Friday, December 7, 2012

Organics, Pesticides and Health Risk

Environmental Health Perspectives this month features an article outlining limitations of the recent Stanford study that claimed no nutritional benefits from consuming organics.

The Stanford study results were reported in The New York Times here

I posted about the story, as it was reported in the NYT, when it was published because the reporting and the study seemed biased

Sep 05, 2012
Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce by Kenneth Change Sep 3, 2012 ...

Later it was revealed that the researchers at Standford were connected to a Stanford institute receiving major funding from big ag:

Sep 15, 2012
[Excerpted] A recent study by Stanford University researchers made international headlines when it claimed that organic foods are no more safe or nutritious than conventional foods. Organic researchers, farmers and ...
Now an article in Environmental Health Perspectives chastises the limitations of the Stanford study.

I suggest reading the entire article, titled:

"Organic Food Conclusions Don’t Tell the Whole Story" by David Holzman :

[Excerpted] In a letter accepted for publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine,3 Benbrook [researcher criticizing the Standford study] pointed to the Stanford team’s lack of consideration of extensive government data on the number, frequency, potential combinations, and associated health risks of pesticide residues in U.S. food. Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program,4 Benbrook calculated a 94% reduction in health risk attributable to eating organic forms of six pesticide-intensive fruits.3

The Stanford researchers also missed opportunities to examine the relationship of pesticides and health outcomes demonstrated in a growing number of cohort studies, says Brenda Eskenazi, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. Eskenazi conducted one such study,5 one of a trio published in April 2011 that examined the relationship between cognitive development and prenatal pesticide exposures in two multiethnic inner-city populations6,7 and one farmworker community in California.5 One of the studies7 found deficits of seven IQ points in 7-year-old children in the highest quintile of pesticide exposure, compared with children in the lowest quintile, as measured by maternal urinary pesticide metabolite levels during pregnancy. Results were comparable in the other two studies.

In concluding that the evidence “does not suggest marked health benefits from consuming organic versus conventional foods,”1 many commenters, including Eskenazi and Benbrook, felt the Stanford team ignored risks to broader public health like those outlined in an April 2012 review by David C. Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. In his review Bellinger argued that subtle impacts of organophosphate pesticides on neurodevelopment can add up to substantial population-level impacts. He wrote, “It is frequently noted that a modest downward shift in mean IQ scores will be accompanied by a substantial increase in the percentage of individuals with extremely low scores.”8

Conventional toxicology testing is now being shown to miss responses that occur at doses that are orders of magnitude lower than previously established no-observed-adverse-effects levels,9 with potential implications for our understanding of pesticide safety. And others are finding in animal studies that pesticide exposures in utero can induce epigenetic changes that alter stress responses and disease rates in future generations.... 

Majia here: Pesticides aren't safe! 

Earlier today I posted here that research has established a correlation between pesticides in water and food allergies.


  1. It may actually be true, since they have significantly relaxed the requirements to be termed "organic".

  2. I do worry about that- the degradation of what counts as organic....