Stanford Questions Value of Organics
And I Question Stanford

Recently The New York Times, NPR and numerous media outlets published articles highlighting the results of Stanford University’s study of organic food with tabloid-style headlines like “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce” and “Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You” none of which made me, or any of us in the wellness community very happy.

After spending years working to educate patients on the importance of fueling their bodies for optimal health, I was frankly ticked off by the dismissive headlines which, in just a matter of days, wreaked havoc in the minds of millions health-conscious consumers and making those on the fence think, why bother? Even a few of my patients said “Hey Doc, what’s up with this?” – so it seemed that a rational response was in order. Here’s my take on media-made mess – and why I continue to have no doubt that eating organic is still the smartest choice for anyone who cares about his or her health:

1.) Stanford’s study was a massive number crunch.

If you’ve ever had any dealings with statistics, then you know how easily they can be crunched, manipulated, spun and interpreted to back-up just about any point you care to make. They don’t call it a “numbers game” for nothing. Take that idea and multiply it by the studies whose numbers were crunched. At the core of a “meta-analysis” like this one is it’s fundamental limitation – they are just re-crunching old data, some of questionable value – not new on-the-ground, in-the-lab research. And the interpretation and understanding the results is very much in the eye of the beholder. Simply put, numbers can lie – or in this case mislead millions of intelligent people by the time it trickles down to them in article form.

2.) Stanford’s study missed the point of buying organic.

The Stanford study arrived at its numbers, but it couldn’t or didn’t factor in the fundamental reason most people buy organics in the first place: they’re poison-free! The number one reason my colleagues and I encourage everyone to eat organics is because they’re grown without poisonous chemical pesticides, which means fewer toxins entering our bodies and endangering our health. We’re also pro-organics because they’re kinder to the earth, the people who farm it and those who harvest it – making buying organic a moral decision as well as a healthy one. Large-scale corporate farming, with its crop-dusting, gene-splicing, industrial runoff etc., is about maximum yield and weather and bug-resistance. The big corporations don’t care about the impact of their methods on your body. It’s simply not about you – but when it comes to eating, shouldn’t it be? If you ask me, low toxic loads, more anti-oxidants, taste and freshness should not be an afterthought – and with organics, they’re not. So take that, number-crunchers.

3.) Stanford’s study weakly admits organics have more anti-oxidants and fewer pesticides.
As the risk of damning the Stanford study altogether, to its credit, the study does acknowledge that organics have lower levels of pesticides and more anti-oxidants than conventionally grown food. OK, so now we’re getting somewhere, but those findings are hardly news to us in the wellness community and common sense doesn’t make for attention-grabbing headlines. When all is said and done, the organic vs. conventional argument all comes down to how many chemicals and poisons – whose long-term effects can be catastrophic – are we willing to ingest? I think we all know the answer to that one, studies be damned.

4.) So what are you going to do about it?
Ultimately, it’s about doing all you can to keep poisons out of your body and fueling it with the best food you can afford. Food that’s organic, fresh, locally grown, bought at the farmer’s market – all of it can go a long way to creating and sustaining optimal health. Even agro-business isn’t corrupt enough to try to make that kind of claim – they know their stuff is crap, and that we are on to them. However, the one lament I do hear about organics is that they’re more expensive than conventional and going all organic can be a financial challenge. I can’t argue with that but to keep costs in check, you can buy produce strategically to save money. To help you determine how to spend your money wisely, download a copy of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list and “Clean 15” lists. The lists identify which conventional produce items aren’t loaded with pesticides – and which ones you’re better off buying organic. To download a copy of the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen list, click to 
For more ideas on how to buy organic without breaking the bank, check out

  • Elaine Springer

    Thanks for taking the time to be a voice for common sense !

  • Mark

    Who funded this BS numbers crunch? Stanford doesn’t seem to want to list that little tidbit of info! I’m sure they get some great new facilities or bag of cash for being someone’s obedient little beotch!

