American Elephants


“Organic” Is Only a Marketing Ploy. by The Elephant's Child

Headline in the New York Times environment section: “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce.” They’re a little late with this, but if “Stanford University scientists have weighed in on the “maybe not” side of the debate after an extensive examination of four decades of research comparing organic and conventional foods,” then it is more official than it has been for umpty-ump years.

“Organic” has always been a marketing ploy. Organic growers, years ago convinced the Department of Agriculture that they should have guidelines for calling their produce “organic.” The guidelines refer to the process by which organic produce is grown. Only “natural” fertilizers and pesticides. The “organic” label has never indicated healthier, fresher, more nutritious, or even less pesticides. The pesticides used are derived from plants (pyrethrums). Fertilizers are natural manure.

The whole thing was born in one of those periodic panics about pesticides in foods. Who knows how they arise, but common sense goes out the window, and gullibility opens the door for promoters. Here is the guideline: The dose makes the poison. There are all sort of things that are completely harmless or even beneficial in small amounts that in large amounts might be poisonous — from radiation to pesticides.

The NYT article has big boosts from the organic trade association, the Environmental Working Group. The study is also a meta-analysis, meaning that they didn’t do any new studies, just combined all the old ones (not generally considered excellence). So there you go. Nothing new. If you want to pay extra (about 30%) more for organic food, the farmers will welcome your money.

I once bought a bottle of “organic” shampoo, in full knowledge of how totally ridiculous that was, but it was lemon verbena, and I can’t resist lemon verbena soap.




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