A mother-forker’s view on organic research

1 Oct

Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You on NPR raised a lot of questions among listeners and here’s my 2 cents.

From NPR.

I became mother-forker since I put first spoonful of solid food in my son’s mouth (hey, you have to admit that ‘mother-forker’ will attract a lot more eyeballs than ‘mother-spooner’). I started to buy food, as organic as I could. Actually, before that—-when I first found out I was pregnant. The only reason that I didn’t ‘convert’ 100% to organic food was only because of the availability, thanks to the small college towns I’ve been living in.

I don’t give a whole lot cr** (credential or others) about research on whether organic food is healthier for you.

No. 1—-research done on human being  could barely be considered as ‘scientific (at least not enough) research’, compared to plant research. I have a PhD in plant sciences. When we conducted different treatments on plants, we normally require at least 5 replication of each data point. If we want to see effect of organic treatments (e.g. conventional and organic I, II, and III), we’ll have at least 4*5=20 plants. In plant research, we have the luxury of using identical clonal plants, from tissue culture. At the end of the treatments, we have the luxury of ‘harvesting’ (killing) the plants, dry them, and ground them before putting them through various machines to look ‘inside’ of a plant, anywhere we want.

Was any of the human research conducted on 20 identical twins? Think about the difference between you and your brother/sister—-could you really draw something as conclusive from that? Was any of the experimental object ‘harvested’ to measure the outcome (forgiving me saying this)? Yeah, I guess blood was drawn (or something more invasive) during human research, but probably not to the extent as in plant research where we could harvest every organ and the whole thing to get the full picture.

No. 2—-as a scientist, we should always be aware of our own limitation—–not being able to find organic food is healthier is different from finding that organic food is not healthier. The same is true about pesticides/drugs/etc.—- not being able to find pesticides/drugs/etc . is dangerous to human and environment is different from finding that pesticides/drugs/etc. is NOT dangerous. How many times has EPA cancelled certain pesticides  or has FDA revoked its approval of certain drugs ?

Do I really need to continue? Or right, we haven’t even touched the environmental issues yet.


2 Responses to “A mother-forker’s view on organic research”

  1. gvreader October 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    Excerpt from kqed.org blogged conversation with Michael Pollan, author of ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’: (read full post here: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2012/09/04/michael-pollan-organic-study/ ):

    “JON BROOKS: So is this meta-study a big deal?

    MICHAEL POLLAN: I’m not sure it’s a big deal. The media’s playing it as if there were something new here, but this is not new research, it’s a meta-study [a review of previously conducted research], and I’ve seen the exact same data analyzed in a very different direction. A lot of it depends on how you manage your assumptions and statistical method.

    I think we’re kind of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down, the straw man being that the whole point of organic food is that it’s more nutritious. The whole point of organic food is that it’s more environmentally sustainable. That’s the stronger and easier case to make.

    It’s true the body of research around nutrition is really equivocal, and we need to do more studies on that. But the success of organic doesn’t stand or fall on that question. This study disputes how significant the differences in antioxidant and nutrient levels are between organic and conventional food. But that’s not central to the discussion of why organic is important, which has a lot more to do with how the soil is managed and the exposure to pesticides, not just in the eater’s diet but to the farmworker. “


  1. A 2nd mother-forker’s view on organic research « greenviion - October 5, 2012

    […] left a comment on my Oct. 1 post that made me think, any other pitfalls in any organic research including the one featured on NPR. […]

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