Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

“Though bird kills have declined since DDT and several other pesticides were banned in the 1970s, scientists estimate
that 67 million birds are still killed each year as a result of pesticide exposure. Declines in amphibians
— and, of course, beneficial insects such as bees — have also been linked to pesticides.”

Ann Vileisis

Fatuous fertilizer

What is the real purpose of this ‘study’?

What is the purpose of publishing a profoundly limited and flawed study that disproves, at best, only a claim that no credible source has made?


Eat your vegetables, America, and let us worry
about how we grow them!
[ Image Source ]

It is, first, suggestive of an intent to mislead when one offers sweeping conclusions about the nutritional status of “organic” produce without first defining “organic”; to its credit, the article forthrightly admits this nebulosity of terms, but fails to give it sufficient weight, with the result that it raises more questions than it purports to answer.

Further, a study examining only a selected range of antioxidants in a very limited range of vegetables — again in the absence of any objective criteria to distinguish classes of items tested — cannot produce a conclusive result; at best, this outcome is preliminary and limited, and should not be represented as if it were otherwise. The most that can be reliably inferred is that, in selected produce, selected nutrients are apparently present in comparable concentrations.

Finally, there is no organic marketing I’m aware of that claims higher concentrations of antioxidants are found in organic products. In fact, past studies have established that not even so important a variable as soil quality, which can significantly influence produce’ levels of mineral nutrients such as iron and selenium, affects plants’ signature vitamin profile; thus, to assert that growing methods affect vitamins would be at the least premature.

My conclusion is that this article is fatuous. It tells us nothing, and it does so in a way that could only redound to the discredit of organic farmers precisely when Congress was debating the Food Safety Act. Since the farmers have never made the claim putatively refuted, that discredit is inferably intended to be generalized with the apparent object of discouraging consumers from trusting such farmers or choosing organic produce.

If someone wants to conduct a real study to compare nutritional profiles of organic and conventional produce, it would be welcome. But that study must satisfy minimal criteria for sample size, variables tested, definitional rigorousness and other elements of proper methodology. Otherwise, publishing it incurs the risk that people will suspect, as I do and most commenters on the page apparently do, that both study and publication are not intended for the benefit of consumers, but for that of the enormous agribusiness concerns that wield such disproportionate influence over both corporate-underwritten science and the mainstream, corporate-owned media.

Originally published as a review of a Discovery article comparing organic with conventional produce.

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