Fellow Fool Rick Steier wrote an article last week citing a study that shows organic food to be no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. He says organic-focused supermarkets such as Whole Foods Market
I'm an organic-food fan. But I also like to think I'm a skeptic. It's too easy to fall prey to empty marketing slogans like "kid-approved!" and "doctor-recommended!" (Or "supports immunity," in Kellogg's
But if there's anything mythological about organics, it's the notion that there's no difference between organic and conventional foods. I'm not talking about nutritional content. I don't know anyone who eats organic food because of a supposed nutritional superiority. An orange is an orange. The point of choosing organics isn't so much for what's in the food as what isn't in it. Given a choice, I'm going to choose the apple that wasn't sprayed with synthetic pesticides, the corn that wasn't bioengineered, and the carrot that wasn't grown using chemical fertilizers.
It's notable that the report in question, according to Reuters, "did not look for studies on the possible health benefits of reduced exposure" to those very things. "Nor," it continues, "did it address the environmental impact of organic food production." Yet those are the very reasons many consumers choose organics. Even if I don't know the long-term effects of consuming agrichemicals and GMO foods, I'm not going to gamble if I'm given a choice. And if I can buy food grown using methods that are gentler on the environment, all the better. If you don't mind antibiotics in your meat and hormones in your milk, then by all means, go conventional. If you do mind, you fortunately have an option.
After we reported on the precursor to this study back in August, I argued that the researchers' focus on nutritional comparisons was misguided. As I wrote at the time, "Saying organic food is no more nutritious than conventional food is kind of like saying a hybrid car isn't any speedier than a conventional car: It completely misses the point." That still holds true.
But Rick and I agree on one thing. No matter what side you take in the Great Organics Debate, the clear winners are Whole Foods and its shareholders. To that, I raise a glass of no-added-sulfite wine in a hearty toast.