Bad news for the hippies, organic food isn’t more nutritious


Hippies love paying more for their “organic” food.

Apparently because it is more nutritious.

Well that myth can now be busted, it isn’t, leaving the hippies in a cloud of smug with just the extra cost and none of the benefits. Awww.

Of all the food-related countercultural buzzwords that have gone mainstream in recent years, organic ranks among the most confusing. Like its cousins (cf. local, free-range, or worst of all, natural), the term’s promotion by grocery stores everywhere has caused it to escape the strict definitions laid out by the USDA . But from Stanford University comes new research suggesting what we should have known all along: organic food isn’t actually more nutritious than traditionally-farmed goods. 

In a widely publicized and discussed analysis of more than 200 studies comparing organic to regular food products, researchers have found that organics don’t have more vitamins or minerals (with the lone exception of phosphorus, which we all get in sufficient amounts anyway). Nor do they have an appreciable effect when it comes to heading off food-borne illness, although the germs found in conventional meat do have a higher chance of being drug-resistant (more on that in a bit).

That we needed a study to understand how nutritionally similar organic foods are to non-organics is a perfect example of the way we’ve lost sight of what the term really means. It’s worth keeping in mind that organic refers only to a particular method of production; while switching to organic foods can be good for you insofar as doing so helps you avoid nasty things like chemicals and additives, there’s nothing in the organic foods themselves that gives them an inherent nutritional advantage over non-organics. In other words, it’s not wrong to say organic food is “healthier” than non-organics. It’s just unrealistic to think that your organic diet is slowly turning you into Clark Kent.

(You laugh, but according to a Nielsen study cited by USA Today, a ton of people believe just that, or something close to it. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they bought organic food because they thought it was more nutritious.)

Organic is one of those words hijacked by the hippies.

It is meaningless, all food is organic…it has to be.

As yet as far as I know there is no in-organic foods known to man.

Stupid hippies.


– The Atlantic




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  • burns_well_eh

    I’m all for hippie-bashing, but I don’t believe many, if any, people buy or eat organic food due to perceived nutritional benefits. I’m sure this isn’t the first study to show that there are no statistically significant nutritional reasons for doing this.

    I think it’s more to do with the residues of pesticides and other chemical fertilisers that you get with intensively farmed foods, the taste, and the unwillingness to consume anything genetically engineered or genetically modified.

    The farmer’s market I buy most of my fruit and veges at (Tauranga – it’s one of the best in NZ IMO) has genuine local producers and the produce is generally much better, and often cheaper, than what you get at supermarkets. I don’t know if it’s nutritionally better – I highly doubt it – but it tastes fantastic.

    • Evan

      All food is “organic” by definition, as Cameron posted there is no such thing as in-organic food. Heck even oil is organic! I sometimes think being a hippy type person requires any knowledge of chemistry or physics to be avoided at all costs

      • burns_well_eh

        Evan that’s nonsense, and if you don’t know it you should. It adds nothing to your argument to use semantics, especially incorrectly. Here’s the definition for you:

        “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals.”

        Still think all food’s “organic”?

        Anyway, Cam’s a big supporter of organic food – it helps put food and Christmas presents on the table :-P

        • Canucktoo

          The point here is the term “organic” is highly misleading! All plant nutrients are chemicals – whether they come from a bag or via natural organic matter decomposition is irrelevant to the plant. If the hippies want to promote it then call it what it is – ‘pesticide free’ or whatever, not organic.

          • burns_well_eh

            No, the point is you’re choosing to deliberately misunderstand what the term organic, in relation to organic food, actually means. Just read the second-to-last paragraph in the post, or my definition above.

          • Canucktoo

            “…switching to organic foods can be good for you insofar as doing so helps you avoid nasty things like chemicals and additives …” – from the second to last para. As I said, plants can’t share the same subjective and emotional views (defer to HRH Charles ;-)) that chemicals and additives are ‘nasty’. Who decides what’s nasty and what isn’t – and nasty for whom? Without ‘chemicals’ (e.g. C, H, O, N, Zn, K, Fe, etc, etc) nothing can survive!! And just what is an ‘additive’. I use liquid seaweed on my plants because it contain gibberellins – that’s an ‘additive’!! Superphosphate out of a bag is the same principle – they’re all ‘chemicals’ and the plant will thank you for either!! The use of language like ‘nasty chemicals and additives’ does nothing for the ‘organic brigade’s’ credibility IMHO.

          • burns_well_eh

            I take your point about defining what’s “nasty” but to be fair it wasn’t the organic brigade that mentioned that; it was the author of the article supposedly debunking the merits or organic food. He was also the one that drew a distinction between organic and “regular food” with no definition of either.

