Organic agriculture is less likely than conventional agriculture to garner a critical look from media, a Kansas State University researcher concludes. The study, conducted from 1999 to 2004 by Kansas State University associate professor Doug Powell and researchers from the University of Guelph, explored how topics of organic food and agriculture were discussed in five North American newspapers.

The analysis found 41.4% of the coverage had a neutral tone toward organic ag and food, 36.9% had a positive tone, 15.5% were mixed and 6.1% were negative, Powell says.

“Organic agriculture was often portrayed … as an alternative to allegedly unsafe and environmentally damaging modern agriculture practices. That means organic was being defined by what it isn’t, rather than what it is,” Powell says.

He adds that USDA has repeatedly stressed that the organic standard is a verification of production methods and not a food-safety claim.