There are many valid reasons to consume organic food; protection against cancer is not one of them.

Snake OilA recent article in the British Journal of Cancer (the official journal of Cancer Research UK) reported that “Consumption of organic food was not associated with a reduction in the incidence of all cancer”. The authors of the article, headed by scientists from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at University of Oxford, included more than 600,000 UK women in their study. The authors found that “there was little or no decrease in the incidence of cancer associated with consumption of organic food, except possibly for non-Hodgkin lymphoma” whereas “there was a small increase in risk of breast cancer among women who reported usually or always eating organic food”.

The fact that this study was carried out at all is testament to the power of the organic industry’s marketing schemes. There is no clear scientific reason to assume that consumption of organic food will protect from cancer. Furthermore, there are no convincing studies showing that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food (1,2,3), and it is certainly not safer (4). globeWhy was the study carried out then? Probably because of the false perception -pedalled by the organic food industry- that “organic” food is a healthier alternative to “conventional” food. Many scientists and medics are not immune to this sustained pseudoscientific bombardment; they are just part of the society they live in. Fortunately however, most scientists are honest enough as to admit the results of their own studies.

You can choose organic food because you believe that it is better for the environment (although this is often another myth). You can choose organic food because it tastes better (you can have this one; although actually it is not because it is “organic” but because it is well-handled that it tastes better). Finally, you can choose organic food because you have spare income and you like to support craft industries (I am 100% behind this option). Do not fool yourself into believing that by buying organic you are protecting you family’s health in any way; that’s just a marketing gimmick or a partisan lie.

1 – J. Agric. Food Chem., Vol. 58, 10323–10329, 2010

2 – Am J Clin Nutr Vol. 92, 203–10, 2010.

3 – J. Agric. Food Chem., Vol. 54, No. 21, 2006

4 – EMBO reports. Vol 15, No 2, 2014


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  • John Sokiri Pitia 24/06/2014 at 10:15 am

    Organic foods,the real difference between organic foods and their traditionally grown counterparts when it comes to nutrition,and safety and price.

  • Pascal Craw 24/06/2014 at 6:11 am

    Ariel, you say there are many valid reasons to consume organic food, what are they?
    I’ve never been a fan of organic food, I’ve never seen any compelling evidence for it. Some aspects or organic methods seem reasonable but it just seems to be based on the naturalistic fallacy that if its natural its somehow better.

    • Ariel Poliandri 24/06/2014 at 8:40 am

      Hey Pascal,
      If I am right in reading your mind, I agree with you; I am in favour of science, industry and progress. Believing that “natural” is always better is preposterous (unfortunately, these days there seems to be a new theology behind this belief). Plagues, disease, hunger; all natural, all bad.
      I confess, though, that I am a product of my environment (i.e. middle class, metropolitan with a bit (only a bit) of spare income). I like supporting craft industries, I think that they are pleasant and worth supporting; when organic is understood that way, as a craft industry, I think is worth supporting it. There is also sense in composting and using compost to fertilise soil. I do not hate the “eco-devil” (Monsanto) but I am not 100% behind round-up products. On the other hand, I think Bt products are great, specially cotton. On the domestic front, I am against people using insecticides without having a clue of what they do. So, basically, that is why I may support organic v conventional in some cases; no because it is healthier; no because it is the only way of saving mother earth; no because I hate industry.

  • Barry Holland 24/06/2014 at 6:10 am

    My gp once informed me that tumourogenesis could arise from certain bacterial or viral infections if left unchecked. To battery hens then compared to organic living in filthy unsanitary overcrowded conditions. Force fed antibiotics long term. I thought that kind of practice led to microbial resistance?
    So to the legacy handed down to non organic poultry handlers and consumer’s

    • Ariel Poliandri 24/06/2014 at 8:38 am

      Barry, infections can certainly cause/promote tumorigenesis, I agree. Also, pre-emptively feeding animals with antibiotics is not a wise policy as it facilitates the appearance of antibiotic resistant bugs. I am not sure what you are trying to say though. The study I referred to was conducted in humans consuming organic fruit and veg not battery chickens. Health concerns aside, I’d chose to consume free-range chickens for ethical and animal welfare reasons.

