The 5 Key Points Missed by Stanford's Study on Organic Food

Mother Jones

Two weeks ago the internet was abuzz over this Stanford study claiming organic produce was no more nutritious than conventional. But did they miss some key points? Yes, argues one writer at Mother Jones.

As commenters noted on that post and everywhere, nutritional content isn't really the reason most people choose to buy organic anyway! Now Tom Philpott, former editor of Grist and current sustainable food advocate, strips the study down in a recent article for Mother Jones and explains why he thinks the Stanford researchers underestimated the most important reason to buy organic: pesticide exposure.

The Stanford study confirmed that organic produce harbored fewer pesticides than conventional produce, but researchers essentially dismissed that finding as unimportant because "conventional produce carries trivially small levels of pesticides, and you might as well save your money and forget organic," as Philpott notes. But the problem with this logic is five-fold. Here's why:

1. Pesticide residue on conventional produce is actually much worse than the study suggests. In this detailed critique of the study you can see it boils down to a statistical error.

2. The study also didn't distinguish between single pesticide trace and multiple traces, or between light traces and heavier traces. For example, Philpott notes that essentially the study says that "an organic apple carrying a tiny residue of a relatively innocuous pesticide is equivalent to a conventional apple containing a cocktail of several relatively toxic pesticides."

3. The study fails to mention the risks posed to unborn children who are exposed to pesticides while in utero.

4. The study also ignores the "cocktail" effect, or the effect that happens when one is exposed to several pesticides at once from a single fruit or vegetable.

5. Finally, we actually know very little about how exposure to low levels of multiple pesticides affects us over time. According to Philpott, we know more about how pesticide exposure affects amphibians, and the results aren't pretty.

For more insight on each of these points, read the whole article linked below.

Read More: 5 Ways the Stanford Study Sells Organics Short | Mother Jones

Related: New Study Says Organic Produce Is No More Nutritious Than Conventional

(Image: Joanna Miller/The Kitchn)