Organic produce retailers shrug off new study

Hain and Whole Foods appear unfazed by research that suggests organically grown food may not be any healthier.

By Jonathan Berr Sep 4, 2012 1:18PM
Grocery shopping copyright IT Stock Free, Jupiterimages Shares of The Hain Celestial Group (HAIN), whose brands include Earth's Best, Celestial Seasonings and Sensible Portions, are trading up over 3% Tuesday despite a recently published study arguing that organic foods are no more nutritious than their cheaper conventional alternatives.  

Whole Foods (WFM), a major organic retailer, seemed unfazed as well.

The study by Stanford University, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, however, shouldn't be dismissed so easily.
 
Not only did it find that the benefits of organic foods did not justify their exorbitant costs, but it also showed that produce grown organically was no more likely to offer protections against E. coli and other dangerous bacteria.  

Although organic foods were found to have less pesticide residue, the levels on conventional foods were still below those considered safe by the EPA. As the New York Times noted, the research was independently funded.

"When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food," said Dr. Dena Bravata, one of the study's authors, in an interview with the Times. "I think we were definitely surprised."

Though many consumers and the industry say organic foods are superior, that view is not endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which according to its website, makes "no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food." Indeed, there are plenty of organic food recalls that have recently been announced. For instance, the San Francisco Herb & Natural Food Co. said in July that it was recalling 16 products after state inspectors found a "pervasive" rodent infestation at its factory, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

One reason why consumers buy organic foods is concern about exposure to pesticides.  While the Organic Trade Association argues that consumers lessen their exposure to chemicals with organic food, they don't eliminate them entirely. Some organic farmers, in fact, do use chemicals.

"It turns out that there are over 20 chemicals commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops that are approved by the U.S. Organic Standards," according to a 2011 Scientific American blog post. "And, shockingly, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government."

Although organic regulations also forbid the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, farmers who do use the medications take great pains to make sure that milk contaminated with the chemicals doesn't enter the food supply. For instance, the dairy industry says less than 1% of all milk tested by the FDA shows antibiotic residue. Officials in the meat industry dispute the notion advanced by organic producers that using antibiotics harms human health.

Consumers should demand more proof of the supposed benefits of organic food before shelling out big money -- sometimes more than twice the cost of conventional products -- during these uncertain economic times.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.
Tags: HAINWFM
20Comments
Sep 4, 2012 4:19PM
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I get very tired of reading this.  I am a Moderate and a Republican, so no crazed food monkey.  But I do not buy organic for my daughter because it's more nutritious.  I buy it because IT DOESN'T CAUSE CANCER.  As in its not full of carcinogens and artificials and preservatives.  See if you can figure that out folks who are doing this genius "research".

Sep 4, 2012 2:55PM
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Perhaps no healthier, but sure does taste better.
Sep 4, 2012 4:01PM
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Organic food tastes better and it is the only way to make sure you aren't eating genetically modified frankenfood.
Sep 4, 2012 4:34PM
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I don't recall anyone saying its more nutritious, just doesn't have pesticides and anitbotics pumped into it...funny thing I have been having dizziness, fainting and other symptoms, my mri shows spots on the right side of my brain, Drs checking for MS, I changed my diet and started using as much organic as I can and I'm much better...hmmmm, my double vision is almost down do to hardly ever having it now!
Sep 4, 2012 4:35PM
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May be organic food it's not more nutritious than conventional grown foods but surely it's not toxic and that should be more than enough for everybody - So, organic food is still winning the race! .... Now, who sponsored this study? Most of the times, with this type of research, is just a matter of connecting the dots!....It's not about what EPA says or recommends, it's about what your body says! Green commonsense.

