www.huffingtonpost.com - September 13th, 2012
It offered all the ingredients for a highly clickable news story: an elite university, a reputable scientific journal, surprising results and a conclusion that would be welcomed by many.
There's no need to spend extra money buying organic at the grocery store, suggested the Stanford University press release, which stated that a university team's review of scientific literature published last Tuesday "did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives."
"They did a good job in their press release," said John Reganold, a crop and soil scientist at Washington State University. "No difference would get a lot of press."
And that it did.
Dozens of headlines across the world reiterated Stanford's message, at least initially. Now, Reganold and other experts are worried about the possible environmental health dangers -- particularly to children -- posed by this widespread dissemination of what they see as misinformation. They question the review's design, findings and interpretation -- including an alleged downplay of the higher levels of omega-3's, as well as lower levels of pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in organic compared to conventional foods.
Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University, who published a similar review of relevant studies in 2011 and concluded that organic was more nutritious than conventional, even identified a spelling error that swayed one of Stanford's results.