grand army plaza farmers market

EDIT: Since publishing this article I have been informed, repeatedly, about its factual errors. The article was written based on the Stanford study which I assumed to be accurate. That was a mistake and I should have done more research on it before publishing. Thanks to a lot of kind, patient people I am now aware of the directions I need to look on this topic. I will be doing some more research and posting a new article on organic farming soon.

With around 75% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck it’s difficult to imagine how places like Whole Foods manage to stay in business, especially since what they’re selling is outrageously priced with no real benefits. Somehow a whole lot of people have been convinced to pay two or three times more for food just because it has the “organic” label. Never mind study after study shows that “organic” fruits and vegetables are no safer or more nutritious than “non-organic”.

The study, by researchers in the university’s Center for Health Policy and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was a meta-analysis in which results from the scientific literature were combined but no new, original laboratory work was conducted. Data from 237 studies were aggregated and analyzed to determine whether organic foods are safer or healthier than non-organic foods. They concluded that fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for “organic” were on average no more nutritious than their far cheaper conventional counterparts, nor were those foods less likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella.

Ironically, the designation “organic” is itself a synthetic construct of bureaucrats that makes little sense. It prohibits the use of synthetic chemical pesticides – although there is a lengthy list of exceptions listed in the Organic Foods Production Act – but permits most “natural” ones (and also allows the application of pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer).

Imagine, it was a bunch of clueless bureaucrats that caused all of this confusion. A change that just so happened to allow fruit and vegetable growers to change little to nothing about their farming techniques and still charge double what they were before for the same product. They must have some pretty good lobbyists.

What most people don’t know is that “organic” pesticides are just as toxic as non-organic pesticides. It’s a completely false sense of security that has people wasting millions of dollars a year on a nothing.

These permitted pesticides can be toxic. As evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcox explained in a September 2012 Scientific American article (“Are lower pesticide residues a good reason to buy organic? Probably not.”): “Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones. No matter what anyone tells you, organic pesticides don’t just disappear. Rotenone is notorious for its lack of degradation, and copper sticks around for a long, long time. Studies have shown that copper sulfate, pyrethrins, and rotenone all can be detected on plants after harvest—for copper sulfate and rotenone, those levels exceeded safe limits. One study found such significant rotenone residues in olives and olive oil to warrant ‘serious doubts…about the safety and healthiness of oils extracted from [fruits] treated with rotenone.’” (There is a well-known association between rotenone exposure and Parkinson’s Disease.)

If you feel as though you have enough disposable income to shop at place like Whole Foods then wise up and go to a farmer’s market or “regular” grocery store and buy three times as much for the same price and donate the rest to a local food bank. Do something good with your money besides lining the pocket of Whole Foods.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

44 Comments

  1. The *big* point of organic is that they don’t contribute to fertilizer runoff poisoning the Gulf of Mexico and they don’t contribute to pesticide use which is linked to bee die offs.

    So I guess “healthier” depends on whether you see yourself as a man alone and the only measurement of health is your own blood chemistry or whether you see yourself as part of a greater whole and measure health by all the inputs and outputs of the food system you participate in.

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    1. I’ve actually been recently schooled on this subject following my post on this. I’ll be reposting some new information on this subject soon. Thank you for the comment!

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      1. This is probably the worst article I’ve read on the subject. Sounds like the info came directly from Monsanto or their lobbyists.

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        1. Totally agree marc, and not to mention organic companys are dearer also because they have to pay up big to put the
          certified organic label on food. Definately monsatan!!!! talking bull shit in this article. Oh if something is certified organic there are no pesticides in the product!!

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    2. As an organic farmer for 40 years,I think I know a thing or two about this subject. Your lack of knowledge concerning the poisens used on conventional fruit and veggies is simply stunning. Your lack of knowledge as to all the things that organic farmers do to improve there land and protect the inviroment and consumers health is also stunning. Please read more and talk to real farmers before doing another hatchet job on a subject which you know nothing about.

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      1. Thanks for your comment. If you would have taken the time to read the comments I say that I have been made aware of things that I wasn’t before. This if from a study at Stanford, it’s not like I just pulled it out of thin air. I’ve already said I will be writing a followup to this.

