BEEF Daily

Study Bursts Bubble In Organic Claims


Organic food is a $26-billion business in the U.S. The organic stamp on grocery goods oftentimes doubles the cost, but despite a slow economy, the organic industry grew by more than 8% in 2010. The demand for knowing your food and where it comes from has amplified our conversations about agriculture to a whole new level.

Although today’s consumer is three or more generations removed from the farm, these communities that support local, organic farmers and getting back to the basics and are paying top dollar for food they believe is superior -- both in safety and nutrition.

Not so fast. Before you fork over extra bucks for that organic label, you may want to check out a new study that asked the question: Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?

Conducted by Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy, a group of physicians who believed the health benefits of organic foods were unclear conducted 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork and meat. They compared health, nutritional and safety characteristics of organic and conventional foods.

The results of the study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study concluded that the studies showed a lack of strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but not by much. Foods with pesticide residue were still under EPA standards, and that risk could be eliminated by washing produce before consuming, which consumers should do whether eating organic or conventional.

Apparently, when these physicians embarked on this study, they anticipated that organic foods would be superior, and they were surprised to discover that there was no real measurable difference.

Of course, traditional farmers and ranchers who raise conventional food have been saying this all along, and unfortunately, many organic farmers have slammed traditional methods in order to promote their label. At the end of the day, whether organic or conventional, U.S. food is safe and nutritious, and we are lucky to have so many choices. I don’t believe we should bash one segment to endorse another; I believe the food that we raise should stand on its own merit, without degrading the other options available in the produce aisle or at the meat case.

  • Holly Spangler says it well in a column for the Prairie Farmer. She says food is a measured risk, just like driving a car. Read her thoughts here.
  • Cheryl Wetzstein for the Washington Times writes, “Apples are apples and oranges are oranges, and it makes little difference whether they are bought as organic products or not.”
  • Amanda Hill for Texas Table Top adds to the discussion: “Organic foods are no more nutritious than foods grown by conventional farmers. And, when it comes to food safety, organic and conventional products are at risk for the same contaminants. Organic products are just as susceptible to bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Fortunately, the bacteria will be killed with proper preparation and cooking. Those who are passionate about buying organic products will continue to evangelize the benefits they see.”
  • And, here is another great viewpoint from an organic farmer.

After reading this study, if you still prefer organic foods, that’s great. This is America after all, and we are privileged to be able to choose. However, don’t feel obligated or guilted into purchasing organic because you’ve read about the “dirty dozen” and feel pressured to buy something that is deemed superior.

The proof is in the pudding. All American farmers and ranchers are held to the same standards. We are pretty darn lucky here in the U.S. to have and abundant source of safe, wholesome, affordable food.

Discuss this Blog Entry 13

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

The organic industry has been highjacked and is now under the firm control of the food anarchists and, as such, has morphed into a purely political movement with no interest in facts such as these published that clearly demonstrate the non-existent health and nutritional advantages of organic as claimed by the activists. Watch for them to savagely attack this science based report with billboard type slogans and unsubstantiated claims while continuing their not so hidden campaign of political manipulation through misinformation to achieve their true goal; an end to molecular breeding and food production utilizing these amazing crop science advancements. California Prop 37 is a perfect example of the back door campaign by these activists aimed at disrupting modern crop science through new onerous and costly regulations. They have long ago failed on the science level and have moved on to the regulation level to achieve their cynical goals. As already stated, it is simply a political movement.

Mike Connor (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

Look child. Chemical farming is not traditional farming. It was called "progressive farming" when I was growing up. Organic farming Is more "traditional"

C Bieber (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

So was farming with a stick and starving

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

Well said, Amanda

on Sep 6, 2012

The results of these studies is not news to to those of us in conventional/traditional/progressive agriculture. As said above: it does no good to anyone, producer or consumer, to bash the product or practices of any safe accepted production method. I believe we produce more abundance of safe and wholesome here for less $$$ than anywhere and more consumers are beginning to realize and a few to even "appreciate" that.

delos.thompson (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

Thanks for the understanding and open mindness you have, backed by the facts. We have been truely blessed in America contributed mostly to weather conditions as much or more so than our knowledge of farming. We have reaped these rewards not only because of the hard work of our forefathers but of their God honoring lifestyles as well. That may be changing as the good will suffer with the bad.

on Sep 6, 2012

Thanks Amanda.
Here is the article's site:
Good reading material.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

A clarification: The Stanford folks did not conduct these studies, rather they reviewed studies that had already been conducted.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2012

The so-called 'organic agriculture' and conventional/progressive agriculture can co-exist---as long as activists can be prevented from mandating either system. As for organic production, Dean Earl Butz once commented: We can grow food using organic culture (without chemical fertilizer and pesticide inputs), but if we are forced to do so exclusively, someone must decide which 50 million of us will starve.

Anthony Pannone (not verified)
on Sep 8, 2012

"The proof is in the pudding. All American farmers and ranchers are held to the same standards. We are pretty darn lucky here in the U.S. to have and abundant source of safe, wholesome, affordable food."

Cliche after cliche after cliche, Amanda. They do nothing to help Team Ag.

Mike Connor's comment is original, helps Team Ag, makes us think: "Chemical farming is not traditional farming. It was called "progressive farming" when I was growing up. Organic farming Is more "traditional.""

As in politics, nothing will ever change until we drop the labels. A farmer is a farmer is a gardener is a customer.

JR (not verified)
on Sep 10, 2012

Might want to change the 'm' to a 'b' in your first sentence.

on Sep 10, 2012

Thanks for the catch, JR. Sorry for the obvious error.

on May 22, 2013

A lot of misconceptions are there about organic food and still people have many doubts. It has been clearly studied that organic foods have the same nutritional value as conventional foods. Organic do not uses pesticides and synthetic fertilizer and is safer. It lessens the exposure to harmful chemicals and is grown under natural conditions.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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