  • William Pilacinski 30/04/2014 at 5:53 pm

    The ONLY reason “major problems…have not been solved” by GM is because of political pressure that has resulted in unreasonable, and costly, regulatory requirements. Witness: Golden Rice, which could save children from blindness, but approved nowhere, Bt brindjal (i.e., eggplant), which significantly reduces the need to chemical pesticides – applied sometimes 3x/day by poor farmers in Asia, not approved in India and only approved in Bangladesh over anti-GM protesters. Virus resistance by anti-sense, inactivation of toxic compounds present in all food crops (see OECD Consensus documents), et al – all of which could be developed by Universities and non-profits if not for excessive (to $40 million) regulatory costs.

    • Ariel Poliandri 01/05/2014 at 10:54 am

      Thank you for your comment William. I strongly agree with you; there is a sector of the time wasting middle class hell bent to oppose technology for aesthetic reasons and a bigger sector falling for their lies. I did not know about Bt brindjal but I do know that Indian farmers using Bt cotton do economically much better than those who don’t.

  • Mary Carroll 22/04/2014 at 3:29 pm

    Mr. Poliandri, who funds your research?

  • Christine Turenius-Bell 22/04/2014 at 3:28 pm

    I doubt that a substantial percentage of long-term organic consumers are vested in it explicitly for its mythical anti-carcinogenicity. Further, while organic may not prevent cancer, non-organic does promote it. GMO is an entirely new beast that I won’t discuss here. But, there is strong evidence that raw, organic produce, in the right proportions and other lifestyle changes, including an entirely new, healthy environment, can reduce the prevalence of existing cancerous tumors to the point of complete remission. Surely there’s a huge market for that that farmers can rely upon.
    It seems to me, having read the comments, that a large portion of the discussion is focused on big ag. For many of the truly pro-organic people, big ag is avoided like the plague. People grow their own, barter, form co-ops, and build relationships with local farmers. A key component of the trust that is developed between consumer and farmer is the ability to visit and explore the farm at virtually a moment’s notice. What may be even better are the farm cooperatives, where consumers are the farmer and share their crops with other members. The crucial point here is that the source of the seed is trusted to avoid any GMO issues. I have plenty of friends across the country that participate in these sorts of organizations and have developed (even patented) new hybrids of crop plants. So, while Big Ag is making headway in diluting the meaning of organic, the grassroots, underground (pardon the puns) groups will invariably undermine these efforts by storing seeds (yes, there is an international seed storage warehouse where countries are storing only non-gmo seeds), creating new breeds, and becoming self-reliant.

  • Philip Gerard 21/04/2014 at 8:00 am

    Two common myths:
    Myth 1 – Organic agriculture solves the damage to ecosystems caused by modern agriculture.
    Deforestation, clearing and draining and tillage or pasturing of land that occurred from the 1700’s through the early 1900’s — well-before “chemical” agriculture — had, and continues to have far more impact, at all levels, then agrochemical use.

    Myth 2 – GMO’s are wide-spread across crop types and food animals in modern agriculture.
    In the U.S. there are no genetically modified animals approved for use as food.
    Vegetables: the only GMO vegetable in production in the U.S. is the zucchini- about 13% of the zucchini grown in the US has been genetically modified to resist three viruses. The only fruit currently in production is the papaya – modified to resist a virus that killed off most of the papaya in Hawaii and some other Pacific islands. Otherwise transgenic crops are limited to field corn (not fresh or sweet corn), cotton, and soybeans.

    The fact is that it has proven to be very, very difficult to effectively apply “GMO” science. Many major problems that scientists hoped to solve through the use of transgenic techniques have still not been solved.

    • August Pamplona 16/06/2014 at 8:59 pm

      If I remember correctly, there’s some BT sweet corn on the market in the USA as of last year?

  • Teresa Strong 21/04/2014 at 7:59 am

    As far as choice goes, how can there be choice if Monsanto won’t allow for the labeling of their products in our food? Does Monsanto believe it is above natural selection? Does it believe that it doesn’t have to compete on the open market just like everyone else and suffer the consequences if no one wants their product? It certainly seems that way to me. The arrogance is just unbelievable.