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        1. Yeah, Poling, your comments do sound like something straight out of Monsantos PR!
          It’s a choice between eating food satuarated with the equivalent of Raid or eating it without the Raid.
          Between a lab experiment and something as ancient as the sun, which would you give to your kids?
          We are not lab rats, we are not disposable.
          WE ARE HUMANS, NOT AUTOMATIC CONSUMERS FOR WHATEVER CRAP THE SELLERS COME UP WITH!
          And as long as it’s a choice I know which one I will continue to make.
          Yes, I’ve done my research for years and know I have healed myself from too much “progress” of conventional foods.

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        2. The point is, you shouldn’t have published the first article until you did your homework. Your article is typical of today’s “journalists”. At the very least, the headline should have been “Study shows that organic is not necessarily healthier.”

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        3. Sir, I applaud you for saying that you may have not had enough information and promising to do a new write-up. However, do not expect people to read the comments. They should be expected to read the article, not the comments. YOU should put your comment as an UPDATE in the body itself. That is professionalism
          That said, I fully agree that there are problems with the organic label, and that it HAS been taken over by bureaucrats and politicians beholden to lobbyists for Big Agra (that is what you get from government), and that therefore the value of the label is under assault and likely will have no value in the future. This is a reason to criticize GOVERNMENT and BUREAUCRATS and our corrupt majority/money/winner-take-all system, not the people who are just honestly looking to feed themselves real food instead of the processed monstrosities we are fed by the corrupt FDA.
          Realizing that companies will use the Government to deceive and rob regular people is like realizing that when you drop something it goes down. If you think you have found evidence to the contrary, check your evidence again.

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        4. Great point. I have added an “edit” to the top of the post. Thank you for your comment.

          I absolutely agree with the rest of your points as well and I am definitely keeping that in mind as I come up with the next article.

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        5. I look forward to your follow up…

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      2. Howard:
        Are copper(II) sulfate and rotenone poisons?

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        1. Rotenone has not been allowed in organic production for maybe 10 years or more,so that is not an issue. Copper sulfate or an certified organic version is allowed with restrictions on it’s use. Copper is a necessary micro nutrient as well as mineral,so please dont try to scare people with it being used in organic production….

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        2. Howard: Can you point me to a citation on the rotenone ban? I haven’t been able to find anything definitive about it.

          Regarding copper as a micro-nutrient: I thought that the quantities used as a fungicide would be in quantities above those needed as a micro-nutrient? There are loads of nutrients that are essential in small quantities but harmful in larger quantities.

          How much copper sulfate needs to be added as a micro-nutrient vs. an effective fungicide?

          The reason I bring it up is because of how many people seem to be under the impression that organic farming consists exclusively of non-toxic compounds. People seem to also ignore quantity. The amount of a chemical used is rather important but rarely discussed by people outside of the industry.

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        3. You only need to look at the NOP list of what is allowed or not to see that Rotenone is NOT allowed. There are no citation in that regards. The amount of copper used as an effective fungicide is very small. Were talking ounces per acre in actual copper,which as I mentioned is a neccessary nutrient in both diet and soil science. You can do your own research as to amounts needed. I and other farmers also use Hydrogen Peroxide as a fungicide,basiclly the same stuff you probably have in your bathroom cabinete. Some farmers also use skinned milk for a fungicide! I rotate between copper and peroxide and only when the weather forces disease conditions. I only grow onions,garlic,winter squash and tomatoes. I also grow carrots and beets and turnips and potatoes. Rotation of my fields and crops reduce the disease pressure as well as good soil nutrition that results in healthy crops.

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    3. “The *big* point of organic is that they don’t contribute to fertilizer runoff poisoning the Gulf of Mexico and they don’t contribute to pesticide use which is linked to bee die offs.”

      None of the people I’ve spoken to have mentioned either of those as the main point, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever had the former point mentioned. I think that most people think of organic as being healthier for themselves.

      I wish that there was an easy way to get science-based environmentally friendly food but I don’t think there is.

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      1. GMO’s??

