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Organic vs Conventional foods: Part 3 – Safer for you?

Posted on December 30th, 2012 by Stephen Hardy | No Comments | Print | RSS

In the first part of this blog (3) we looked at the argument over the Stanford study (1) on whether organic foods are healthier or safer for you than their conventional alternatives. Four key claims were made:

  1. Organically produced foods are no more nutritious for you than those produced using conventional agricultural methods.
  2. Organically grown produce does have higher levels of certain nutrients than conventionally grown foods.
  3. Organic produce has less pesticide contamination than conventionally grown crops.
  4. Organic foods contain less antibiotic-resistant bacteria than do conventionally grown foods.

In the second part of this blog (6), we looked at the first of these categories: ‘Healthier for you’ – points 1. and 2. on this list – and discovered how difficult a question it was to answer. In this, the final part of this blog, we will look at the last claim made for the Stanford study: Organic food is safer for you. These are points 3. and 4. on the above list.

While it is very difficult to say organic food is healthier for you, we are on much firmer ground when asking whether it is safer for you. Here the evidence is much clearer and the interpretation much easier and cleaner.

Before going into the discussion however I need to give you a glimpse into a day in the life of a scientist.

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Organic vs Conventional foods: Part 1 – Which is better?

Posted on October 31st, 2012 by Stephen Hardy | No Comments | Print | RSS

You may have noticed the heated debate that took place in the media recently over whether organically grown food was better for you than food grown by conventional means.

One side loudly proclaimed organic food was better for you because it had higher levels of particular nutrients and wasn’t contaminated with harmful pesticides or antibiotic resistant bacteria. The other side was saying just as loudly organic food was a waste of money, no better for you than conventionally grown food and you shouldn’t have to pay the premium prices for organic food if there was no benefit. And this battle for our hearts, minds and wallets was being raged everywhere you looked. It was splashed across TV, on the radio, in magazines, the print media and on countless websites. It went on for weeks.

As someone with more than a passing interest and a fair bit of background knowledge on the subject (we’ve previously written a book about it), I took a keen interest in the debate. One of the reasons I found the whole thing amusing was each camp was so adamant in their statements, so dismissive of the other sides point of view.

But the crazy thing and something not obvious to the casual observer, was both sides were quoting the same scientific study – a report from Stanford University in the USA – to prove their point (1). Yes, you did read that right: The SAME study!

Hang on a minute? Both sides are using the SAME scientific study to promote completely opposite points of view? How can this be? Is the study wrong? Is someone being highly selective in what they say? Aren’t they telling the truth? And what is the truth? What does the Stanford study REALLY show and what does it mean for you?

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