Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Report: Health Is Unhealthy!

Came across an unbelievable story in Reuters today, "Organic food is no healthier, study finds." Clearly run by government subsidized organizations and "nutritionists," this study is truly worthless. Here's what I mean.

The study completely ignores any kind of externalities, of which there are countless. Like genetic modification, pesticide run-off, worker mistreatment, unfair and unethical government subsidies, massive water and fertilizer requirements, and desertification due to gigantic monocultures robbing the land of everything it once was. Those are just the start of it. Tally these into the "health" value of organic vs. industrial, and things start to look a little fishy.

The other gigantic problem with this study, is the relevant data measured. The "nutrient content" was compared between conventional and organic "foodstuffs." This is classic "nutritionism." Dissect a food into some measurable units, count them, and call it a day. Other than the countless studies I've seen that point to organic food actually possessing a much more nutritionally dense array of components, "nutrition content" is truly an incomplete picture of a food's value. There are many immeasurable components synthesized from natural organic matter that contribute the overall nutrition content, that conventionally grown plants cannot produce.

This is marketing, masquerading around as "news." Sad.


In response to the challenge I received, noting that I didn't cite the "countless studies", I looked to one of my unknowing gudes: Marion Nestle. Sure enough, on her blog today, she discussedthis exact story, and, I happily note, made many of the same points.

"...these authors did not compare amounts of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, irradiation, genetic modification, or sewage sludge. They did not look at any of those things. They only looked at nutrients. This is an example of nutritionism in action: looking at foods as if their nutrient content is all that matters - not production methods, not effects on the environment, and not even taste"

For anyone needing a citation, here are some of Marion Nestle's credentials:

• Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health (the department she chaired from 1988-2003) and Professor of Sociology at New York University.
• Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, University of California, Berkeley.
•From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health.
•Member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee and Science Board, the USDA/DHHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and American Cancer Society committees that issue dietary guidelines for cancer prevention.

One thing I must add, is that one does not purchase organic foods to maximize nutritional content (whatever that means anyway). Organically produced food most importantly LACKS much of what conventionally produced food contains: pesticides, chemicals, unnatural ripening processes, as well as the externalities mentioned at the beginning of this post. One could reasonably post a headline such as, "NEW STUDY FINDS JAPANESE CARS HAVE NO MORE SEATS THAN GERMAN." Great.


  1. "The review did not look at pesticides of the environmental impact of different farming practices."

    Quoted from the original BBC article. One more facet of how pointless this "study" was. Without taking into account the many health issues created by pesticides alone this is nothing more than sensationalism, likely drummed up by the UK branch of ADM or Cargill.

  2. At least the article was based on a scientific're just using rhetoric. How about you cite some of these "countless studies"? And how do we know these studies aren't funded by Whole Foods and their cronies?