Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Washington Post asks, "Is organic better for your health?"

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Today's Washington Post includes an article posing the question Is organic better for your health? A look at milk, meat, eggs, produce and fish. The first couple of lines place two of the most compelling reasons to buy organic to the side: whether organic agriculture is better for the environment and whether organic livestock live better lives. I found it hard to keep reading with a pin in those major issues, especially considering that impacts on the environment have a direct link on our health.

The article goes on to compare organic and conventional by category starting with milk. I was impressed they mentioned the higher levels of IGF-I in non-organic milk and its links to cancer. It also addresses the presence of the bovine growth hormone rBGH, but concludes simply the FDA has deemed it safe. This is the same FDA that allows a host of products to be sold in the United States for consumption that are banned in most of the rest of the world. Their seal of approval gives me confidence that I won't be noticeably ill or dead within a day of consumption, but that's about it.

In its comparison of produce, the conclusion is that pesticides are more frequently present on the conventionally grown, but those levels do not have a universally agreed upon level risk. My question is, if there is some evidence that it may be a risk, shouldn't we avoid it until it's proven safe? Why is the responsibility of the scientific community to prove something is dangerous before we ban it from the food supply?

The Post's bottom line on meat is that risks are limited to bacteria and that the difference is that conventionally raised meat is more likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria, but organic meat is more likely to contain non-resistant bacteria. It even goes as far as to say, "There doesn’t seem to be much difference, health-wise, between organic or conventional meats." It fails to mention that conventionally raised beef is often so rife with E.coli that it has to be treated with ammonia before it can be served to humans. The conclusion on eggs is almost identical although with meat, milk, and eggs it concedes that there are slightly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids they deem negligible. There is no mention of the contribution that all of the antibiotics used on farm animals is making to drug-resistant bacteria and the huge danger this poses to our society.

We rely on the media and journalists to hold organizations such as the FDA accountable and investigate potential corruption. Where are the hard-hitting questions to this agency that has been rife with conflicts of interest? Not a single mention of the many high-ranking officials of the FDA ties to monsanto and other leaders of agribusiness. The first two lines leaving aside the impacts corporate farming has on the environment was insulting enough, but if the focus is on health, at least give us the full story on who is supposed to be looking out for ours. I'm disappointed in my local paper today.

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