  • Stephanie

    Organics are more expensive, that is true. However, two and a half years ago I switched to buying organic and I have MORE than made up the difference in money by saving on co-pays. My kids were in the doc with this or that every month…only thing I changed was the food we ate and all of a sudden….never sick! AND when we do get the flu that plagues others for days, it lasts us a whopping 4 hours. My experience has got to say something about this!

  • Fed up

    The article also mentioned that only 17 of the experiments examined how people respond to organic food. Why conduct thousands of research if only 17 are going to look at how it affects people? I mean, what did they expect to find? You take something that was grown in a healthy, loving environment and thrust it into one with petri-dishes and unnatural lights to be poked and prodded, and judged, and expect it’s frequency not to change? In my opinion, the article was just a scare tactic by “conventional” companies who are missing out on the big bucks. -_-

  • J

    So your criticism of a meta-analysis you do not want to agree with is – math is hard therefor numbers lie. Then you turn around 2 paragraphs and agree with their findings.

  • Just a thought…

    I agree that buying organic is a better option. You make a few valid points in your argument. However, saying that the Stanford study is a bunch of lies because ‘everyone knows you can lie with statistics’ is ridiculous! You clearly don’t understand science and its processes. Meta-analyses like this provide us with a great way to see if there are larger trends hiding amongst the hundreds or thousands of articles written on a topic. Just because you don’t agree with their findings doesn’t mean you can just trash science! That’s the exact same logic used by people who don’t ‘believe’ in anthropogenic climate change. Given that you are so keen on eating healthy and saving the planet, I suspect that you hate people like that. Well, you just used the same logic as they do. Congrats!

  • seaeckel

    If you listen to the interview on NPR, Allison the Stanford “doc” that created the so called study when asked who participated in the research, admits that it was family and friends.So the fact that her “family and friends” were used to conduct a study that would have a major impact on Americans eating habits tells me it was already extremely biased and not to be taken seriously. In addition, when asked where the funding to conduct the study came from Allison the doc from Stanford states that there were no drug companies involved HOWEVER she admits that the funding did come from Stanford….funding can work its way through a system with a different association entirely.Stanfords med school has many Big Pharma companies on its campus. After listening to this interview (along with the follow up interview) shows what an excellent example of how Big Pharma works its way into our media without any signatures admitting that’s who was behind this ludicrous, so called study on organic foods! Poison is poison and they don’t belong in our bodies- organic foods are not poisoned, conventional are.There were so many “flaws” in this study that it should be laughed at but unfortunately the consumer is so confused and overwhelmed by bad information already this just is the icing on the cake! No punn intended…

  • Forget organic, go beyond! Grow a Food Forest with over 500 species of edible and useful plants! Let’s see them rip apart Forest Farming.

  • I also dislike that in the article the focus is strictly on the produce, organic cares about more than just the produce, things like maintaining biodiversity, soil ecology, being less fossil fuel reliant , aka, synthetic fertilizer, those alone are huge reasons to go organic, the reduction in carbon emissions, maintaining biodiversity, and soil ecology. Healthier produce is just a bonus in my books.

  • Danielle

    Stanford claims ”The authors received no external funding for this study.”

    However The Stanford Center for Health Policy has the following statement on their website:“The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) relies on support from its friends, as well as from national and international foundations and corporations, for the funding of the Institute’s research, teaching and outreach activities.”The Center for Health Policy is a subsidiary of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI)—so who’s really funding the study?According to FSI’s 2011 Annual Report (—page 38), we see the following sponsors:Agricultural giant CargillBritish Petroleum (BP)The Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation (heavily invested in both Cargill and big-agri giant Monsanto)The Ford FoundationGoogleGoldman SachsThe Smith Richardson FoundationOther corporate-financier, Fortune 500, and special interest organizations and corporations
    All of these companies and interests are well-known supporters of Big Agricultural interests, biotechnology, many of whom are well-known opponents to the Proposition 37, GMO labeling initiative going on in CA which will be voted on this November.

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