Monday, February 22, 2010

Is Organic Safer?

A recent review of current research says that organic meat and dairy products aren't demonstrably safer than conventional alternatives. Coverage of this, here.

This doesn't necessarily surprise me. Most organic poultry, swine, and dairy production isn't all that different from conventional production in a lot of ways. I would be much more interested in a comprehensive study asking whether management-intensive small scale production is actually safer, as we are so often told (I think Omnivore's Dilemma makes this argument). For this reason, I hope that they revisit the question for dairy after the new organic pasture rules go into effect this summer, which will require organic dairy cattle to be pastured for most of the time.

The arguments for organic are many and varied, but it's always good to remember that it isn't a cure-all for food safety. I think most American consumers are misinformed about what the organic seal actually means, and what exactly they're paying for. I buy organic for a variety of reasons, but not because I think it is all that much safer, and not because I think it is any more nutritious. For safer and more nutritious food, I go to the farmers' market.

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