Forbes: Is Organic Agriculture ‘Affluent Narcissism?’

by Brooke on August 6, 2013

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I used to write for an environmental magazine in grad school.  After taking an organic and GMO class for an entire semester at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, I had to completely re-write an organic article I had been working on.  I changed the theme of the article to eating local instead.   I couldn’t bring myself to write a pro-organic article after reading all the scientific research articles that didn’t prove otherwise.  I remember being really shocked and upset about the research we were reviewing in class.  At one point, I even asked the professor “if this is true why don’t more people know about the research?”  His response was that those that have the knowledge don’t always share it.  He also brought up another good point, which is that individuals are so stuck on the idea that they are eating “healthier” most people don’t want to hear the truth.

In 2009, there was a systematic review published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled, “Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review.”  This review analyzed 55 qualified studies and assessed the nutrient differences between organically and conventionally grown foodstuffs.  This review also concluded that, “there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.”  More recently, writer Henry I. Miller wrote an article called, “Is Organic Agriculture ‘Affluent Narcissism?‘”  This article has continuously been spread throughout social media and is well worth the read!

Isn’t it crazy that the word organic has always just been a buzzword not backed by any scientific literature?  This industry is making billions of dollars on just an idea.  Below is a section of his article.  To read more (please read more) click on the article title above!

Some of the devotion from consumers attains almost cult-like status, which is why a recent article by Stanford University researchers that was dismissive of health or nutritional benefits of organic foods created such a furor.  The study, by researchers in the university’s Center for Health Policy and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was a meta-analysis in which results from the scientific literature were combined but no new, original laboratory work was conducted. Data from 237 studies were aggregated and analyzed to determine whether organic foods are safer or healthier than non-organic foods. They concluded that fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for “organic” were on average no more nutritious than their far cheaper conventional counterparts, nor were those foods less likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella.

The investigators themselves were surprised by the result. “When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” according to physician Dr. Dena Bravata.

Many devotees of organic foods purchase them in order to avoid exposure to harmful levels of pesticides. But that’s a poor rationale: Although non-organic fruits and vegetables do have more pesticide residue, more than 99 percent of the time the levels are below the permissible, very conservative safety limits set by regulators – limits that are established by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.

Ironically, the designation “organic” is itself a synthetic construct of bureaucrats that makes little sense. It prohibits the use of synthetic chemical pesticides – although there is a lengthy list of exceptions listed in the Organic Foods Production Act – but permits most “natural” ones (and also allows the application of pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer).

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Darci August 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

What about the dirty dozen and clean fifteen?


Dagny Kight August 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I’ve always believed that “organic” was just a label to get people to pay more. I’ve insulted people by saying as much. Folks will insist that they switch to organic and all manner of maladies clear up but so do people who spend thousands on Japanese water “ionizers” who believe they “restructure” the chemical composition of their water. My theory is that when people commit to “going organic” they reduce or eliminate processed foods and end up simply eating an overall cleaner, simpler diet that would yield benefits, organic or conventional.

The bigger issue is GMOs and the accusations that get leveled at Monsanto. I figure that everybody at Dow AgroScience and DuPont must laugh all day that nobody’s organizing marches against them while their competitor is endlessly harassed and maligned. I was a commodities broker specializing in grains for nearly five years. All my clients were farmers. They WANT to buy GMO seeds. Nobody is forcing them. They WANT to boost their yields and make more money. Most people are not even sure what GMOs are or what crops are grown from GMO seeds. They want to believe there are massive conspiracies that involve even the FDA and the USDA. I tell them to appreciate that they live in a first world country where they have the choice to spend more money for “organic” food so go buy it!


Thrashley August 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Is organic production more sustainable? (that is, does it keep top soil around?)

Does it do less damage to the environment? (that is, how much pollution is run off into streams? Do the additives to the process cost more or less than the non-organic chemicals?)

