The AAP weighs in on organic food, and the media blows it. Again.
© 2012 Roy Benaroch, MD
Perhaps I’ve been a little harsh on the media ‘round here lately. After all, I just wrote about a study that clearly showed that acupuncture was no better than placebo—yet was widely reported to have said the opposite. And last month, I shockingly revealed that the alleged “let babies cry it out” paper didn’t actually look at any group of babies that was left to cry at bedtime, despite what was widely reported.
But I’m not a journalist. I don’t even touch-type correctly. Maybe them high-falootin’ newspaper writers know something I don’t. Maybe I should leave the science reporting to the science reporters, who (after all) are Paid Professionals.
Today, the AAP released a “clinical report” on organic food during their big gala yearly convention. You want to know what it says? Let’s peruse the headlines:
“Docs say choose organic food to reduce kids’ exposure to pesticides” says NPR.
“Organic food no better than conventional for kids, pediatricians say” reports NBC.
Huh. Two respected outlets, two completely different conclusions from the same report. But let’s not just pick on traditional media—what do some newer sources say?
“AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics’ clinical report highlights benefits of organic” says Yahoo.
But Huffpo’s headline reads: “Organics provide no ‘meaningful nutritional benefits’, pediatricians say.”
Spinning: it’s not just for politicians anymore! One might wonder—did these reporters even read the same study?
Well, you can count on me. I did read it, and so can you, right here. It’s called “Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages.” The AAP’s conclusion:
In terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches. However, current evidence does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared with conventionally grown foods, and there are no well-powered human studies that directly demonstrate health benefits or disease protection as a result of consuming an organic diet.
It’s similar to what I’ve written before: Organic and conventional foods are nutritionally identical, though organic foods overall are less likely to have pesticide and other chemical residue. There is no good evidence that the chemicals that may be in conventional foods are harmful. Still, if you want to avoid these exposures, wash or peel your fruits and veggies well. Or buy organic.
The AAP report also briefly discusses the environmental impact of organic farming, which causes less chemical pollution. However, more land is needed to get the same amount of food when farming is done without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The report is brief, and I don’t think summarizing it was very difficult. I shouldn’t be surprised that so many news outlets sensationalized and spun their headlines to make the story seem more edgy. You want cool headlines? Visit big media sites. You want to know the real story? Visit here.