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  2. I prefer because organic usually tastes better. And fruit flies fed on organic vs non organic in this study were healthier and more fertile. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326121732.htm

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  3. This article from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest has a different conclusion, and it references flaws in the Stanford study.

    http://www.cspinet.org/nah/articles/going-organic.html

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  4. Wow…I really hope you do some more in-depth research on the subject of organic food vs. pesticide-laden, GMO cosmetic food. Humans have been eating nothing but organic food for tens of thousands of years….until now and we’re sicker and fatter than ever before. There are so many fabrications you referenced I don’t know where to start. So I’ll leave it to you to actually do some balanced research.

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    1. Megan:
      “until now and we’re sicker and fatter than ever before”

      Huh. I must’ve misread the life expectancy charts then. I was under the impression that we’ve been living longer than before.

      The Romans used lead to sweeten wine. They didn’t notice how unhealthy that was. If they could miss something as obviously unhealthy as deliberately consuming lead, how can you point to historical behavior as healthier?

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      1. Using lead to sweeten wine while ignorant of the poisonous effects it has is a great deal different than choosing to continue to use poisonous materials in spite of evidence that those poisons carry on to humans in the ecosphere. Being ignorant is forgivable: Being willfully ignorant for the purpose of greed is a terminable offense.

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        1. Keyrlis: I think you’ve misunderstood what I was saying.

          Megan was arguing that we’ve been doing something for thousands of years so therefore we used to do it right. My point is that we didn’t live as long or notice that lead was harmful.

          My argument is simply that Megan’s logic is faulty and that “we used to do it so it was better that way” isn’t good. We’ve been so wrong in the past.

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  5. From article: “What most people don’t know is that “organic” pesticides are just as toxic as non-organic pesticides.”

    No way. Not even a little bit.

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    1. Jesse if something is “certified organic” there are no pesticides in the product aswell

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      1. Well,we do use pesticides on organic production. They are constinently working on new and even safer ones. We mostly use bio controls,that is we work with natural preditors and dont use anything that can harm the good bugs! Good nutrition in the soil does result in stronger,healthier plants.

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  6. I’ll just leave this here for you guys. http://imgur.com/h0qzmXJ

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    1. That’s probably the most research you’ve done for this article lol

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      1. You’re lucky the comment policy doesn’t allow name calling. lol

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  7. Two Girls And A Cup July 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I grew up in farm country when organic farming was just a crazy attempt as sustainable agriculture. The chemical companies made claims that organic farming could never be as profitable as their tried and true method of killing everything that isn’t palatable and spraying fertilizers until all the plants were green. One day organic farmers finally achieve parity and even surpassed the “traditional” farmers so many of these farmers who relied on the chemicals to ensure a healthy crop decided to lobby Congress to change the definition of organic to fit practices they were willing to live with. Suddenly every farmer could claim organic produce and even sell lower quality produce claiming that the organic process produced uglier fruit. People tend to be stupid and will read an article about an industry they could never even conceive to work in and then go out to spread the gospel among the morons. Organic poisons are still poisons, organic fertilizers well are still mostly shit and the last time I checked, the only people I know who don’t get sick from eating crap are two Brazilian women sharing a cup. Maybe all you morons should study a little chemistry and horticulture before you decide to share your opinion about what is a good poison and what is a bad poison and what kind of shit will make you sick and what kind of shit will not make you sick.

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    1. As a “real” organic farmer,I take great exception to most of what you say. Most of my fertility comes from growing green manure crops that feed the soil. I use compost that was properly made and rotate my crops for maximum fertility. Yes,in the early days of organics,Rotenone was allowed as it was made from roots,but that is no longer the case. The science is allowing safer and better products to become available every year. It is a much better method now then it was even 20 years ago. Certified organic produce,if you buy direct from a farmer is so much safer and better then conventional grown that its not even a contest. you should stop being so negative and embrace the joy of farmers trying to improve our food supply and protect the land for the future…..

