Food For Thought

When It Comes To Buying Organic, Science And Beliefs Don't Always Mesh

We heard from a lot of you — and we mean a lot of you — about our recent report on the Stanford School of Medicine analysis of several studies on the health effects of organic foods.

The upshot of the Stanford review, as we reported, was that the scientists found very little evidence of health benefits. As we explained, the limitation of the review is that many of the studies included were narrowly targeted and that they didn't last longer than a couple of years. Basically, more studies are needed to determine whether there are measurable health benefits from eating organically grown food.

But many of you wrote in to us and to Morning Edition to let us know you weren't happy with the study or our coverage of it. What about environmental benefits? you asked. How could pesticide residues on conventionally grown food not be bad for us? What about genetically modified food? And, aren't you just shilling for the big food companies?

Listen to the radio piece this morning as correspondent Allison Aubrey addresses some of those questions, and our brain & behavior science correspondent, Shankar Vendantam, provides some possible explanations for why people react so strongly when it comes to questions raised about organic food. Hint: There are a variety of motivations for buying organic, many of which have to do with personal values and perceptions, rather than scientific reasons, Vendantam explains.

Rest assured, this isn't the last word on organics, either from us or from science.

Correction Sept. 7, 2012

In the audio version of this report, a listener comment about organic food production and pesticides is mistakenly attributed to Will Zander of Glen Mills, Pa. It should have been attributed to Wayne Parrott, a listener from Athens, Ga.

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