            In my view the “nastiness” if any, is related more to the use of chemical pesticides rather than fertilisers, though like you I prefer liquid seaweed and other “organic” fertilisers. I’m uncomfortable with companies such as Monsanto using GE and GM techniques to make food crops resistant to pesticides that will kill pests.

        • Popliteal

          This isn’t just semantics. Why should we tolerate the nutter brigade taking over a precise term and redefining it for their own purposes?

          Yes, “organic” is now used also to refer to food produced in a particular manner, but it when used as such it incorporates a semi-mystical dimension that is pure marketing rubbish aimed firmly at the “I believe in the environment” brigade.

          • burns_well_eh

            So to use your own words, I guess you’re in the “I don’t believe in the environment” brigade.

            That’s interesting, because I’m pretty sure there’s an environment, and you’re living in it. It must be very disconcerting living in something you don’t believe exists. Are you the Brigade Captain?

          • Popliteal

            My point, which I thought was sufficiently clear as not to need labouring, is that the environment isn’t something you believe in. It’s there, the biosphere is part of it, it’s a fact.

            There is no leap of faith involved in accepting its existence or importance.

            I rest my case regarding the mental capabilities of those environmentalists who function on faith, not fact.

        • Evan

          It’s not nonsense unless you think the (insert favourite tome here) dictionary definition is nonsense. “Organic” is the correct word used to categorise all carbon based life forms whether living or dead.
          Organic, in the sense of pesticide free farming, is about as accurate as Gay is to describe homosexuality – both commonly used and accepted colloquial terms but still nonsense to the correct meaning of the words to use your own phraseology.

          • burns_well_eh

            There’s more than one definition for some words, Evan. Both definitions, all of which are present in (insert favourite dictionary here). I don’t know why you think it’s nonsense to use the term organic as it relates to the production of some food. The term has been around for decades.

        • SovereignSoul

          I pay too much for vegetables. I want to avoid the chemicals as best I can, I am willing to pay more for some small health benefit which may make a difference down the line. I dont imagine I am going to become Clark Kent, I believe I am taking some of the stress out of my system because god knows in this day and age we have stress in abundance. I am referring to Wifi Air Quality living costs etc… I dont agree that we are getting healthier I think we are getting good at delaying the inevitable artificially which will lead to long term degeneration of our species :).

  • LabTested

    In nz i buy free range eggs. But in Europe i can’t get them. You can’t even get free range milk. The cows are kept inside in stalls & the food is brought to them. So there is no point in worrying about organic when you start your day with coffee & milk produced in Stalig 17.

  • BR

    “Organic” is the same scam as that so-called “fair trade” nonsense.



  • Justsayn

    Organic food makes me happier.

    Organic food ought to be available in stores alongside the more traditionally grown produce. Rich hippies can pay more for food if they want. That makes me feel good when I buy the better priced, traditionally grown stuff. I feel like I’m getting a bargain. My happiness is enhanced by that.

    BTW: my veggie patch at home is 100% organic – I’m far too lazy to spray it with anything.

  • T. Akston

    I love organic food. It makes me laugh.

    • Kevin

      I remember that episode especially the “essence of banana” banana that was in fact exactly the same as the “tasty organic” one.

  • CheesyEarWax

    TV celebrity chefs are the biggest con artists, and hippycrites, when it comes to organic food. Not only they claim it to be healthier and tastier, but insists on locally grown food. Of course they wouldn’t tell you where they got the Russian caviar, or the truffle fungi, from locally for their restaurant menu.

  • Killed a lamb the other day and for Christmas lunch we are having a lamb roast with rosemary and garlic, spuds and greens all sourced from our own garden. I guess it is all inorganic food because the lamb was drenched (well Mum was anyway) and we use round-up and other evil chemicals around our garden. Will still taste bloody good though :)

  • The main difference between “store brought” and “from the garden” produce is definitely taste… and also the nutritional content, as the nutrients start breaking down the longer it’s been since ground to table…

    Yep – don’t know what all the fuss is about either and especially with Oil also. It’s completely natural and organic, so what’s the big deal about it?

    • The reason the ‘from the garden’ tastes better is that you pick it and eat it pretty much straight away. Veges are sweeter and richer in flavour when they are cooked within an hour or so of being cut/picked.

      • andrew carrot

        I produce less than 0.1% of the natural products I enjoy. I can’t grow bananas, kiwifruit, coffee or sugar cane. Hops are also out of the question. Slightly off subject, bananas harbour mild amounts of radioactive material! Bet the greenies didn’t know that! I also bet there won’t be a flotilla of little protest boats out in the Hauraki Gulf attempting to halt the next Dole boat when it arrives from the Phillipines.

