voodoo” of which you accuse pro-organic advocacy. Cherry-picking information from sources with obvious vested interest in a non-organic, Business As Usual method of farm practices, such as the FDA, for example, doesn’t do much to support your case either.

    To put it bluntly, why don’t YOU have a child who develops severe allergies and illnesses to trace pesticides and other preservative chemicals, and then tell me how much of the pro-organic movement is based on “voodoo” and unfounded claims?

  25. …Your counterclaim that science “has no evidence” to support the claim that pesticide-free, non-GMO crops are no better for us only manifests your own lack of clear-cut evidence, not anyone else’s, and a blind regard for all laboratory science as the necessary be all/end all of the capacity for human knowledge. Does it really take a team of scientists for you to admit that eating traces of chemicals, which kill or harm other organisms who survive on the same diet as we intend to, may very well be detrimental to our health? If it does, then fine: I assure you the reputable scientific evidence is out there: just maybe not on your first hit page after a basic google search.

    Let me guess, you don’t have little ones running around. Nieces, nephews? Pets? Have never lost someone you love to cancer or diabetes?


  26. Fact: It is NO LONGER more expensive to farm organically; anyone who says it is, has not done the proper research and isn’t “in the stream” of farming. And if you grow your own in your yard, or vertically/in planters if you live in a city, then the cost is VIRTUALLY FREE after purchasing the low-cost seeds from a local or online heirloom supplier, give or take the time and cost for maintenance and diatomaceous earth. Only a fraction of each seed packet needs to be utilized each season to yield enough for a family to eat, and the other seeds can be saved in a cool, dry area for next season. Simple as that: plant it, water it, give it light, watch it grow, and harvest.

    Learning about the ecosystem in which you live is also helpful to all living creatures in your garden, and the pesticides that are used in conventional farming to keep away the harmful insects often keep away the good ones, too. Therein lies another problem.

  27. …Also, why don’t we do away with the term “conventional” farming and refer to it instead as BAU (business as usual) farming–it is the most UN-conventional thing to think that spraying poisons—so long as they are within the limits of a governmnt organization (FDA) who has repeatedly served profit over safety of its consumers—is somehow better for us than letting the foods grow naturally and according to necessary ecological balances.

    …The problem with GMO crops is that a) there have been scattered reports of health issues developing in countries which rely heavily on them which should not be willfully ignored, b)they are currently being privatized and monopolized by Monsanto and its fervent supporter Bill Gates, to the detriment of small-scale organic farmers, c) no long-term research to disprove the reports of health issues due to GMOs has been invested in or carried out, d) they provide a temporary bandaid to the problem of world hunger, solving an immediate need, but creating a series of other health and crop productivity problems and are therefore a NONSUSTAINABLE solution to the problems they claim to solve, e)GMO crops spread–fast–often onto neighboring organic, eco-friendly farms, obliterating the ability of these smaller farms to produce their desired seeds, to the benefit of only agricultural corporations whose aim is domination of the industry, and the list really goes on from there.

  28. ..Finally, and I apologize for so many comments, but I am only allowed 1500 characters per comment:

    My take on the rather striking irony of this site’s title, “reason.com”, is that the evidence provided as a case against organic or eco-friendly food production practices is more about comfort level and laziness than about any actual “reason.” Knowledge is out there and free for everyone willing to seek it; if you are trying to disprove something based on your unilateral personal projections onto any sort of belief system as necessarily bad or wrong, you are following your own herd (a smaller one, but still just as much a herd as what you speak of) of pseudo-intellectualism, which lacks empathy for the true intentions and logic-based reasoning behind many people’s “belief” in organics; and I think you have more pressing personal issues to solve before tackling world hunger.

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