Critics Say the "Organic" Label Doesn't Mean What You Think

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A September 22 article by Abigail Leichman in the Bergen County Register quotes ACSH Advisors Joe Rosen and Gary Smith and ACSH Nutrition Director Dr. Ruth Kava:

If anyone could make you feel like a dope for buying that pricey organic lettuce, it's Joe Rosen.

A professor in Rutgers University's department of food science, Rosen headed up a roster of speakers at a recent conference in Philadelphia titled "Is Organic Food Healthier Than Conventional Food?"

Rosen dismissed claims that organic products are safer, more nutritious, and better for the environment as "science by press release"...

A toxicologist who works for Consumer Reports -- a publication blasted by Rosen as having a pro-organic tilt -- got into a shouting match with the professor...

As for meat and dairy products, residues of antibiotics, steroids, and heavy metals have never been found in violation of federal guidelines in conventional market items, said Gary Smith, a professor of meat science at Colorado State University.

"It's ridiculous to think we're getting enough hormones from meat to affect our health," Smith said, adding that a woman would have to eat more than 18,000 steaks per day to ingest the same amount of estrogen she'd get from birth-control pills...

A 1948 Rutgers study remains the basis for many organic producers' claims of greater nutritional benefits, said Ruth Kava, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science and Health. Not only is that study outdated, but it also never meant to compare organic vs. conventional; its purpose was to compare produce from different geographic regions.

Other studies showing slightly greater Vitamin C concentrations in organic produce are flawed, said Kava. "I wasn't impressed with the solidity of the data," she said, explaining that C levels are affected by many factors, including the amount of rain and sunlight received by the plants, as well as handling and storage after harvesting...

With beef, poultry, and dairy products, said Smith, nutrition has been shown to be equal among "conventional," "natural," "grass-fed," and "organic" products. "These are just marketing terms," he said...