    • taurangaruru

      Tomatoes – case in point, bet you can easily identify those grown in the garden as opposed to those grown in a factory glass house. The taste is obvious & when you cut them in half you can almost always identify the difference. If you have ever been inside one of those glasshouses & seen how tomatoes are grown it is obvious why there is a difference.
      The consume is being short changed in terms of quality.

    • So from an engineers perspective, the solution to this would be a faster distribution system. Maybe a washing and packaging plants on the back of the truck picking up from the farm. So that the Truck goes straight from the farm gate to the supermarket.

      • Or, everyone just grow their own…

        • One of the longest running trends in western economies has been the steady reduction of the number of people involved in the production of food(its been going on since the time of the black death). We have got extremely good at producing food for more and more people using less and less people to do so. Its freed up people to do all the modern marvelous things we do now, so changing that trend is not something that will be either easy or even desirable.

      • kehua

        Leder Brand do this with lettuce and broccoli, it must be cost effective but results in a hell of alot of waste. Refererring back to your earlier Post and my reply , I liked the pun but am still at a loss to the comment re Maori, there would be bugger all spent on Maori `things` in comparison to just about any other subject in most schools it is an elective subject.

    • Second time around

      Most of the nutrients remain even when the food is quite degraded- that’s what pickling of vegetables and drying of fish is for. Vitamin C tends to degrade after harvest fairly rapidly, but overall if fruit looks firm and fresh, or has been snap frozen like peas, it probably has almost all the nutrient content it had in the field.

  • MrBarrington

    ‘Organic’ sounds friendlier, but it may be worse for you… most high volume processed foods need to meet strict quality and hygiene controls but your local ‘organic’ food sold at the local farmers market doesn’t need to meet any of those standards…

    its like all the cafe’s offering ‘home made’ cakes etc etc… what a load of tosh….

  • Wheninrome

    The local farmers market is a much more social environment that the supermarket where everyone seems in such a rush, that is the value of “organic food” or “locally grown food” to me I have time to talk and meet other locals, together with it probably being fresher than the overnight delivery to the supermarket, just maybe.
    A funny aside my sister ran an organically grown herb nursery (certified organic), sold at farmers markets, people would buy the herb seedlings and probably race home and put in their ordinary spray, normal soil gardens, so at that point no longer “organic”.

  • Organic food is what our grandparents and great grandparents farmed. It works great with a population of 2 Billion worldwide and a life expectancy of 55-65 years. With a population of 7 Billion and the same amount of land and a life expectancy of 80, we need to be smarter and use the tools of the 20th & 21st century.

    • Second time around

      My grandfather used lead arsenate sprays to keep the insects off the apples. It’s not organic and the lead and arsenic residues last in the soil for generations before they wash off into the ground water. The newer pest control measures are a lot better, often avoiding chemicals altogether. By the way, spoit food can be dangerous, for example ergot poisoning from wheat moulds.

    • Coffee Connoisseur

      smarter would be sustainable built highrises for verticle farming with a fully automated hydroponics system. But Capitalism is never going to deliver that at an affordable price.

      • If its not affordable its not the smart answer. But having said that, they said the same thing about green buildings and there are a number of buildings and building projects now that are very very close to positive energy nett production worldwide. So I give it 20 years and you will see early vertical farms. Automation/robotics is also in serious trials now for more conventional farms

        • kehua

          They will never `engineer`, stocksense, probably the most evident flaw in farming today.

          • Probably true, but you can educate it. It would be a far better use of our schools limited educational resources than Maori, and will provide the kids the knowledge that they need to know more about it when they enter their field.

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          no Damian it is simply one of the many failures of Capitalism.

          • Until a better system is developed, we have to work with Capatalism. Personally I have given a lot of thought to the matter and I can’t conceive of anything better, all alternatives have major flaws far worse than Capatalisms. Now whether that means I’m stuck in a mindset of the moment of not is irrelevant, there are plenty of smarter people than me with a lot more education in the feild who also can’t yet devise a good alternative.

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            A better system has been developed. it is most commonly referred to as a Resource Based Economy. its use for mankind is even be backed up by structured systems analysis, But we are only now reaching the levels of automation to make it a seriously viable option.

            The difficulty is in how to transition from where we are today under Capitalism to a Resource Based Economy model.

          • I had never heard of that system before, but the more i read of it, the more convinced i am its a re branded Communism, which in itself is not a bad system, but is very very difficult to get to true communism without easily corruptible intermediate steps, and its implementation will be a marketing nightmare (if not civil war). RBE also has the same weaknesses in terms of flexibility to changing requirements, speed of innovation in anything except government projects (read military), political interference in sourcing/distribution of resources(Corruption), lack of competition to make sure your product/services really are the best they can be & no price signals to control resource utilization.

