A Bit More on Organics
Grist's Tom Philpott's latest post on the virtues of organics is here, and it contains a terrific capsule explanation of the tremendous contribution organics make toward healthier soil. There's much less, however, on whether they make healthier people. And that's because there are no studies proving that. At best, some studies funded by organic interests -- which doesn't make them wrong -- have detected slightly greater nutrient density in organic foods. Other studies -- 50 of which were reviewed, but not conducted, by the British Food Safety Agency -- failed to find a consistent advantage for organic products.
The bigger problem here is that it's not clear that slightly greater nutrient densities would actually have an impact on health. Even if organic produce were proved to have more nutrients, there's no guarantee that humans would see any benefit. Nutritionally enriched foods, for instance, don't do much for us; nor do multivitamins. We know fruits and vegetables are good for us, but we don't know exactly why. Nor do we know whether the chemicals and pesticides used in conventional produce have an adverse impact on long-term human health, at least in the quantities present in our diet. Remember that all those studies showing that people who eat fruits and vegetables are healthier than people who don't are relying on fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides, and nitrogen fertilizer, and all the rest of it.
As it is, I'm still not aware of any studies showing better health outcomes for organic consumers. Maybe they're yet to be conducted. Maybe Philpott's circumstantial cases around nitrates and pesticides will prove true. But maybe not. As of now, they don't show up in any observational or experimental data we have. From a public health perspective, I'm much more concerned with whether people consume fruits and vegetables than whether they consume organic fruits and vegetables.
That said, the evidence that organics are good for the environment, and the soil in particular, is very compelling. And the first part of Philpott's post is a very elegant explanation of why.
Photo credit: Sarah L. Voisin, Washington Post
Posted by: albamus | August 14, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: GrandArch | August 14, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: VirginiaIndependent | August 14, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jkaren | August 14, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hana1 | August 14, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: agpolicy1949 | August 14, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tbass1 | August 14, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Dan49 | August 14, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RichardHSerlin | August 17, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.