Saturday, August 1, 2009

What People Know ... about organic foods

There was some noise earlier this week about a study that found organic foods to not be any more nutritious than other foods. There's a version of the story here though a bit of searching and you can find the same thing, more or less, all over the net.

The lede? A review of 150 studies found no real health benefits from eating organic-grown food.

In other news, organic food will significantly damage your wallet.

To be fair, they're mostly talking nutrient content here, and that's hardly the reason people buy organic foods. We buy them on occasion in part to support an industry and local farmers, in part to avoid the chemicals that are used in non-organic foods, and in part I guess to make ourselves feel better. I never expected there to be a nutrient difference, though some individual studies do find better antioxidants and other factors in organic foods.

But will this study and its coverage influence what people know about food, and especially organic food? Not really, not so much. We're talking a very specific audience here (part yuppies and yippies, part informed consumers, and in all cases people willing to spend a little -- or a lot -- more for a carrot or hunk of meat). However, it may influence general public opinion about organic foods, which in turn could influence how willing government is to support organic growers through space for local farmer's markets or even in rules and regulations about that organic label. The study gives ammunition to people who are suspicious of anything without a corporate label, or smacks in any way of "liberal" thinking. I haven't checked, but I'd think Rush Limbaugh loves this study. He hates most other science, but he'll like this one.

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