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            Systems for Mankind to live by will always have a certain amount of overlap but that doesn’t mean they are the same.

            By way of example both Capitalism and Communism through their implementations both come with a monetary system and large centralized government. RBE has a much more decentralized govt with a small centralized one (mainly for essential services).

            The Free Dictionary of Communism is as follows: A theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.
            Under RBE The concept of ownership is not required to the extent that it is used under either Communism (owned by all) Capitalism (owned at an individual level. RBE instead has the concept of usership and essentially the right of usership by an individual. It promotes the same sort of freedom that is possible undercapitalism but uses better management of resources to achieve this outcome.
            Under Capitalism Labour is for individual reward.
            Under Communism Labour is for the good of the state.
            Under RBE one of the goals of the system is to use technological solutions/automation to enable human labour to no longer be required.
            One of the concepts behind it is that moving to such a model would allow society to advance at an almost exponential rate as advancements are not constrained by money or a lack of it. This is also because people would have more time freed up under RBE to do the activities that they are passionate about.
            If we were to move to RBE then 60% of the roles in society could be automated or simply no longer needed. People might only need to work 2-3 days per week and over time as more and more activities were automated this figure would reduce even more.
            Its based largely on putting in place systems that enable Maslow’s Hierarchy and sets out to create an environment where people can have these needs and wants met for everyone.
            Compare this to Capitalism which doesn’t even get off the bottom level of Maslow’s for more than half of the worlds population.
            A simple example of the difference between the three systems using the common every day resource of firewood used for heating.
            Under Capitalism someone gathers all of the wood and sells it to everyone else.
            Under Communism everyone gets an equal share of the wood.
            Under RBE a technological solution is implemented to provide efficient heating for all homes

          • Still sounds like the word Government in Communism has been replaced by technology under RBE(who programs the computer to ensure “efficient” distribution) and Labour under Communism with Resources under RBE. Under your example of the firewood, what if I wanted the firewood for the ambience rather than a technologically supplied “heat”. Sorry, its rebranded communism for the 21st century.

            Besides which, what i’m passionate about is running my little shop to the best of my ability and testing my skill at sales and management, how does that work under RBE? Give people an excuse to sit on their a**e all day while “technology” does everything for them and people will sit on their a**e and do nothing all day. Thats not a recipe for human advancement, thats a recipe for a nightmare.

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            then you would be allowed firewood. RBE enables the needs and wants of the individual based on Maslow’s Hierarchy. I too prefer a log fire for the ambience. It was simply an example to help illustrate key differences.

            Who programs the computer to ensure efficient distribution? This too can be largely automated and the technology for this already exists in supermarkets right here in NZ.

            “what i’m passionate about is running my little shop to the best of my ability and testing my skill at sales and management” Not sure, it is an interesting one. If you could no longer run your shop or simply didn’t need to and you could do anything you want, are there other things you are passionate about and would want to do?

            “Government in Communism has been replaced by technology under RBE”
            As has Government under Capitalism, as has the need for a monetary system.
            As has the concept of ownership under both Capitalism and Communism.
            Consider that there are many key differences between Capitalism and Communism and many more similarities had you only known one system but not the other you could easily draw the same conclusion between the two as you have with RBE and Communism.
            Under RBE in many ways you have far more freedom than you could ever hope to achieve under either Communism or Capitalism.

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          Its not a smart answer if thought patterns are constrained within a particular system. Free energy is a fantastic idea but it would collapse economies all around the world if it became reality.

          • Free energy would be an absolutely amazing idea, and a brilliant example of why your not going to get a change of system. Even if a device was developed to create “free” energy and it was setup as distributed generation (ie generated at point of use, 1 in each home, business and vehicle) you would still have the huge market for the companies that build the devices. If your not going to get a return through sales of fuel, in order to get the return on the plant and materials needed to get the plant built and the materials sourced, the price will be very high.

      • Whitey

        If the market can’t deliver it at an affordable price then it is not viable and, I would say, not all that smart.

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          Yes and that would be the conclusion to draw if one cannot think beyond the boundaries of the current system. At one point people couldn’t think past feudalism.

          • Whitey

            So what system do you suggest?

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            Resource Based Economy
            Highly automated with the goal of actively automating roles and freeing people from having to work.

          • Whitey

            Now that is a really interesting economic model.