  • Teresa Strong 21/04/2014 at 7:58 am

    Kevin, your comments made me think on the arrogance in the thought that this world was put here for man and man alone. It has long been a human attitude that this world was put here for us to do as we please. I’ve never liked the whole “take as much as you can, forget the consequences, and never say thank you” attitude that has been prevalent in my lifetime. It’s so human-centric…and rude. We’re not the only ones living on this planet. We shouldn’t be taking the attitude towards other living things that either you’re with us or we’re going to annihilate you–and in the world of agriculture it’s annihilation with herbicides, pesticides and GMO plants. I think at the root of this thinking is the fact that humans have completely severed in their minds their relationship to nature. Humans now see themselves completely outside of nature, when in fact we are just another animal. I am frightened that we are jumping into this GMO experiment with our eyes closed, thinking that our perceived superiority over all life forms will protect us from all harm. Where is the science in the thinking that GMOs are safe until proved otherwise? What happened to the precautionary principal where we do things responsibly, caring for ourselves and future generations by realizing that our genetic experiments should be considered unsafe until proven otherwise. I think our sense of responsibility went out the door with our humility. It must be quite a heady experience to genetically alter things, to feel you have the power to change life itself, and to think the changes that you’ve made are somehow superior to what nature has given us. But as Kevin says, the changes that have happened to organisms over billions of years didn’t happen because of some kind of divine intervention. It happened because of of the interplay between organisms in their environment. Flowers are the way they are because of the insects and other animals that co-evolved with them, and vice versa. If something was made badly for its environment, it died. Living things on this planets have always depended on other living things. Plants wouldn’t have even gotten a foothold on this planet if it weren’t for the complex interplay between rock and the microorganisms that result in soil. Humans are still discovering just how complex and delicate our world is. It would be a shame to ruin this world that took billions of years to make just because some people think it is fun (and potentially very profitable) to play God with the organisms that to this date, have kept us alive and have gotten us to the place where we are now very nicely. Instead of controlling and destroying, it would be nice if the human race could start showing some awe, appreciation, and a sense of care for this wonderful world we live in.

  • Kevin Young 21/04/2014 at 7:57 am

    Ariel, I do not agree in the least that “humans [are] always moving forward and adopting new technologies.” It should not be difficult to think of dozens of instances where we have adopted new technologies that have proven to not be steps forward.

    I am extremely cognizant of the past 10,000 years of evolution, and therein lies my concern. We have been coevolving with the plants and animals that we have partnered with through agriculture, but since industrial times we are also influencing the evolution of almost every other organism on the planet, mostly in thoughtless and harmful ways. In the past, varieties of plants were selected based on a range of values that made them well suited to the local environment, and human involvement increased the diversity and abundance of these crop varieties (7,500 historic cultivars of apples!). Now we are driving selection based on a few traits such as how well they store and how easily transported they are. We are reducing genetic diversity and weakening the gene pool. We are artificially selecting for weak varieties that are dependent on synthetic inputs. We are actively suppressing weeds and pests to such an extent that we are losing tremendous amounts of biodiversity amongst pollinators, predators, “pests,” and beyond. My hope is not to return to some false utopia of the past–my concern is that if we hope to stay around for the long term we should be partnering with nature at every opportunity, not fighting against natural systems (and rather than dismissing the Gaia hypothesis altogether because of the New Age adaptation of it, I recommend examining the science of it–you might become a fan of James Lovelock). In short, I ascribe to a permaculture frame of thought and take issue with most modern conventional agricultural practices, including most “organic” farming practices. Our actions should increase biodiversity, from the level of the soil to the ecosystem. As we strive for increased abundance and stability for the entire system we will also be able to meet human needs. Whether or not this reduces cancer rates is irrelevant to me.

    You quoted “But I don’t respect you in the slightest if, even passively, you try to impose the same choice on others who are not free to choose.” Hmmm. Monsanto does not violate this edict in any way?

  • David Smith 21/04/2014 at 7:54 am

    Unfortunately, although workers on small, artisanal farms may be well informed and well-protected, the vast majority of farm workers work for huge agricultural conglomerates that don’t even give lip service to employee health. Many workers are routinely exposed to high pesticide loads, often with no knowledge of what they are exposed to. See from the Kresge Foundation, which has been researching farm worker health.

    As organic produce becomes big business, many of these same firms are buying up organic producers or forming organic brands (Driscoll is a huge grower of non-organic as well as organic berries, Cascadian Farms is now part of General Foods). They are also lobbying strenuously and often successfully to dilute the organic growing standards. In addition, there are other social justice issues, including poor pay, long hours, lack of job security, and sexual harassment that plague workers working for big agriculture

  • Nickele Morgan 21/04/2014 at 7:48 am

    The benefits of organic farming overall biodiversity and the surrounding ecology have been documented (though further research in specific areas can’t hurt). And I’ve spent some time in Thailand where certain farmers anecdotally described increased health as a result of switching from “chemi-farming” to organic methods. For me, these are the stronger arguments for organic methods, but maybe this doesn’t translate into money in the cash register line?

