Organic Food: Beyond the headlines
Rob Sexton - 05 September 2012
You’ve probably all seen the headlines that have dominated the press this week. 'Organic Food is 'Not Healthier' Working at the Soil Association, it’s things like this that can make your heart sink.
But I hope like me you read further down the page, because the very next line in the same article states: "However, the findings by researchers at Stanford University, California, do suggest that eating organic foods can reduce the likelihood of consuming pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria".
Am I the only one who would think that a reduction in the consumption of pesticides (defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: a substance used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals - so probably not massively healthy for other living organisms i.e. humans) and antibiotic-resistant bacteria is something that would merit a headline quite the opposite of Organic Food is Not Healthier?
And there's more....the scientific report and even the associated media coverage then goes on to talk about organic milk having more Omega-3 fatty acids which are "thought to be important for brain development in infants and for cardiovascular health". Yet still the headline is saying that it is not healthier?
Need I go on? Actually, I will - just one more. Try this for another quote under the No Healthier headline - "(the report found) lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets (than non-organic), though the levels of urinary pesticides in both groups of children were below the allowable safety thresholds". Who is telling us that pesticides in the urine of our children is ok? And why does this NOT make organic food healthier?
So, what started out as a sinking heart has become a determination to make sure we get the right story out. The “healthiness” of organic food isn’t just about what’s in it, but what’s not in it (as said so well by the Huffington Post).
The past few days we’ve been working hard to put the story right, speaking to dozens of press outlets and journalists to get our comments included.
But even better than seeing our quotes finally make it through, is reading the comments underneath the articles from readers. Again and again (over 300 on the most recent Guardian article), readers point out why these articles have missed the point.
They’re quick to spot the discrepancies between headline and story, and quick to show why they will still be buying organic. Organic consumers’ concerns about chemicals are well founded, and while the health benefits of organic food have indeed been confirmed by other reports, it is only one of a range of issues that keeps people buying… such as the fact that organic food is guaranteed to be free from controversial additives such as aspartame and MSG, organic farming is better for the environment, and has the highest standards for animal welfare.
So - Organic Food is Not Healthier? Seriously? I'm not falling for that.
PS: As an aside, it is interesting to see that Stanford University's own food policy is to commit to serving 40% organic or regionally grown food. Do as I say, not as I do?