Organics are here to stay
Findings by Stanford University researchers that there is scant nutritional difference between organic and conventionally-grown produce, and that they are similarly safe to eat, isn't really surprising. The research doesn't discredit the organics movement, which is rooted in more than the specific aspects of the Standford research.
Under federal law passed in 1990, food may be labeled organic if it is produced without the use of antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, high fructose corn syrup, certain artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners derived from synthetic chemicals, synthetically-created chemical pesticide and fertilizers, genetically engineered proteins and ingredients, sewage sludge and irradiation.
The Stanford research, a survey of hundreds of other research studies, found that organics typically don't offer a substantial nutrition advantage and that food grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers contain minute amounts of those substances at market, well below federal allowances, posing no health risk.
But the study did not address other matters. Some people buy organics not only for perceived nutritional advantages, but because they believe that conventional agriculture injects too many polluting synthetic chemicals into the environment. Some buy organic meat and poultry to fight the overuse of antibiotics, which they perceive as a huge problem affecting not only agriculture but public health.
And, of course, there is one of the most fundamental issues with food - taste - which the study didn't address.
Regardless of whether the interest in organics is in the food itself or agriculture's environmental impact, organics are here to stay for reasons that organics pioneers and devotees don't find appetizing: its success has made it big business.
ConAgra, Cargill and other huge agriculture companies, along with major processors from Coca-Cola to Kellogg's, all are engaged heavily in organic food and beverage production and marketing. Even when food meets organic definitions, it probably didn't come from grandma's farm.
The Stanford study actually is a work in progress, but the place of organics is secure not only because of individual iconoclasts, but because of the corporate embrace of the market.