    Its a shame, if most people are buying organic to avoid cancer and there turns out to be a lack of evidence for this — it will really make organic methods non-profitable for farmers. Our ecosystems will suffer & then we’ll all suffer. :(

    Gabriel, D., Sait, S.M., Hodgson, J.A., Schumtz, U., Kunin, W.E., Benton, T.G. Scale matters: the impact of organic farming on biodiversity at different spatial scales. Ecology letters 2010;13:858-869.

    Rahmann, G. Biodiversity and organic farming: what do we know? Agriculture and forestry research 2011;61:189-208.

  • Erica Kipp 18/04/2014 at 6:54 am

    People eat organic food so that they do not ingest pesticides or proteins resulting from genetic modifications. Organic food should not be assumed to be contain more vitamins, minerals or antioxidants as compared to their non-organic counterparts. I teach a course on GMOs and the misconceptions are endless.

  • Teresa Strong 18/04/2014 at 6:53 am

    Show all this to Monsanto–they’ll hire you in a minute.

  • Julie Quinn-Kiernan 18/04/2014 at 6:49 am

    I find it interesting that Ariel made a blanket statement in his blog concerning ALL cancer when, reading the original abstract, the article highlighted specific cancers such as soft tissue sarcoma, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other related cancers that it evaluated (correct me if I’m wrong; I don’t have $40 to purchase the full research). Scientists need to remember not to make such generalized statements in specific studies (in fact, this appears to be just one study). Your opinion on matters is very well-established as you paint such an alternative view of the current one some people hold about Monsanto. Certainly, with every large company such as that, there is good and bad in what they do (along with lots of gray). They have done great things for food production and questionable ones. And thanks, Philip, for your links. Very interesting reading.

    And thank you, Ariel, for your work on stem cells. My niece survived leukemia because of the research you and other scientists have done (and I truly mean that sincerely).

    • Ariel Poliandri 18/04/2014 at 6:51 am

      Julie I did read the full article. It’s a shame it is not open access. This is one of the reasons why I decided to write about it.
      The ALL-cancer is not a blanket statement. It is stated in the free abstract. When they analyse ALL cancers vs organic consumption they get nothing. It is when they analyse INDIVIDUAL types of cancer vs organic consumption that they get two significant (as in statistically significant not as in wow-what-a-difference) results.
      They do mention non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the abstract where they say that organic food consumption may reduce the risk of suffering from it (significant but not massive). What they do not mention in the abstract is that organic food consumption actually increased (statistically significant) the risk of breast cancer. They go out of the way speculating way this could be: they mention this and that confounding factors but a statistically significant result is a statistically significant result… They don’t go out of the way trying to explain the reduced incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
      I do appreciate the honesty of the researches in publishing this because they were clearly expecting organic food to reduce ALL cancer risk.
      I’ve seen many of this studies and my conclusion is always the same. it is impossible to filter out all the confounding factors. Especially when organic food consumers tend to be health freaks; it is extremely hard to find a group to compare them with.

    • Ariel Poliandri 18/04/2014 at 6:53 am

      PS: I do not oppose organic. Some times I buy organic (not for health reasons of course) and so far I am managing to grow potatoes without using any pesticide.
      I just cannot stand the pseudoscientific anti-modern society parlance that pretends to be a universal truth that organic means better for your health in order to coerce people into “going back to nature because Gaia know better”.
      And if you can find traces of pesticides so what? That just go to prove how good engineers have become building mass spectrophotometers. You can detect traces of cocaine in all the belongings of addicts and dealers but you don’t get high just by sitting next to them. Also lots of good things such as vitamins and essential minerals will kill you if you take too much. Relax and stop looking back chaps life is much better now.

  • Kevin Young 18/04/2014 at 6:48 am

    Ariel, what surprises me about your article is the amount of trust you are putting in this single study, taking their conclusions to be sacrosanct. The flippant “And why should it!?” may just be an effective headline grabber, but it seems that you are dismissing 10,000 years of accumulated agrarian knowledge as clearly inferior to our current practices (which have replaced–not enhanced–traditional practices in many respects).You also seem to be concluding that if organic foods do not protect against cancer they are therefore not superior in any health-related way. By extension you are concluding that there are no health risks due to pesticide/herbicide spraying. You are further making an assumption that this study is applicable beyond the study population. What is the overall herbicide & pesticide exposure in middle-aged British women compared to middle-aged American women? And what about people living in farming communities compared to an urban population? To me it feels your pet peeve of chemophobia is venting at the expense of careful rational argument.

