You’ve all heard it by now: organic foods, including meat (read “antibiotic- and hormone-free”), offer no substantial health benefits over conventional foods. These dubious findings were served to us first by the New York Times, with the compliments of a research team at Stanford University.
Naturally, the Gray Lady was flooded by letters to the editor to refute the absurd statement. What of the hundreds of research papers showing just the opposite? The countless personal accounts of healing through organic foods? What about the narrow focus on the consumer’s individual health, anyway, when the demonstrated benefits of organics obviously include farmers, soil, water, wildlife?
If you’re like me, your first reaction was most likely to wonder who was behind this work of blatant propaganda (you’ll appreciate the language in this op-ed by columnist Roger Cohen: “The Organic Fable: A study exposes the hype behind a pseudoscientific ideology. The future is nonorganic.” He goes on to denounce the “affluent narcissism” of the upper middle class.)
Well, wonder no more. Ingram Olkin is a name you’ll find discreetly tucked at the very end of the list of researchers involved in the study (scroll to the very end of this Stanford article). As it turns out, this is the very same gentleman whose statistical model was used by Big Tobacco in the 1970s to demonstrate that smoking could not be convincingly linked to any health issue. Ingram Olkin is also listed on the directory of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) whose Center for Health Policy produced the study on organic food.
Oh yes, and one other thing: Stanford has been enjoying a 25-year relationship with Cargill. The US Big Ag behemoth has invested dozens of millions of dollars to fund research, teaching, and outreach at the reputable university.
Enjoy your organic foods, and savor them in the knowledge that you are doing your part to improve and nurture your health, the health of the farm workers who grew it, and the health of the corner of Earth that gave it to you.