09/12/2012 12:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is the Stanford School of Medicine Pro-Pesticides?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
By Daniel R. Layon

Stanford School of Medicine (SOM) is not pro-pesticides. The study was a meta-analysis, which means it analyzed a large group of studies concerning the health differences between organic and conventional food. The authors did not find any "strong evidence" (their words) that organic food is "significantly" (their word) healthier than conventional food.

In fact, if you take the time to read the article itself (I understand that it's behind a pay wall, but the abstract is available to the public you would see that the authors conclude:

Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria [emphasis is mine] (1)

Furthermore, the story linked in the question states that:

While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What's more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits [emphasis is mine] (2)

The allowable safety limits cited by the study are established by the EPA. An article in the New York Times today which had a "Q & A" about the Stanford study remarked that:

[A]lmost all produce, whether it's organic or conventional, already contains less pesticide residue than the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. It then becomes of a question of whether you are comfortable with the E.P.A. standards. Charles Benbrook, who worked as the chief scientist for the Organic Center before moving to Washington State University last month, said the benefits of organic food, in terms of pesticide exposure, would be greatest for pregnant women, for young children, and for older people with chronic health problems. (3)

So as you can see, there isn't any consensus that any pesticide exposure is bad.


1: Smith-Spangler, C., Brandeau, ML, Hunter, GE, et al.; Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?A Systematic Review. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012 Sep;157(5):348-366.

2: Brandt, M. (2012, September 03). Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, stanford study finds. Retrieved from

3: Chang, K. (2012, September 04). Organic food vs. conventional food. Retrieved from

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