If you believe the hype surrounding September’s big organic story, you might buy into the mentality that organic is nothing more than an expensive gimmick. In my view, the charged headlines only give us another reason not to believe everything we hear or read.

Stanford University researchers supposedly “proved” that organic foods are no healthier than conventional. As for the $29 billion we Americans collectively spend each year on organic food? Shame on shoppers for getting duped, they implied, insinuating that the industry should not have been allowed to grow to the size it has without someone analyzing the benefits of organic.

Well, I say, shame on the mainstream media for not taking the responsibility to fully investigate this story before filing it. Too bad the voices of some media outlets have been allowed to grow to the size they are without someone analyzing the accuracy of the information they present.

Irresponsible Reporting
In the case of the Stanford meta-analysis, the truth is that the study did not actually find that organic doesn’t do anything for you; just that it may be somewhat nutritionally equivalent to conventional in most cases. There were, however, data showing that organic milk tended to have more omega-3s and that the risk for finding antibiotic-resistant bacteria was higher in conventional chicken and pork than in their organic counterparts.

Hmm. Last time I checked, these were significant health benefits. Ignoring these findings diminishes the well-documented benefits of omega-3s and the detriments of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Still, even if there wasn’t a single shred of evidence showing that organic is nutritionally superior—and studies do exist, mind you—and that the people eating those foods are healthier, I think there’s also the mental health aspect to consider. By that I mean the peace of mind that pesticide-free foods are good for the environment and aren’t causing any unnecessary harm to the body.

The bottom line is this: There’s no benefit to ingesting chemicals in our food, only potential risks. Conversely, we absolutely have real, quantifiable and, to my mind, undebatable benefits to buying organic by way of rejecting unnecessary chemicals and pesticides.

If you’re dubious, perhaps the President’s Cancer Panel will persuade you. In 2010, the group warned that avoiding pesticides may help us reduce the risk of cancer. More broadly, pesticides are linked to numerous physical and behavioral issues, and this extends to the farmers and their families who were exposed to these chemicals. As for the environmental implications, we reported in last month’s Consumer Bulletin about organic that 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre per year can be eradicated from the air by using organic farming practices. If all 434 million acres of U.S. farmland were strictly organic, the impact would be equivalent to taking 217 million cars off the roads. That alone makes buying organic a good decision.

Multiple Choice Test
Sometimes, we make a choice because it’s simply the right thing to do. At times, defining “the right thing to do” is not a black-and-white scenario. Life often presents to us a dense array of interwoven issues to consider simultaneously, and we have a massive amount of options for finding our way through it all. Relying on one’s own sensibilities is essential, but listening to one’s heart can be the most important tool of all for pinpointing the best path to follow.

Therefore, I’m following my heart and my logic as I boldly defy the leanings of the mainstream media and elect to continue buying
organic. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2012