Berkeley’s Miguel Altieri on 4 Problems With the Stanford Organic Study

By on 09/10/2012 in Uncategorized

In the US, a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has been causing a furore. My friend and comrade Miguel Altieri shared these ideas on a discussion list, which I’m reposting here with permission.

There are various problems with this study which is part of a conspiracy against organic and other alternative forms of agriculture that threaten the dominant industrial model:

1. Very few of the 280 studies reviewed in the metaanalysis include studies conducted in other countries ( mainly in Germany) that have
consistently shown that organic fruits and vegetables have higher contents of vitamins but particularly antioxidants.

2. It is important that people that eat conventional food eat mostly industrial food and tend to be obese, suffer from diabetes, etc. People
that eat organic (mostly upper middle class and up) tend to eat a more balanced diet, and the food they eat has considerable less pesticide
residues. It is well documented that pesticide loaded food which is eaten by most people (especially poor) leads to many health problems including autoimmune diseases, cancer and also behavioral problems in children. In addition conventional food derived from corn and soybean ( more than 5000 edible products) contain traces of GMO DNA and other components, and emerging data from studies on animals and humans point to caution when eating GMOs, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.

3. The study does not analyze the fact that many people not only eat organic because of positive nutrition or health effects, but because of
moral reasons, because organic agriculture has many environmental benefits ( less energy use, sequesters more carbon, conserves more biodiversity including pollinators and natural enemies, reduces erosion, etc), and more importantly protects farmworkers from dangerous pesticide exposure. A very important fact.

4. Finally there are different types of organic. In California about 5% of the organic farmers control 60% of the market share and they follow a
similar industrial path of production characterized by monocultures managed with input substitution ( many apply/spray more than 10 different
organic products. The rest of the organic farmers are small scale and diversified that do not use external inputs, in a way similar to systems
used by peasants in Latin America. If the Stanford study used the industrial organic produce in their comparison, then I am not surprised by
the results they report.