  • timemagazine

    Ooooo, boo-hoo-hoo

  • Backdoor

    Ahhh…but you overlook “switching to organic foods can be good for you insofar as doing so helps you avoid nasty things like chemicals and additives.” That is a good reason to pay more for non-gm organic foods.

    When reading the results of research one has to consider the big picture. While the food content may be the same, it is the add-ons that cause the problem.

    • ex-JAFA

      How do these “add-ons” cause a problem if they’re not part of the food? If they’re not consumed, how do they do us harm?

      • Backdoor

        Things like glyphosate enter into the plant and are part of the plant tissue. However, they do not change the nutritional value they can cause harm when ingested. I would prefer not to eat weedkiller with my carrots.

  • Michael

    Organics is not pesticide free. All edible plants have natural pesticides, some more than others. It’s just some plants are more toxic than others (like some varieties of funghi are toxic enough they cause illness). All you are paying for with organic food is the “ethical” use of land.

    Of course, ethical is a variable, I don’t see using industrial technology to create large amounts of cheap vegetables as a problem. But I buy barn eggs and free range chicken as I believe we should treat animals humanely even though we are keeping tgem for slaughter.

    • Backdoor

      While organics does not mea pesticide free, at least they are free from man made chemicals that have their origins in the petrochemical industry.

      It is the natural occurring ‘pesticides’ that hold benefit for human health.

      • Evan

        The “Petrochemical Industry” uses oil as a base item which is an organic resource… Don’t let fact get in the way of hyperbole.

        • Backdoor

          But is it natural to drink oil and oil products?

  • JC

    The one food that really is different to the supermarket is home grown eggs. Our family always had chooks and there’s nothing like a rich orange yolk compared to the beige things at the shop. Yes, I buy free range eggs but I reckon there’s plenty of those that are frauds as well.. the colour’s not right sometimes.


    • 1951

      If you break open an ‘organic’ egg and a proper ‘free range’ egg it is the free range that is the richer. I do however prefer organic spuds as opposed to those from the leached soil of Pukekohe.

    • Doc45

      I drive past a free range poultry farm regularly and I wouldn’t eat an egg from there if you paid me. When its raining and cold they are standing in slurry and look like something the cat brought in on a stormy night. When its fine its hard mud, no grass, no shade, just a desert. Give me a chook in a warm shed snuggled up with her mates.

  • Actually salt is an inorganic essential food …

    • Evan

      Food is a common source of vitamins and minerals but not the only source, salt is a mineral not a food.

  • Coffee Connoisseur

    I buy organic food for the same reason I buy free range. Because I want my $$$ to go towards supporting businesses that raise poultry, stock or grow vegetables in the way I want to eat them. Without hormones or pesticides etc.

  • Adam

    What irks me about this generation of obnoxious hipsters that denounce modern agricultural methods is that they will be against de-forestation at the same. Organic methods take up to 20 times more land mass to achieve similar crop yields. These are irreconsilable differences, you cannot have it both ways. Anyone that objects to the decimation of our rainforests should logically oppose organic agriculture, especially in the developing world.

    • Coffee Connoisseur

      Organic methods take up to 20 times more land mass to achieve similar crop yields.
      got some evidence to back this up?
      Permaculture or food foresting is thought to have 3 to 10 times the potential yield of modern intensive farming.

  • Tom

    Next you’ll be saying free range chicken is better than the cheaper battery chickens. lol

  • kehua

    The word Organic may well be meaningless but the sentiment around it`s everyday use has been compounded by………… yep the Streisland effect. So-called `organic` food producers have over the last 15 years put immense pressure on left/green Councillors and Councils to virtually eliminate the spraying of berms and road verges through out the top half of the North Island ( this may well be the case in other areas as well ). The advent of tractors mowing these roadside areas for the last 15 years has seen the very efffective spreading of noxious weeds particularlystarweed, carrotweed, onoinweed and camomile daisy and of course kikuyu. The spread of many of these seeds has been helped by road metal also being quarried in highly weed infested areas and being distributed by road building and eartrhmoving equipment. So herein lies the debacle, with the exception of kikuyu all of these undesirable weeds which grow and seed profusely would under a spraying regime never get the opportunity to seed, now however they not only produce seed heads but the mower just keeps on spreading the seeds in a very efficient way, thus they will grow and produce wind-bourne seeds , the evidence is there
    for anyone travelling in the Waikato- Auckland -North Auckland rural areas, acres of white topped or flowering weeds covering whole paddocks . Nett result thousands of litres of weed spray is being used to control private grazing land and hold these weeds at bay also spray undoughtedley being drifted in wind and carried by groundwater onto some of these socalled organic farms. The financal burden of course once again being foisted on the genuine farming community.