GET THIS: Organic food is much less likely to retain traces of pesticides, according to a Stanford study. EVEN BETTER: Organic chicken and pork are “less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” the New York Times reports, citing the same study. Those facts would’ve made interesting headlines, right? But those weren’t the headlines.
The lead headline on almost every major story was “Organics No Healthier Than Conventional Food.” Sure, most of these stories are well written and address the myriad complexities of the Stanford study. But the headline writers all went hook line and sinker for the assertion that BIG FOOD wants you to hear: Organics aren’t healthier.
To that we say: SO WHAT. As “Omnivore’s Dilemma” author Michael Pollan tweets, “nutrition has never been [an important] case” for organic food.
And to be fair: It’s worth noting the pesticide levels of all foods were found to be within reasonable limits, according to the study, and Stanford said the clinical significance of contamination by antibiotic resistant bacteria was “unclear” — some will argue those caveats are why the headlines read the way they do, and that’s why a purely pesticide or purely antibiotic headline would’ve been misleading as well.
But here’s the thing: Many of us who pay more for organic or free range meats and vegetables don’t actually expect something healthier. And we don’t pay more for fewer pesticides or to reduce our exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
We pay more for organic or free range products because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We want to support the farmers and growers who treat their animals, their crops and mother nature’s land with respect and dignity. And even though “organics” and “free range” have become part of BIG FOOD, we believe that it’s a better way of doing things.
Yes, there’s good journalism happening here. No, headlines don’t necessarily have to tell the full story, but they should never tell a misleading story.
And so it goes that many of these headlines, especially in aggregate, paint a somewhat skewed picture about organics, even if those headline are technically accurate and faithful to the study. Props to CBS News, CNN and The Los Angeles Times for putting out heads that are a little less black or white.