My friend Cat at Consume This First shared this article from ABC news on her Facebook page today, which reports on a new Stanford study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine comparing organic to conventional foods.
I take my mainstream news articles on food and health with a big dose of skepticism. I’m used to reading food features clearly written by biased reporters, proofread by editors who have forgotten that news stories should be reported on and written in the third person.
So when I clicked through to “Organics Safer, No More Nutritious Than Conventional Foods” by Liz Neporent , I was expecting to read an unfair portrayal of tree-hugging hippies spending their “Whole Paycheck” on over-priced tomatoes, with an accompanying stock photo of a mom choosing between the antibiotic free Horizon Organic brand milk and the Pathmark brand.
I was met by a version of the expected photo. But the article itself was suprisingly fair, and fairly informative for the uneducated consumer. That said, I will still surprised at what seemed to be the impetus for writing the article — People think organic food is better for you.
When I choose organic produce, I do so because I want my fruits and veggies free of pesticides and grown by farmers who think about people, not just profits. I want to reduce the amount of chemical exposure I and my children face every day; and I know that food is one area in which I have some control. I go one step further sometimes, and buy from small, local farmers because I want to reduce the global environmental impact of shipping food across the world.
I don’t buy organic because I think it offers me higher nutritional content or that it packs a more powerful punch of vitamins. But apparently a lot of other people do.
Because just as there is false advertising and overstated claims on food labels that convince us to buy unhealthy food, there is false advertising and overstated claims that convince us to buy healthy food. (Think of the frozen waffles “now with Omega-3!”)
Just as there are plenty of people buying unhealthy food unaware of the dangers they face ; there are plenty of people buying organic food without really knowing why.
This is the true news story. This is the unexplored angle.
Why we buy the food we buy. What compels us to change our habits. What compels us to spend money on one product and not another.
I don’t know everything about the food I buy — and I’m still learning more about food every day. (Just last month, in fact, I learned that organic food is at risk of contamination by mycotoxins, something I never knew before, and that conventional food MAY be less at risk due to fungicide use.)
But I am frightfully aware of the need to know. Waking up to the fact that I don’t know much about the food I buy was my biggest wake up call of all. And continues to be.
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My hope, when I share information with friends and readers, is not to convert conventional shoppers into organic shoppers. My greatest hope, actually, is that when people read my blog, they leave with more questions than answers. They leave with a desire to learn, to investigate, and to question. They leave with the understanding that no one person holds the answers, no matter what their title; no matter what their degree.
You can’t count on advertisers or the food industry to educate you — and sadly, their advertisments, packaging and labels are where we get most of our information about food.
You also can’t often count on the media, an industry that’s churning out more and more biased reporters.
You can’t count on your physician, who is likely as educated or less educated than you are about food and nutrition.
You can’t count on the university professor whose study is being funded by a large chemical company.
And you can’t even count on like-minded bloggers like me — we have an agenda, as well. We want you to think like we do.
But don’t despair. Don’t give up.
You can count on yourself — to do the most thorough job of information gathering possible (from the all of the above sources), and then to information gather some more.
You can count on the distinctly human ability to question and seek the ever-changing truth.