Are Organics Oversold?

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A March 23, 2006 article in the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, FL, by Kristen Gerencher notes the excess praise for organic food from Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group, quoting ACSH Founders Circle member Christine Bruhn, Ph.D., and ACSH Advisor Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D., as critics of organic claims:

"The science to date does not indicate a clear and substantial benefit from selecting organic as opposed to conventionally grown products," says Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California at Davis, who claims no funding from the food industry.

It's true that organic foods have low levels of pesticide residues -- but so do conventionally grown foods, she says. "There is no indication that people in the United States are becoming ill from pesticide residues in conventional food"...

The limited presence of pesticide residues in Americans' food isn't a big risk to human health and shouldn't guide buying decisions, says Fergus Clydesdale, head of the food science department at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a functional-foods expert with the Institute of Food Technologists, an independent scientific organization.

Pesticide residues on any food marketed in the U.S. have to fall within federal guidelines, he says. Consumers need to make sure they wash their produce well, organic or not, notes Clydesdale...

Also, remember that natural doesn't always equal good. "What is safe [depends on] what the chemical is," Bruhn says. "You have natural chemicals that are safe and natural chemicals that are toxic."