A new study has ripped the veil off of organic food, revealing that it's nothing more than marked-up regular food, only without all the delicious pesticides and growth hormones. Researchers at Stanford University scrutinized more than 200 separate studies about the content of and the health benefits conferred by eating organic foods vs. ordinary foods, discovering that eating organic food probably doesn't make anyone healthier (though organic foods do contain about 30 percent less pesticides and imbue their consumers with an immensely satisfying sense of self-righteousness).
If the obligatory new-scientific-study "probably" is nagging you a little bit, it's because, despite combing through a large amount of data, researchers working on this latest survey still don't really know if they've found any conclusive evidence about the health benefits of going organic. Most of the studies researchers looked at, critics argue, are inconclusive, since none of them ran longer than two years and so couldn't assess long-term health benefits. Moreover, few of these studies took into account variables such as weather, soil composition and differences in fertilizer, which researchers noted could explain the higher levels of nitrogen found in organic foods.
The compendious new research, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at 17 studies that compared people who ate organic vs. people who ate conventional, as well as 223 studies that compared the levels of nutrients, bacteria, fungus and pesticides in food pyramid bricks such as grains, meat, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables. The most conclusive finding was that organic milk might contain a touch more omega-3, but omega-3 is really the least exciting of all the omegas and nobody seemed too impressed.
Researchers also made sure to note that there are plenty of reasons besides health — moral turpitude, animal welfare, environmental awareness — that people play organic produce Jenga with the hothouse tomato pyramid in Whole Foods. If organic food completely replaces conventional foods, however, pesticide-flavored condiments — for the salad enthusiast whose taste buds need reassurance that no insect even thought about landing on her produce — could become the fastest-growing nostalgia-food arm of the Heinz empire.