    • Ariel Poliandri 18/04/2014 at 6:50 am

      Kevin you seem to be ignoring 10,000 years of constant human evolution, with humans always moving forward and adopting new technologies. For 10,000 years we did not have vaccines, we did not have antibiotics, we did not have cars. All this things carry risks (yes, even vaccines) and yet I am glad we have them.
      It seems to me that you belong to the tribe of “let’s go back to a golden past”; past that never existed of course. That is fine; you have the right to choose, but I always like to quote C.P. Snow on these cases:
      “If you want to turn your backs on the benefits of industrialisation, go hungry and see most of your children die in infancy; you are free to make that choice. I respect you for the strength of your aesthetic revulsion […] But I don’t respect you in the slightest if, even passively, you try to impose the same choice on others who are not free to choose.”

  • Teresa Strong 18/04/2014 at 6:47 am

    Here’s another video that illustrates the what science says is true versus what people actually experience: Whose data in this documentary is more truthful?

  • Teresa Strong 18/04/2014 at 6:47 am

    Roundup does hurt our gut bacteria–bacteria that break down our food so we can absorb it. Plants do absorb glyphosate and people do ingest it when they eat plants. A study just came out that found glyphosate is in human breast milk at a much higher rate here in the US than in Europe. And Ariel, lots of people don’t know anything about what’s in their food or why they should be concerned. I was truly being sincere in my surprise that you didn’t know about it. I wasn’t expecting you to be deceitful by pretending you didn’t know, when you did–and then use my reply as an opportunity to basically laugh at me. But I digress. I want you to look at the following video of a presentation that was given at Wellesley College by two scientists and tell me there is no science in the second presentation given by an MIT scientist. Her talk starts at 18:30.

  • Philip Gerard 18/04/2014 at 6:46 am

    As a biologist, former commercial farmer, and friend to many organic farmers, … and having spent 40 years listening to, shall we ay, mis-statements about food production… may I make a suggestion?

    Don’t be mean to people who are anxious or misinformed about food and health.

    It does not help them learn to be more rational – at best it alienates people, and at worst it confirms some of their fears. Humans, including scientists, are prone to confirmation bias and other cognitive weaknesses. As scientists we are obligated to use our best rational thinking to consider how to help people work with the data we provide. Why mock them?

    I know… the public misinformation about the health benefits of organic food; or energy use and agriculture; or the anxiety about vaccination; or the dis-“belief” in evolution; or the dis-“belief” in climate change … it all gets very frustrating.

    My suggestion? Do a little reading within the research on science denial. Here are a few links:

    and in the popular press:

    Good luck!

    • Ariel Poliandri 18/04/2014 at 6:50 am

      I am with you 100% Philip (and this is not for me to say but I am usually quite friendly).
      Unfortunately, I don’t take faulty sarcasm very well… But I’ll try to improve.

  • Candace Hughes 18/04/2014 at 6:43 am

    I don’t think it’s being covered up, it is on every medical conspiracy page out there. And I am confused about why organic food not being sprayed with scary scary glyphosate relates to the original post that scientists have found that organic food doesn’t protect against cancer. Or did I read all of this in my sleep and misunderstand?

  • Teresa Strong 18/04/2014 at 6:42 am

    Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. GMO crops are made to resist Roundup, a herbicide meant to kill all other plants that would compete with the crop plants. Roundup is also sprayed on non GMO crops to facilitate the harvest. Monsanto makes Roundup to go along with their GMO seeds. Roundup gets into the plant. It cannot get washed off and it is not destroyed during cooking. It kills soil organisms and your gut bacteria. There’s a lot of information on the Internet if you care to read more. I’m surprised that you as a senior post-doctoral researcher in stem cell disease modelling doesn’t know this. It just makes me realize how much this info is being covered up.

