When It Comes To Buying Organic, Science And Beliefs Don't Always Mesh

Friday, September 07, 2012

We heard from a lot of you — and we mean a lot of you — about our recent report on the Stanford School of Medicine analysis of several studies on the health effects of organic foods.

The upshot of the Stanford review, as we reported, was that the scientists found very little evidence of health benefits. As we explained, the limitation of the review is that many of the studies included were narrowly targeted and that they didn't last longer than a couple of years. Basically, more studies are needed to determine whether there are measurable health benefits from eating organically grown food.

But many of you wrote in to us and to Morning Edition to let us know you weren't happy with the study or our coverage of it. What about environmental benefits? you asked. How could pesticide residues on conventionally grown food not be bad for us? What about genetically modified food? And, aren't you just shilling for the big food companies?

Listen to the radio piece this morning as correspondent Allison Aubrey addresses some of those questions, and our brain & behavior science correspondent, Shankar Vendantam, provides some possible explanations for why people react so strongly when it comes to questions raised about organic food. Hint: There are a variety of motivations for buying organic, many of which have to do with personal values and perceptions, rather than scientific reasons, Vendantam explains.

Rest assured, this isn't the last word on organics, either from us or from science.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

Source: NPR


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Comments [2]

Joan Julien

A few years ago I started to experience severe insomnia and itching. I pay close attention to what my body tells me, and suspected it had something to do with food. I cut out almost everything, and found I only fell asleep when I ate rice. Now, one cannot survive on rice alone, and I became worried. Then I saw an article in New York Times, I think it was written by Marion Burros, about where to buy organic foods in the city. I live in Queens and the places were all in Manhattan.

I made the trip to Manhattan and bought some organic foods and was able to fall asleep again while eating a healthy diet. I love water melon but if I eat a piece I stay up all night, same goes for Chilean grapes,and I recently had the same experience with plantains from Panama. I never saw a doctor about my insomnia because I know they would only encourage me to take sleeping pills. I don't think I am the only person with this problem. I think people are not aware that their insomnia is caused by pesticide residue in the foods.

Sep. 08 2012 11:45 PM
Peter Anderson

Your reporting on organic foods this week is an example of the reactionary shift I've seen in public radio over the years. Your report was superficial and prejudicial. The tone of your reporting was particularly telling. It was snarky and dismissive.

First, you assume that the people who eat organic foods must be selfish and narcissistic. When you get feedback from your listeners that disconfirms your prejudice, you accuse them of having "psychological" motives for eating organic foods. Organic means much more than the nutritional content of food grown organically. It's about sustainability, environmental health, local community empowerment, social justice and more. Most tellingly, here was not one mention of the hundreds of thousands of migrant/illegal laborers who put conventional/chemically farmed food on American tables. Who are the self centered narcisissists here? Do you care about whether migrant workers get sprayed with pesticides as they work in the fields? A bettter use of your time would be to report on birth defects in the children of the people who provide the food farmed in the environmentally destructive way you seem to be advocating.

Sep. 07 2012 08:16 AM

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