Stanford Study Measures Off – We’ll Stick with Organics to avoid Chemicals that Contribute to Breast Cancer!

On Tuesday, Sept. 4, the headlines screamed, “Study Sticks Fork in Organic Claim” and “Organic food no more nutritious than non-organic.” By today, it’s “Organics Study Partial Story” and “Why the Stanford University organic food study missed the mark.”

The controversial meta-analysis of academic research that is being referred to as the “Stanford Study” published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that there is little nutritional difference and only 30% lower pesticide risk from organically grown products. In addition, they suggest antibiotic-resistant bacteria is only 33% more likely to be found in conventionally -raised chicken and pork, even though the industry uses eight times more than humans use, just to keep animals from getting sick.

When I first read this, the most obvious question came to mind: if organic agriculture is not allowed to use any synthetic pesticides or antibiotics in meat, how is it possible there can only be ~30% difference between organic and conventional products? Thankfully, there is one extremely intelligent and prophetic expert I look to for clarification, and not surprisingly, he had a 12 page response written within the first couple of days.

Dr. Charles Benbrook from Washington State University explains clearly that the metrics used were unusual and unfamiliar. The most often expressed measure would indicate, “an overall reduction in frequency of residues in organic food is 81%.” Now we’re talking. His own study using USDA’s Pesticide Data Program on six important fruits (strawberries, apples, grapes, blueberries, pears and peaches) showed a 94% reduction in health risk under organic production.

That makes sense. We know many of the pesticides used can actually arrive on organic fields via air and water, but the 81% difference allows for that drift, and 30% just didn’t make sense.

When it comes to meat, the same rule applies; the usual measure shows the relative “risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was actually about 300% higher in conventional meats compared to organic meats.” Dr. Benbrook’s response can be found here:

Nutritional differences have been questioned for years – I included one meta-analysis study in my own Eco-Foods Guide ten years ago! Today, I am more concerned with the presence of chemicals than an increase in nutritional value when I buy organically-grown food. It is how it is grown that is my concern. It is the chemicals that contribute breast cancer we are most worried about at Protect Our Breasts.

When I had my own diagnosis two plus years ago now (two clean mammograms since – phew!), it was May 2010 and the Bush-appointed President’s Cancer Panel had just released their report found here The two paragraphs that told me organic foods are a must in my grocery cart were the following:

“The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals… Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine- disrupting properties. Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contain nearly 900 active ingredients, many of which are toxic. Many of the solvents, fillers, and other chemicals listed as inert ingredients on pesticide labels also are toxic, but are not required to be tested for their potential to cause chronic diseases such as cancer.” iii-iv

Their recommendations included the following:

“Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers….Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications…”111

When it comes to protecting ourselves from the endocrine disruptors and carcinogens that contribute to breast cancer, it is nice to know there are choices we can make to reduce the risk. Thankfully, they are easily recognized in the grocery store as ORGANIC!

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