30 July, 2009

Organic Food Is Crap

There has to be something to be taken from this article.  What exactly that something is, though, I couldn't tell you.  It seems to be what one famous surgeon delights in calling "woo," though.  It's a study commissioned to establish some results about organic food.

The result is that "organic food is no better than factory-farm-grown."  The British Food Standards Agency has made a "ruling" to that effect, based on this research.  That is heavy-handed and smacks of bulldozing.  A little.  But let's check a bit deeper, there might be something in this after all.

The study is of course conducted by the very best organisation to do it, a body whose skills in nutritional studies, knowledge of industrial toxins, and skill with biochemistry is unrivalled in the world today, it's the...  hold on, what the hell?  - the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.   What. The. Fuck.

Horses for courses people, and if scientists were horses and the field of nutrition was the trots, that school would be the one circling the glue factory with sleds made of house bricks.  Scientists are the ones always insisting on the right qualifications, and a school of hygiene is not a school of nutrition specialists no matter how you try and spin doctor it.

So what resources are they drawing on?  Oh good, they have the "analysis of 50 years of research into organic food" to draw on.  Which were apparently done at a rate of a thousand studies a year, because the article states that number a bit further on, 50,000 studies were analysed according to the reporter.  Uh, hang on.  BBBZZZZZZZTTTTTT!!!!  Nope, sorry.  Scratch that. Bad reporter, writing things the wrong way and creating a false impression. 

The unqualified researchers didn't actually analyse 50,000 study results, they carefully selected 55 - yes, a whole 55 - of those study results.  The rest apparently "didn't meet the researchers' criteria" whatever that means.  Oh yes, that's a way of saying "the rest didn't demonstrate what we were setting out to demonstrate..."

So.  A body that is not really all that qualified to conduct a nutrition study, carefully selects 0.1% of results out of 50 years of nutritional research, and presents its "findings" to the FSA on the basis of those.

I find it soooo helpful to turn this around, because it will help you to focus on what's relevant here - it's not that they carefully researched 0.1% of all the food studies done in the UK in 50 years, it's more a case of that their findings aren't fully supported by 99.9% of the studies done over fifty years...

And okay - I know that it's not actually unsupported by 99.9% of studies, but even if the study results were completely random, you'd expect that 50% would be favourable and 50% unfavourable.  To only find one tenth of one percent of study results to be suitable for your research indicates a very narrow focus of the research, and possibly a very specific guideline to preselect for the results you want to have come out of it.

Look.  I'm not going to research the researchers, or how they researched, or what their criteria were.  I can only say that it not only appears to be a carefully crafted study and result, but also that it flies in the face of everything that we know as commonsense.  A food produced naturally is natural, and is nutritively what our bodies have evolved to digest.  A food produced with the aid of chemical and physical processes will not be natural, and who knows - especially not a school of hygienists - how well tolerated it will be by our bodies?  There are thousands of ways to hook together carbon hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and just counting them as "nutrients" is not good enough.  After all, hook them together one way and you get oil, another way and you get alcohol.  VERY different effects on our bodies...

Our scientists are always asking us to beware of bullshit, and keep in mind that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true.  Unless it's their bullshit, and they're the ones saying that you can take their shortcuts and still come out with a miraculously indistinguishable product at the end of it.

And let me ask you, if it came down to it, does it change your buying habits?  Not mine.  I will always prefer food I've grown myself or food I've seen grown locally and without much processing, to what's on the shelves in the local supermarkets.  I'll always prefer free range and barn eggs and chickens to chicken factory product, and in fact I prefer my own chickens and their eggs to either of those.

Having just finished watching several nights of news articles about food processors cheating and defrauding us by adding water and bulking agents, cosmetically altering foods with various chemicals to make them more appealing when they're past their storage date, ripping off growers by storing foods for sometimes years, and underweighing, overpricing, and price fixing, I can safely say that I feel better about giving double the money to an organic grower and receiving honest produce than I would if I was saving half that amount but getting months-old food from a multinational giant corporation that's probably about 5% responsible for the global weather crisis due to their disregard for anything except profit.

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