Sep 4, 2012 4:30PM
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COMPLETELY AGREE with the comments here so far!  Organic has a definitely advantage over chemical in the taste department AND (as Billy Barue put it) "NOT CAUSING CANCER".  Just remember the old saying of "follow the money" and exactly WHO funded this study.  Because many,many studies are done, funded by special interest or companies to sway the findings in their favor, to manipulate the public.  This has been done Sooo many times over the decades, I lost count!!
Sep 4, 2012 4:21PM
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Given the price of it it is certainly financially healthy for the purveyors. I grow my own and it tastes better than store bought produce but sadly I can only do this for a few months in the year.
Sep 4, 2012 4:46PM
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that's' because it was based on nutrition content, as if genetically modified foods have equivalent nutrition. maybe, but they have kidney/liver permanent damage. Are genetically modified to resist radiation and pesticides and are genocide crops/biofuel crops. NOT edible and should not be in the food supply which if eaten, contributes not only to long term health issues, pain and mystery conditions which MD's won't bother to help, relieve or even tell the person the cause of their conditions. Rice was "gmo'd" when the US hit them in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. yes, their main crop was damaged, and they do have ensuing health problems along with seaweed, rice , fish and most all foods grown in the radation zones. This is very cruel to humanity. Leave wheat and all other foods alone.

currently, gmo'd apples, flax, some rice, CORN biofuel and SOY and Hawaiian papayas are gmo'd crops. They use more pesticides , are unnatural in the environement, die out suicide crops and expensive seed to REPLANT every year and go against natural and agricultural cycles. YOU EAT them if you eat meat, chickens and drive a car using ethanol 85.

 

These ARE INEDIBLE and will make YOU sick and alter YOUR genetic structure. LOOK FOR the 9,  non GMO foods. flax, some apples, some rice, CORN, SOY, HI Pappaya. and the food animals fed this junk crop. Cattle and dairy cows eat GRASS, not corn or soy. chickend do not eat soy or corn. This is unnatural as the factory farmed horrific conditions they "live" in until to market.

Also, splicing the gene is called transgenic /transgenic mutations, the act of splicing the DNA is a point of damage to the food source. DO NOT EAT these foods, they do not have cures for them, but they have BIG BANK accounts and want yours at no expense. Shun these foods, Demand natural, NON GMO foods, DEMAND healthy, natural foods. See the NON GMO project shopping guide.

 

8 which resembles the double helix DNA is GMO crop/so called food. DO NOT EAT these , do not buy them. YOU will get sick. I know. I have genetic changes from environmental causes and if they can affect YOUR dna, through air/water/food, they've got you and you will suffer and they will profit.

Sep 4, 2012 5:43PM
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Its really simple.  Why buy organic produce?  No chemical insecticides or pesticides (they use natural methods like garlic, citrus oils, pyretrum, a natural insecticide from the flowers of chrysanthemum, etc..) Non GMO or genetically modified seeds, cuttings, or grafts, soil that has been specially prepared, tested, and produced.  Also, you support smaller local farmers and can trace back the produce to the source easily.  As far as the nutritional quality is concerned, I grow some great juicy oranges in my back yard in California with miracle grow and they taste awesome!  But I also grow most of my fruit trees with organic fertilizer and use no pesticides.  The article should say "does all conventionally grown produce contain the same nutritional value"  Then you would see the research that proves how fruits and vegetables grown in soil devoid of minerals or adequate minerals produce poor quality fruit with low nutritional value.  With organic, you don't have to worry about these issues.  Overall, in California, we have the best quality of conventional and organically grown fruit for example.  However, I have been to other states such as illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and seen what is for sale in the supermarkets and it is junk.  As far as high prices for organic produce?  Whole foods may be the highest priced organic store but Trader Joes is cheap for organic.  Go to any normal supermarket in Cali and fruit is expenisve.  The same oranges, avocados, peaches, etc.. are like 2.00 each!  What a joke when you can buy the same ones at Food for less or Superior markets for pennies.  I buy organic becuase I know whats on them.  With conventionally grown food, its a big scam and you never know what chemicals were used on which product.  Everything is harmless according to the FDA.  Remember when they said that eggs were bad for your heart?  Then milk was bad, then beef was bad, fish, then butter?  What did we get out of that?  We got soy milk and burgers.  A government that allows brain washing and convinving people that artificial meat, milk, butter, eggs, tilapia, etc.. is better for your health.  Just eat grass fed organic beef, organic eggs, raw milk cheese and butter, organic fruits and vegetables, wild salmon and fish, etc...  Eat sea salt not table salt, drink spring water, don't eat anything with soy unless fermented for 6-12 months+ don't eat anything with hydrogenated oil, no high fructose corn syrup, no monosodium glutamate, no sodium benzoate, nothing with titanium dioxide or aluminum, no canola oil, etc...  Try and do this and you will live to 100 years of age.  Peice of cake right.  Oh yeah, almost forgot that I also would move to a third world country like Nicaragua or Uruguay and buy a farm.  Ha Ha Ha