    • Ariel Poliandri 18/04/2014 at 6:45 am

      Oh dear… Teresa you need to learn about rhetorical questions.
      Now, I see you know the truth: There is this evil company –Monsanto. It is plotting to dominate the world’s food supply and to make everyone a diabetic autistic cancer patient (I presume they also sell anti-cancer drugs under other company name or they may have another evil pal company).
      But coming back to the point, as you said, only round up ready crops can tolerate glyphosate. There are only a handful of Round Up-ready crops, mostly cereals. Why would anyone spray glyphosate on tomatoes, oranges, cucumbers, potatoes, you name it? They’ll all die! What’s the business in that? THE INFINITE MAJORITY OF NON-ORGANIC CROPS ARE NOT SPRAYED WITH GLYPHOSATE.
      Even when glyphosate is used:
      It only affects plants while they are growing. Plants do not store glyphosate.
      It inhibits an enzyme that is not present in humans. It is not even present in any mammal.
      It has not been proven that it kills bacteria IN the gut. The paper that claims it does has been a laughing matter for the scientific community for years.
      Perhaps I am not scared by the thing because, as an academic, I get my info from the source (scientific articles) rather than from “the internet”. You should try.

      But my blog post was about a scientific article concluding that organic food does not help in preventing cancer (I am sorry if that hurts), not about glyphosate.

  • Ariel Poliandri 17/04/2014 at 7:04 am

    I hope I don’t give the impression that I oppose organic food, I don’t. I am just against a pseudoscientific anti-industrial parlance.
    As I said before, once the confounding socioeconomic and lifestyle factors are removed from the analysis, studies on the health benefits of organic food always come negative or inconclusive. If there are real benefits elsewhere (as for the environment) those benefits should be stated clearly and advertised. However, I believe that the end doesn’t justify the means and a lie (to help the environment or whatever else) is always a lie: If there are no proves of health benefits, no one should go around banging about health benefits, or at least claiming that science has proven there are health benefits.
    Finally I must remark that there is much ignorance about what the designation “organic” cover. For example, “organic” allows for “natural” treatments; The designation of “natural” is quite pointless: Antrax is “natural”. Organic farmers are allowed to use rotenone. I used to treat cultured cells with rotenone to block their respiratory chain while studying oxidative stress caused by cadmium poisoning (of course, after the rotenone the cells died). A classical model of Parkinson ’s disease involves treating animals with rotenone. So “natural” might be, but safe? Any chemical used properly should be relatively safe and nothing is absolutely safe. I am planning to post about chemophobia soon. So I will be bugging you again I am afraid :).

  • George Dad 17/04/2014 at 7:00 am

    I wish I were as optimistic as many who place their trust and additional dollars in the Organic movement. Actually, no, I wish the organic movement were actually more successful at improving the quality of food. I’m simply not convinced that you are getting something better and healthier. Apparently it doesn’t protect you from cancer…

    Not to freak you out, but treating food with gamma radiation is safer than treating it with ethylene bromide, which is safer than eating food with dead, but ground up “pests” having parasites in their digestive systems. (Not getting into having dissected cockroaches for the faint of heart.)

    Keep learning folks, and keep fighting for better foodstocks.

  • George Dad 17/04/2014 at 6:59 am

    I’m honestly impressed that you are thinking about the people (not companies) who actually plant and harvest our food. You Rock!
    Many farm workers are transitory, as in the past, moving with the seasons and the crops, but perhaps as we begin to document farm workers and they have healthcare programs, studies like this will be easier to do and give some real clout to the movement to improve our food supply as well as caring for their well-being.
    What a wonderful alternate view of the issues :)

  • Alexandra Romano 17/04/2014 at 6:58 am

    Organic agriculture does allow for some relatively harmless pesticides. While it is a step in the right direction, its profitability has caught the attention of many who care little about the health of people or of our soils. I would argue however, that overall it is a much more healthy alternative to many non-organic products and operations.

  • Mary Carroll 17/04/2014 at 6:57 am

    How can pesticides be healthy? Organic foods have no pesticides.

  • Sandy Muellner 17/04/2014 at 6:56 am

    Have there been studies on the cancer in farm workers on certified organic farms in the US versus non-organic?

    • Ariel Poliandri 21/04/2014 at 7:51 am

      You make a good point there. I presume there are such studies but I’ll have to check. You can check yourself at the National Library of Medicine website: (That’s the place to go, not Google)
      The only thing I can say for now is that I work in a lab with hundreds of chemical and biological hazards: Carcinogens, teratogens, powerful acids, even retroviruses. There are procedures in place to protect me and my colleagues. I know 80 and 90 years old emeritus professors who use to work in the lab when very few or none of those health and safety procedures where in place, and they still have healthy and active lives. I’d like to believe that in modern farming workers take serious care of health and safety. If they do, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  • George Dad 17/04/2014 at 6:56 am

    The designation of “Organic” is about as precise as the astrological sign of Scorpio.
    Corn Flakes are now designated organic.
    Q.E.D. (and I don’t mean quantum electrodynamics)

  • Harry Keller 17/04/2014 at 6:52 am

    Let’s begin with the simple fact that organic means coming from life. All food is organic.

