Science and Profit III: Agro-Industry and a strange study

According to the Huffington Post, it had the „ingredients for a highly clickable story“. Yeah, that is right. Millions of anti-organic consumers and the agriculture multinationals always were right: spending more on organic food is a waste of money. Let us all stop to worry about additives, pesticides and genetic engineering-who cares?!

But there are questions about it. Is it the plain, unvarnished truth or more a sort of show?

A press release by Stanford University published in September stated an University´s review of scientific literature did not find „strong evidence“ that organic food was more nutrition and less risky in health issues. The statement was quoted worldwide on news headlines.

But in 2011, Kristen Brandt (Newcastle University) did a similar work, resulting in completely different findings . She questions the Stanford´s methodology.

Outraged organics fans and activists have immediately denied all results, calling the study a „fraud“. One of the co-authors was on the payroll of t agro-multinational Cargill, a producer of conventional and GMO products. Some time ago, he also received money from Big tobacco resources, doing tobacco-friendly studies.

An article by Dr Charles Benbrook, former executive director of the subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture in the U.S. Congress says that the Stanford review „raises more technical questions about analytical methods and metrics than it answers, and several of its “answers” are highly suspect.“.

Benbrook wonders about the team only allowing clinically significant data, which, according to him, is rarely found in organics-vs-conventional research. He reports the scientists referred to the Brandt et al. Review, but actually failed to mention its results, and also failed in defining what exactly is „significantly more nutritious“. He writes about other papers showing a plus factor in some nutrients, but not all. Benbrook underlines that organics contain less antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pesticides associated with health risks.


Another question to raise is written down in Huffington Post Blog, questioning the study´s language. In the Stanford document, it actually says that eating organics „may reduce“ exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pesticide residues. The data, in fact, shows a 30 percent lower risk in pesticide exposure when eating organic food.

HuffPost author Frances Moore Lappe also emphasizes that the risks of agro-chemicals might only be detected in long-term studies, which weren´t included in Stanford´s review.

Okay, now it is your turn to chew on this question: If the WHO (World Health Organization) says that there are about three million pesticide poisonings annually, and organic food can in fact reduce your pesticide exposure, why can Stanford scientists say that there is no significant health advantage when eating organics?

(Hint 🙂 :  because they got money from agro-industry)


Science and Profit II: Serving Monsanto

Science and Profit: Monsanto and the University of California Davis

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