There was a recent study published from Stanford University about the health benefits of eating organic foods. The conclusion after reviewing hundreds of articles was that there aren’t any health benefits from eating organic.
I want to weigh in on this just a bit. Technically, I would say that the study was completely accurate, but I find it unfortunate what the media leaves out when reporting this. What the study found was that when you compare organically grown produce with conventionally grown, there is no difference in the health ramifications two weeks to two years later. They did measure a modest difference in pesticide exposure that makes complete sense, but there is little evidence to show differences in health.
Here is what the left out. Of course the nutrients were the same between the organic and pesticided produce, they both came from plants genetically programmed to put certain vitamins and minerals in the plant. The difference isn’t in the plant it is in what they do to the plant. Furthermore, as a farmer, if I want to grow something and I’m not going to use pesticides, I am going to choose a different variety to grow. I would love to see a comparison of heirloom varieties of produce and conventional f2 varieties. I have a hunch that the heirloom varieties have a higher nutrient concentration because it is the nutrients in these plants that have protected them from disease over the years. I’d like to see the study.
Other weaknesses of the study would include the duration. None of the studies reviewed looked at health ramifications more than two years out. So if pesticide accumulation is the cause of adverse health effects, it isn’t likely that would be measurable in two years….but in 20 years, that is reasonable.
Now here is the big issue for me. The study was extremely short sighted. They found that pesticides on foods won’t cause serious health problems within two years, but what do the pesticides do to the environment? And what does a polluted environment do to the health of the people living in it?
The answer to the first question is easy. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are terrible for the environment. If you are insure, do a google search for ‘the dead zone’. You can see that areas of the Mississippi river and Gulf of Mexico no longer have life in them due to the run-off from the major agricultural areas in the Midwest.
So since most of us buy products that use produce from the Midwest and California, we should be relieved that our health is not in jeopardy, just those unfortunate enough to live in the Midwest, California, or downstream of the Midwest.
Except that we know that the chemicals bioaccumulate in fish and the. Wildlife eats fish and that causes problems of its own. But if we avoid eating wild game or fish we could avoid those chemicals. But if we avoid eating wild game, and fish, we’ll be fine.
What it comes down to is that the chemicals that are used in the production of food get everywhere and destroy the earth that we rely on for life. So pesticides may not kill us instantly, but they will likely be a devastating problem that our kids and grandkids have to deal with, and their health will certainly suffer.
No, pesticides will not adversely affect your health within the next two, but the problem is really a lot bigger than that if people could look beyond immediate consequences.