09/07/2012 07:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Casting Doubt on Organic Food

by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure

I don't care about the nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce. I'm not buying organic strawberries so I can eat less of them. I buy organic strawberries because I am afraid of chemicals lurking on conventional ones, and I want to gorge myself on that sweet summer goodness without any fear or guilt.

All the food I buy is organic. I don't want those chemical pesticides and herbicides on my food and I don't want a noxious, unstudied concoction of them skulking around my body wreaking all kinds of havoc. Likewise, I'd like to drink water free of atrazine and other toxins, and breathe air that isn't polluted with farming chemicals.

That's why I buy organic. When I buy organic, other people get the benefits, as well, in the form of cleaner air, cleaner water, fewer toxins released into the environment, and less oil used. Oh, that's in addition to the creation of an organic, sustainable food system that will feed future generations.

You're welcome.

It seems the only thing organic food can't do is get some good PR, even when the facts are in its favor. The big hook of a recent New York Times article about the results of a recent meta-analysis is "Study Casts Doubt on Advantages of Organic." The study concludes "fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts."

However, the article also notes that:
  • Organic milk was higher in omega-3s, which have been documented to confer health benefits
  • Organic meats contained fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Um, those sound dangerous to me. A few days later, The Times ran another article reporting that many scientists have declared antibiotic use in livestock to be a major public health problem. Of course, it makes no mention of organic.)
  • "The organic produce also contained more compounds known as phenols, believed to help prevent cancer, than conventional produce."
  • Ripeness has a large influence on nutrient content: "Thus, a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one." OK, but let's see the comparison of a ripe organic peach to a ripe chemically grown one. Let's control for variables!
  • Pregnant moms exposed to the common organophosphate chemicals had kids with lower IQs.
Back to those strawberries. Does the organic one have more vitamin C? "Maybe. Maybe not," the article claims at the beginning--but at the end it mentions that a study showing they most certainly do was "left out" of the study.

The facts can be ignored, or spun a certain way with all the buts and howevers you want, but that doesn't change the truth--or plain old common sense, which suggests it's probably not a great idea to eat something that's been doused in poison.


Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master's degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is The Tattooed Duke. Learn more at


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