Sep 4, 2012 4:53PM
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So a friend of mine has this theory (well documented in his book The Anti-Cancer) that once an official link between consumption of food based pesticides and residues can be properly sustained (i.e. follow the money to the funding of the study), that we will see a huge boom in organics. Right now - it is barely tipping the scales in overall demand - but with the last 40 years behind us, there are a few interesting facts to keep in mind...(1) In 1975, over 90% of food was produced by local farmers who distributed locally and food production didnt have to rely so heavily on chemicals to keep the food fresher longer for long hauls across country to your grocery. (2) Today 95% of our food is grown by maybe 10 companies...unless you choose to shop locally (3) We pay farmers a clip of cash to produce this disgusting mono-culture of corn and soy and the by-products of keeping this model moving along ends up in our water supply, air we breathe, its horrible. Google Grand Lake St. Marys in St. Mary's, Ohio...beautiful lake is toxic now (anaerobic state at one time) due to the farmers and the fertilizer/chemical run off. I could go on forever, but if it comes down to eating Conventional Broccoli and Organic, even conventional brocolli is FAR BETTER for you than a candy bar.

Sep 4, 2012 4:19PM
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I get very tired of reading this.  I am a Moderate and a Republican, so no crazed food monkey.  But I do not buy organic for my daughter because it's more nutritious.  I buy it because IT DOESN'T CAUSE CANCER.  As in its not full of carcinogens and artificials and preservatives.  See if you can figure that out folks who are doing this genius "research".

Sep 4, 2012 4:58PM
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Jonathan, the organic produce I purchase at my local organic grocer is much less expensive than the surrounding regular grocery stores....by as much as $1/per lb., etc.....I've comparison shopped. You may also be surprised to know that I pay $2.99 for organic fat free milk with no rbgh hormones while the same thing costs $5.99 to $6.99 at the surrounding regular grocery stores. Your sub-par article is based on a few quotes and personal opinion. The general public deserves more facts. The next time you write an article like this please do some comparison shopping. Your sweeping statement about consumers shelling out big money for organic is just not true. As well, the main reason most shoppers purchase organic is to avoid as many pesticides as possible. E.Coli and bacteria are everywhere. They are inescabable. We know that. The pesticides used, however, are escabale.
Sep 4, 2012 4:29PM
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COMPLETELY AGREE with the comments here so far!  Organic has a definitely advantage over chemical in the taste department AND (as Billy Barue put it) "NOT CAUSING CANCER".  Just remember the old saying of "follow the money" and exactly WHO funded this study.  Because many,many studies are done, funded by special interest or companies to sway the findings in their favor, to manipulate the public.  This has been done Sooo many times over the decades, I lost count!!
Sep 4, 2012 4:58PM
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Well we know a yellow bell pepper is a yellow bell pepper, I suppose having the same nutritional content. As a consumer pesticides and all l the rest of those cides weren't meant for human consumption. I know science has set a level, that suppose to be safe. Those thing were intended to kill insects weeds etc, not to season the veggies. Home grown if I can, plus we should be careful how we handle and care for those thing we grow.
Sep 4, 2012 4:00PM
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Organic food tastes better and it is the only way to make sure you aren't eating genetically modified frankenfood.
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