Casting Doubt on Organic Food

by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure

I don’t care about the nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce. I’m not buying organic strawberries so I can eat less of them. I buy organic strawberries because I am afraid of chemicals lurking on conventional ones, and I want to gorge myself on that sweet summer goodness without any fear or guilt.

All the food I buy is organic. I don’t want those chemical pesticides and herbicides on my food and I don’t want a noxious, unstudied concoction of them skulking around my body wreaking all kinds of havoc. Likewise, I’d like to drink water free of atrazine and other toxins, and breathe air that isn’t polluted with farming chemicals.

That’s why I buy organic. When I buy organic, other people get the benefits, as well, in the form of cleaner air, cleaner water, fewer toxins released into the environment, and less oil used. Oh, that’s in addition to the creation of an organic, sustainable food system that will feed future generations.

You’re welcome.

It seems the only thing organic food can’t do is get some good PR, even when the facts are in its favor. The big hook of a recent New York Times article about the results of a recent meta-analysis is “Study Casts Doubt on Advantages of Organic.” The study concludes “fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts.”

However, the article also notes that:

  • Organic milk was higher in omega-3s, which have been documented to confer health benefits
  • Organic meats contained fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Um, those sound dangerous to me. A few days later, The Times ran another article reporting that many scientists have declared antibiotic use in livestock to be a major public health problem. Of course, it makes no mention of organic.)
  • “The organic produce also contained more compounds known as phenols, believed to help prevent cancer, than conventional produce.”
  • Ripeness has a large influence on nutrient content: “Thus, a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one.” OK, but let’s see the comparison of a ripe organic peach to a ripe chemically grown one. Let’s control for variables!
  • Pregnant moms exposed to the common organophosphate chemicals had kids with lower IQs.

Back to those strawberries. Does the organic one have more vitamin C? “Maybe. Maybe not,” the article claims at the beginning—but at the end it mentions that a study showing they most certainly do was “left out” of the study.

The facts can be ignored, or spun a certain way with all the buts and howevers you want, but that doesn’t change the truth—or plain old common sense, which suggests it’s probably not a great idea to eat something that’s been doused in poison.


Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is The Tattooed Duke. Learn more at



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11 Responses to Casting Doubt on Organic Food

  1. robin September 7, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    Thanks Ms Rodale. We were disappointed by the recent research.
    It is a practice called ” fishing” -when a research team asks selected questions to frame an argument. As one of our friends said, ” their study smelled like fish.”

  2. maria (farm country kitchen) September 7, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Thank you Maya, for doing the hard work to reveal this info! I also heard that Stanford University, which did the study, is also known for its secret strategy for only hiring and accepting politically conservative students and staff…Why conservatives don’t understand that the poisons they support are making us all sick is beyond my comprehension. Maybe they’ve eaten too many of them!

  3. DanaB September 7, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Go Maya! I was so upset when this story broke, and continued to break on multiple news sites. ‘Cmon folks, research the whole story!

  4. Candra September 9, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    I am, what most people would call, a health freak. I eat organic foods because I respect my body and believe that it deserves the best things I can offer, that is the least I can do for myself:-)

  5. Glenn B. Wing September 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    I smell a very large rat – agribusiness rat. They have more to gain then anybody else by casting aspersions on the organic movement. There ought to be some big questions asked in regards to this study; my 1st question is how trustworthy is USDA – are they in the pocket of agribusiness. And it all comes down to $$$$$.

  6. Nasreen Kabir September 11, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    What a skewed study how can clean organic food be compared to the poison laced concoction being served otherwise??????

  7. Sara Maria September 12, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Thank you so much for educating and casting light with sooo much controversy regarding organic products.
    I have a question though. How can I know if the company is truly organic, that it says its organic and is not???
    Thank you for your attention. God bless

    Sara María Crespo
    Puerto Rico

  8. Emily September 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I am so tired of the mass of people being duped by agribusiness. Maybe if we put all the chemicals into a salt packet and then told people to sprinkle it on everything they eat, they might start asking “what’s in it?” And then, we spell it out in laymen terms so people start understanding.
    If Freedom of Information is so paramount in our country?? then the good, the bad, and the ugly needs to be free-flowing…we need the entire truth, both from government and capital enterprise.

  9. Donna Murphy September 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    Thank you, Maya, for this reply article. I’m 66 years old and in good health (even though I’m obese by all standards). I strive to eat organic vegetables and fruit and give my grandson the best I can afford. I buy organic because it simply tastes better. It’s like I can taste the earth in it and remember that taste from the gardens we have had in the past. I really don’t pay attention to what makes the news these days…most of it is ‘created’ by big money and interests to put fear into us. I refuse to live fear based. Thanks for all your efforts. Donna Murphy

  10. Jo-Ann Jewett September 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I have been a strong advocate for organics for a very long time and I am a conservative. I am saddened and baffled that anyone would suggest that only politically liberal people could be for organics. REALLY! That kind of narrow mindedness is just an unwitting roadblock. Keep politics out of the argument. Together we can accomplish so much more for our overall health. Truth is not owned by anyone group or person. Don ‘t muddle an already difficult climb!

  11. Lisa September 17, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I never bought organic food thinking it contained more nutrients–I buy organic food because it isn’t covered in toxic chemicals! Like Maya said, it benefits everyone–the farmer growing organic food, the soil, water, air, animals (if you eat meat, eggs, or dairy; I don’t)–everyone except Big Ag.

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