Can it produce the same amount of food? For a year? For twenty? How many people will not be able to eat if there are no crabs/oysters in the Chesapeake bay? How much longer will the breadbasket be able to produce bread if all the top soil is gone?


Brooke August 19, 2013 at 12:48 am

Hello Thrashley,

Thank you for posting a comment! Actually, I have a lot of information showing that organic farming is not sustainable. It does reduce top soil and crop yield is lower than conventional farming. Here is an interesting article –


Sandy Boccuzzo August 6, 2013 at 11:57 pm

So, Brooke……if organic food is no different nutritionally, and GMOs aren’t bad for us, why are we such a fat, sick culture, and why are we not living as long? Why is there such an increase in cancers and diabetes and allergies. I have taught for 35 years and seen a rapid increase in childhood diabetes, seizures, autism, obesity and cancer in the last 15 years. I think our food and water and even our air has been so polluted by man made chemicals that we have made the earth and ourselves very sick. 3 years ago I began eating clean (conventionally) and lost weight and felt better but still suffered with inflammation of my joints. Since I’ve switched to organic food and gotten rid of most of the chemicals in our home and gotten a water ionizer, I have NO pain and I feel 20 years younger. So, is it in my head? or have I just detoxified myself? I think the latter. Sorry to disagree, but I didn’t just read about it, I tried it. Remember, Gramma Schantz didn’t eat GMO food or put pesticides in her garden. She lived to be 92. My parents died at 78. They shouldn’t have. Many of my friends have died in their 60’s from cancer. I didn’t want to go that route, so I took the road less traveled. And that has made all the difference. I hope.


Brooke August 19, 2013 at 12:56 am

Hi Sandy,

I think you brought up a good point. We are an OVERWEIGHT & SICK culture. Obesity itself leads to numerous chronic diseases. When consumers switch to “organic” food they generally start eating healthier anyway, so feeling better can’t be contributed to the word “organic” alone. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help you feel better organic or not. You also mentioned that you switched other household products, so who is to say it just the food 😉


Al Kubicz August 27, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Interesting article. I understand the term Organic is such a loose term due to the vagueness in USDA and Congressional guidelines. That is why it’s sometimes better to search out local farms that are independently certified as “Organic”. Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are a wonderful way to receive healthy, SEASONAL produce from local farmers that follow strict organic guidelines and are independently certified. I believe that not enough independent studies have been conducted to truly say that non-organic pesticide and herbicide laden produce and GMO modified produce is as safe as truly organic produce. It seems the major studies are conducted or sponsored by the chemical industries themselves. I’m always suspicious when the chemical industry lobbyists tack on legislation at 3am to some omnibus bill to state their items are “safe” but exempt from all future class-action lawsuits and local, state and federal regulations. The only “positive” thing about non-organic and GMO produce is that it is available year round and able to keep up with the ever growing global population. Food production is efficient…but at what cost. We should always consider the effects of our actions on the next seven generations before we implement anything. Profit and efficiency should not be priority.


Brooke September 3, 2013 at 4:41 am

Hi Al,

Thank you for leaving a comment! Yes, local is the key word! Farmers’ Markets and the CSA are great way to meet and support you local farmers. With so many farming methods I don’t think Organic is the one that will be sustainable long term. You made a great point about profit and efficiency not being a priority. However, that will only change when consumers are willing to buy quality and sustainable food. Supply and Demand always wins.


Al Kubicz August 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm

In addition to the whole issue of is “Organic better than conventionally grown and/or GMO produce”, I have to wonder why the GMO industry spends millions of dollars to prevent any kind of labeling of their products. This is America and we should have the knowledge and power to make informed purchasing decisions. Consumers can purchase and use whatever products they want whether it’s tobacco, liquor, fatty-processed foods, etc. Those are personal choices. When you alter the entire food supply from the inception to the final product and prevent any kind of labeling, now you have effectively eliminated the freedom to choose or not to choose a particular product. That’s wrong.


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