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  8. Michelle Jones July 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    This may be beating a dead horse, but I still have to say something. Did Monsanto or Dupont pay you to write this article? How can food treated with powerful toxins or GMO foods be just as healthy as unaltered foods grown without toxins? Perhaps this is why we have an epidemic of cancer and companies like Monsanto are just paying government officials off to keep this quiet. Even toxins that don’t seem to affect humans now are causing all kinds of problems with the rest of mother nature. Take neonicotinoid pesticides for example. They are potent toxins that are dumped all over the place to ‘help’ with farming, and yet suddenly scientists are finding that they are one of the biggest reasons why bees are dying by the thousands. And we need bees to pollinate fruits and vegetables. It’s up to humans to step up and be responsible NOW and stop using so many pesticides before it’s too late and we’ve caused too much damage. Our health and our food depend on it. Do your research. Google neonicotinoids and bees, or visit Monsanto’s web page to see how twisted their GMO science is. It doesn’t take rocket science to see how damaging these toxic products are for the future of human health.

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    1. No one paid me to write any of these articles. Look around my site and I think you’ll see that I have quite a track record for calling out corporate whoredom. I was writing the article based on the Stanford study I read and since then I have been introduced to a lot more information about the subject. This is one article out of hundreds. I’ve already said that I am planning on rewriting it, I’m not sure what else people expect to happen by continuing to pile on here with totally baseless accusations. At this rate I’m considering deleting this post and saying eff it to the whole topic.

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    2. Michelle:
      “Did Monsanto or Dupont pay you to write this article?”
      Probably not. That’s about as likely as somebody in the >$26b/year organic food industry paying you to write your response. There’s a lot of money to be made here.

      “Perhaps this is why we have an epidemic of cancer”

      More likely it’s because people are living longer, and cancers take a long time to grow. Prostate cancer as an example is one that they’re concerned is treated too aggressively. If it’s likely to kill you in 40 years but you’re 80 years old, it’s probably not worth aggressive treatment.

      “How can food treated with powerful toxins or GMO foods be just as healthy as unaltered foods grown without toxins?”

      You do know that organic food can have some pretty nasty stuff sprayed on it, right? And that different compounds can affect different creatures differently? Glyphosate is toxic to plants, but it takes a lot to harm people.

      The dose makes the poison. There are lots of rules about when different compounds can be sprayed so that minimal amounts end up in the food chain.

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  9. There is a valid point in this article, buried and made in a half-baked way, about the loopholes in organic laws that allow for hidden pesticides to be put on organic food. Too bad it’s obscured by the assertion that organic food is no better than pesticide-laced GMO produce. Wow, one study and it’s a “myth” that organic is healthier? Are you choking on that hook, line and sinker you swallowed? I don’t buy the findings of a bunch Stanford scientists trying to say black is white and night is day and glyphosphate-ridden fruits and veggies are just as healthy as foods grown without them, just when the full extent of the damage that Roundup has caused to animal life, the environment and human beings around the globe is being exposed. Follow the money on that study. I would be truly surprised if it didn’t lead right to Monsanto, Dupont or Dow.

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  10. For your consideration, Part 1: I had a friend who was doing his post-doctoral research at an ivy league school. When his scientific findings did not support the outcomes desired by the program (funded by the pharmaceutical industry), he was not only asked to leave the program, but threatened. University research is not impartial. (For anyone who is interested, the topic at hand was the safety of birth control and its impact on brain health.)

    For your consideration, Part 2: “Organic fruit” is not the same as “fruit treated with organic pesticides.” Many organic fruits are pesticide-free (organic or otherwise).

    I am open-minded; this article is disappointing in the underlying assumptions upon which the argument is built.

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  11. James – Don’t give up and don’t delete this post. One of my biggest pet peeves is that people just start spewing without doing their own “research” as to what has already been commented on. Take it in stride sir.

