Organic Food Ain't All That:
The Los Angeles Times ran an interesting story about organic food over the holiday weekend. The piece opens noting the explosive growth in the organic food industry over the past several years, but then asks (and answers) the money question about organic food:
as organic products — and their claims to superiority — have grown more common, scientists, policy analysts and some consumers have begun to ask for proof. Where's the evidence, they ask, for the widespread belief that organic foods are safer and more nutritious than those raised by conventional farming methods? The short answer, food safety and nutrition scientists say, is that such proof does not exist. Indeed, by one well-established measure of healthfulness — contamination with fecal matter and potentially harmful bacteria — some organic foods may pose greater risks to consumers.Indeed, the article notes, the organic food industry has begun to acknowledge that it lacks empirical evidence to support the claim that organic food is healthier or better for the environment. What does this mean for the future of the industry? The article offers some speculation:
Right now, the organic movement is fairly strong because it's generally recognized that these products are safer and more nutritious," said Christine Bruhn, director of the University of California's Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis. But, Bruhn said, the organic business may be in trouble if consumers come to believe that the products are not necessarily healthier for them. "It's a market philosophy that's built on a house of cards. You blow those cards and there might be some tumbling," said Bruhn.My prior posts on organic agriculture (from 2002) are here, here, and here.