PERSPECTIVE: Study on organic foods raises health questions

By Beth Byrd

Not all food is created equal, despite a recent Stanford University study that may try to convince people otherwise.

On Sept. 3, Stanford published a study that discredited the nutritional benefits of organically grown food.

The study’s information was not presented clearly, using generalizations such as researchers reading through “thousands of papers” for information and making “tons of analyses” to come to a conclusion.

What Stanford researchers did clearly communicate was that they believe the potential risks associated with conventionally grown food are not significant enough to spend the extra money on organic items.

Outcries across media platforms have criticized this study for many reasons.

For a moment, ignore the fact that Stanford received funding for this research from Cargill, a large conventional food company that would obviously benefit from the results of this study.

Instead, consider what is at stake when people are faced with the decision to eat organic or eat conventional. Deciding which foods to consume has a deeper impact than many people may imagine.

In a Sept. 26 article published in the Huffington Post, Karen Levy, assistant professor of environmental health at Emory University, said that exposure to chemicals used on conventional food can result in a plethora of health problems.

Cancer, learning disabilities, birth defects and a lower IQ are just a few of the problems that can occur.

Chemicals may only be applied to the food, but Levy also pointed out that these chemicals used in agriculture end up not just in food but in the air, water and the ground.

She added that people who live close to farmland are more often exposed to these chemicals.

Keep in mind Farm Bureau officials estimate that Tennessee alone has almost 11 million acres of farmland, which means Jackson residents could easily be at a greater risk for pesticide-driven health problems.

Even organic food cannot be completely free of chemicals, Levy said, because the ecosystem already is polluted. But eating organic certainly reduces the amount of toxins ingested rather than when people choose to consume anything that has been covered with chemicals to keep pests from ravaging crops or has been injected with hormones to make livestock bulkier.

Given, organic food is more expensive. I realize most readers are college students, which means you probably have bought a meal plan and will not be able to use all of those swipes, even if you wanted to.

It also means you probably do not have a lot of extra money to spend on expensive groceries. As a full-time student, currently unemployed, I understand your situation.

But based on the information about the dangers of ingesting pesticides, I also understand the need to reduce exposure to these chemicals.

A practical way to begin eating healthier is to throw away or avoid food items that hold little nutritional value and that are filled with artificial, chemical-laden ingredients. Yes, I am talking about the chips, sodas and cookies that we all like to stash in our rooms for late-night study sessions. You will save money and stay healthier by avoiding them.

Then, visit the Environmental Working Group’s website at to view its Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists, which help consumers decide which fruits and vegetables are contaminated with the least (and greatest!) amount of pesticides during the conventional growing process.

Even if you cannot afford to keep your own stash of organic fruit and vegetables in your room, you will be better equipped to select food in the cafeteria with the least amount of exposure to pesticides.

Stanford may have been right about one thing – switching to organic food can be expensive and troublesome. But you decide. Is your life, and the health of the ecosystem, worth it?

About Cardinal & Cream 1011 Articles
The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.