    I was glad to see that you are going to do another article after learning more about the subject. PLEASE always do more research that posting about a study read before writing anything…that will put you above most journalists out there. Honesty is NOT something that is given by the collective media anymore and it is very disheartening. GREED is a problem and I don’t see it getting better any time soon. 😦
    As far as the money spent at Whole Foods or the likes – Costco has taught us BULK BUYING IS GOOD!! For some items yes, it is helpful. I used to balk at the Whole Foods prices as well because I was shopping that we tend to with EVERYTHING NOW. When buying organics, I have learned that you get just what is needed for only a couple of days and there isn’t any waste. I have also found that when feeding my family organics and unprocessed NON gmo foods, they don’t need as many helpings to be satisfied AND they aren’t scouring the kitchen in 30 minutes looking for something else OR something junky. THAT was a real eye opener to me…especially with the weight problems this country is seeing. While I can’t see myself ever going vegetarian, or solely plant based diet, I am much more careful with what I purchase.

    Keep up the good work James…and kudos to you for admitting you were writing based on the one study and for NOT bad mouthing all the crazies who just keep blasting away at you. 🙂 ALSO, do some crazy in-depth research on GMO’s from MANY sources,,,,I look forward to reading that article.

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    1. Thank you for the great comment and the support. I have added an “edit” to the top of this post. Hopefully people will see it before commenting. There have been some vile comments that never were never even published. I really do appreciate your comment, hopefully I’ll be seeing more of you around here.

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  12. Organic produce tastes better and it is better for the environment. Synthetic fertilizers pollute water, deplete soil, and weeds & pests outlast them.

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  13. For all the negative talk about WF markets,they have been an positive force supporting local organic farmers all over the country when other supermarkets would not buy from farmers,WF did! They are also a pretty good place to work and pay fairly well for the food industry,stop insulting the people that shop there and the many people that work there! Peace and love to all….

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    1. James, you say the Stanford article is inaccurate, but you don’t specify what’s mistaken. In fact, the article is methodically accurate and carefully phrased, which cannot be said for your presentation of it. Give us a source for the inaccuracies in the article, please.

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      1. Hi Jim, I have learned my lesson with this topic. I originally took the study at face value but quite a few passionate people have pointed me to information that seems to contradict the statements made. There are a large number of factors that need to be figured in on either side of the argument and many of them seem to be difficult to pin down. What might be used on one farm may not be used on the next farm over. This is obviously a complex issue and there has been a (mostly) terrific discussion here in the comments by people that seem to be passionate and informed on the topic.

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        1. Well, I appreciate passion too, but not on a matter of empirical fact. There is nothing wrong with the Stanford article except to say “your mileage may vary” which is always true.
          Because natural pesticides are often less effective, they are used in higher amounts and more often. So, even if a naturally produced pesticide is less toxic than its synthetic counterpart, it may be applied at much higher rates than the comparable manmade chemical. For a pesticide to be effective, it must kill things. They’re nasty, and if you consume enough of any kind of pesticide, you can be harmed. It doesn’t matter much to the bug or the fungus if the pesticide is an extract from the neem tree and thereby legal for organic production, or if the insecticide is dreamed up in the labs of DuPont. It shouldn’t matter that much to you, either. The question is not so much whether the pesticide is produced naturally or synthetically, but rather how much you consume. And here the evidence is clear: None of the U.S. samples in the Stanford study, whether organic or conventional, contained enough residue to be harmful.
          So, if the debate over nutrition has been largely settled, with no advantage to either side, and if pesticide residues, whether natural or not, aren’t likely to be harmful, surely there are environmental reasons for organic production? Undoubtedly so, but there are environmental costs as well. It takes fewer acres to produce the same quantity of food conventionally than it does organically. Even if a naturally produced pesticide is less toxic than its synthetic counterpart, it may be applied at much higher rates than the comparable man-made chemical.
          Conventional agriculture has given society both more food and more land, in the form of rainforests not farmed, the millions of acres in the United States which were once farmed and are now returning to the wild, or the 35 million acres taken from production in the last 30 years and planted to native grasses in the American Midwest and West. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that ending conventional production in the United States would require increasing the area tilled by more land than lies within California. If food demand nearly doubles over the next 50 years, as it’s predicted to do, there just isn’t enough arable land available to support a wholesale adoption of organic methods.
          So, what, exactly, is wrong with the Stanford study aside from the fact that you have been pummeled by Rachel Carson wannabes and don’t know how to respond?
          Jim

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      2. For commentary on some of the problems with the Stanford study, read the Nutrition Action article on cspi.net

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