Brace yourselves: You’re going to see a flood of stories in news outlets major and minor today about a new U.K. study of organic food. Why? Because it found that organic food is no healthier than conventionally produced food.
Yes, I don’t like it one bit. But I can’t just waive it away either. The study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a century-old institution that won a $1 million prize from Bill Gates’ foundation earlier this year for its work in epidemiology.
The study isn’t without its flaws, however. The LSHTM did what is known in the research trade as a “literature review”. It gathered up all of the studies done on organic food over the last 50 years–some 50,000 papers in all. It examined their conclusions, and then drew its own. It did not not go back and review the data collected for each study and determine whether it had been gathered and analyzed correctly. It did not rule on whether the reviewing criteria were correct. There are already many critics of its approach and methodology, as you can see in this article from the Guardian of London.
The researchers seem in a way to have understood all this and they left a wide opening for future research. Alan Dangour, one of the report’s authors, had this to say:
Research in this area would benefit from greater scientific rigour and a better understanding of the various factors that determine the nutrient content of foodstuffs.
In the meantime, I’m not changing my shopping.