    Next, realize that “organic” as used in stores is not precise. Different regions have different rules about this designation.

    I’d prefer “healthy planet” (instead of “organic”) to indicate that excessive use of pesticides and inorganic (correct usage here) fertilizers along with wasteful farming techniques threaten our entire biosphere.

    We know that some pesticides, now banned, raise the incidence of cancer.

    Eating pesticide-free foods is hardly an adequate path to best health. Those foods could be chocolate bars all day long, after all.

    I do not obsess over eating strictly organic. I merely choose organic when easy because I like to support a healthy planet, and I like the reassurance that I’m not ingesting unknown pesticide chemicals.

    With respect to lowering the likelihood of cancer, the final answer has yet to be written. We also have to consider heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other potentially preventable diseases.

    Data are coming in slowly over time with regard to these items and how diet, exercise, and other factors affect health. We all have to do the best we can with what information we have. For example, it’s fairly clear that we will do ourselves harm if our diet has a third or more of its calories coming from animal protein. Excessive refined foods such as sugar and white flour tend toward obesity and diabetes.

    We still have lots to learn. I have chosen a particular lifestyle for myself that works nicely for me and has a low cost. That cost goes up slightly whenever I choose organic foods. I have been following the news about lifestyle and health for nearly 40 years now and have adjusted mine many times. I expect to change in the future as I learn more.

    Finally, I try to avoid broad generalities and blanket statements. Sometimes, I err in my haste. It is not my intention to say such things.

    • Ariel Poliandri 17/04/2014 at 6:53 am

      Harry I agree with many of your statements. I hope it was clear that I do no oppose organic farming.
      I am concerned that it has become almost common parlance in certain environments that “organic” is better for your health. That hasn’t been proven and I doubt it will ever be. Once the confounding socioeconomic and lifestyle factors are removed from the analysis, the results regarding organic food versus health are always negative/inconclusive. If there are other reasons to favour “organic” they should be stated clearly but I do not believe that the end justifies the means and lying is always unacceptable.
      I will soon write a post on chemophobia, relative risks and pesticides. I am not a pesticide advocate and I believe its use needs to be controlled and limited but there is no need to be hysterical about them; in certain circumstances they are needed.

  • Teresa Strong 17/04/2014 at 6:15 am

    Because organic crops don’t have glyphosate sprayed all over them.

    • Ariel Poliandri 17/04/2014 at 6:54 am

      May I take the liberty to enquire whether all non-organic products are sprayed with glyphosate? Also, what are exactly the health effects of glyphosate for normal consumers? Finally, What is glyphosate?

  • Lynne Tagawa 15/04/2014 at 10:00 am

    The harmful compounds found in non-organic foods are not necessarily carcinogens but may be harmful in other ways (i.e. neurotoxic pesticides, glyphosate, other herbicides that adversely affect the endocrine system). And not all crops use the same or same amount of chemicals. These type of blanket statements are definitely irritating.

    • Ariel Poliandri 15/04/2014 at 10:11 am

      Is not the unscientific, unproven, anti-modern-industrial-society message that “organic” food is a healthier alternative extremely irritating as well?

  • joe berezoski 15/04/2014 at 10:00 am

    Such a vague assumption——–very general—–and very ridiculous statement–

  • Harry Keller 15/04/2014 at 9:58 am

    Precisely! After all, what does “protect” against cancer? You can do many things to lower your likelihood of getting cancer, such as not smoking and avoiding radiation exposure. Neither of these protects you against cancer, however.

    What a foolish way to state a conclusion.

    • Ariel Poliandri 15/04/2014 at 10:08 am

      So, you propose to “do things to lower your likelihood of getting cancer”. Will you be suggesting your female relatives to stay away of “organic” food because according to the Br. J. Cancer study it increases the likelihood of Breast Cancer?
      I presume not.
      The whole point of the post is that association studies are extremely sensitive to noise AND ALSO that organic food is not a healthier alternative to anything.

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