President, Strategic Communications, LLC

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Cole Porter (left) said it best when he wrote the lyrics, "You say ";potato"; I say ";patattah"; / You say "; organic";/ I say ";conventional"; /"; organic";/ ";conventional";/ ";potato"; /";patattah"; Let's call the whole thing off."

Maybe we should stop right here because if you look up "tempest in a teapot" in a dictionary, you will see a copy of the Stanford study which The New York Times  headline writer described as: Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce. OMG!

Let's see if we can agree on the basic facts:
First, the study was peer-reviewed and published in a well-known prestigious journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Second, this study told anyone who knows anything about nutrition absolutely nothing new. There is no nutritional differences between conventional and organic fruits and veggies. Check the Nutrition Fact information in the produce section of your nearby supermarket.

Organic Apple
Third, the co-author of the study, Ingram Olkin, is a respected scientist with publications in JAMA, American Heart Journal, Stat Med as well as others in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The researcher is not a devious plant from "Big Tobacco" sent to "Big Food" to destroy the growing at double digit rate organic industry as the screams of the left assert. Such nonsense.

Did the PI ask the right question, opines Marion Nestle? Well obviously not, for her.

If you reduce the volume by half while constantly stirring with a medium wisk, the debate about organic and conventional boils down to lifestyle and economics, not health or nutrition.

It's about happy cows, grazing in green fields under a bright yellow sun, with huge smiles on their faces bringing in big bucks vs. house brand milk at your supermarket. And, it is about price. How many WIC stickers do you see on shelves at Whole Foods? You see plenty at the Ingles in the mountains of western North Carolina where the local farmer's market emphasizes "fresh."

Anything that is natural or organic, whatever that actually means, is "hot" with the rich, white, college educated, people with large amounts of disposable income to spend on Cakebread Chardonnay and Duckhorn Pinot Noir, but I digress.

The truth is there is room for both in the marketplace and all the yelling does nothing to inform and educate anybody.


  1. The study was likely not done to reach people who "[know] anything about nutrition", but rather to add fodder to a debate that rages in offices, schools, and home across the country.

    No surprise that Marion Nestle dislikes it; she dislikes anything for which she cannot claim credit or secure the fawning admiration of the NY Times. Like many studies, it may have sprung simply from a conversation that one of the authors had with a colleague or patient.

    You are right that the debate boils down to money.

    I welcome your comments on my own blog post on the study:

  2. There is so much confusion about natural and organic and when you start to layer on "sustainable" and "local" it gets even worse.