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Revisiting organic food vs. conventional food - Input Junkie
October 1st, 2012
09:33 am


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Revisiting organic food vs. conventional food
A few months ago, I posted here and at Less Wrong about the question of how much was known about the health effects of organic food vs. conventional food.

I just found out about one animal study. It looks as though GMO corn and/or Roundup could be very dangerous. It also looks as though lifespan studies (two years) on rats are very rare compared to 90 day studies. Some analysis of the study: tumor-prone rats, and (since 200 rats were divided into 10 groups), small sample sizes. Still the effects are large.

Anyone know what that sort of study costs?

I did find out that "organic" is a much foggier concept than I thought-- since "organic" is a legal term of considerable commercial value, there's a territorial fight over it. In particular, a food can be called organic in the US if National Organic Standards Board if the additives and pesticides in it are of biological origin and approved by the board. The list approved by the board has been getting longer and possibly more dubious.

I also got a few anecdotes: such as
I definitely noticed a huge difference between non-organic coffee and organic coffee. Regular coffee generates muscle knots in my upper back.

Usually I buy organic apples, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, based upon the recommendations of several smart bloggers in the paleo field, but I have not noticed any difference.

One more:
My brother's celiac disorder basically cleared up when he went on a strict all-organic diet. He commented that his epidemiology classes explained this: that the immune system requires multiple triggers to flip out, and wheat gluten is a common trigger. Pesticides are also common triggers. When he stopped combining the two, he started to be able to have a beer again.

When his celiac was full-bore he basically looked like a somewhat animated skin-coated skeleton. Now he doesn't even reliably test out as having the gluten sensitivity blood test marker.

And another:
Two personal observations:

- I can eat organic soy products without hassle. Processed soy products, particularly of American origin, play hell with my digestive tract, which is otherwise very robust.

- the same goes for processed corn products.

For many years I used to think I had an allergy against straw - pick up even a handful, and I'd break out in hives. When you have a horse and are around a barn where there's straw everywhere, that's highly inconvenient. It started when I moved to Britain.
It sopped entire when I moved to a farm where the only types of straw were organic. Hey presto, no problems at all.

I don't think these things are coincidental. And as ritaxis [user name edited for clarity, cite is upthread in that discussion] says, there's a whole trail of things associated with organic farming practices - including the issue of patents - that make organic food healthier _as a system_.

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(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking that a long-term study with humans would be almost impossible, on the general question of 'organic food' and 'healthier'. People who eat organic usually do other healthy things, such as exercise, avoiding polluted environments, etc.

The animal tumor study you mention sounds very specific and very expensive. If it drew much notice, I bet the non-organic interests would soon find a different specific question to fund, showing no difference.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
I should point out that Orac found some significant flaws in the "Roundup" study, which makes the conclusion rather dubious.

-- Steve is, admittedly, of the faction that points out that virtually *all* our food is genetically modified; fossilised maize from ~5kya looks more like a biggish barley stalk than a modern-day ear of corn.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:October 5th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
I really wish that the opposition hadn't crystallized early around the phrase "genetically modified". Monsanto et al have lots of evil, globally harmful practices that should be vigorously opposed. Genetic modification, per se, isn't actually one of them.
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