Buy Organic, But Not Because of This

My Generation

What about organic veggies? How science can be pulled out of context, misquoted and shared endlessly - and mindlessly - all across the Internet.

Published on: July 19, 2012

The other night, my friend, Katie, noticed an interesting chart shared on Facebook, so she sent it to me. As seen below, the chart was headlined "ORGANIC VS CONVENTIONAL."

So I went to check it out. It was difficult to understand exactly what it was meant to show, as you'll see below. It was shared on a business page called "Raw Promise," alongside promotions for lots of so-called health foods and health plans. From what I gather, Raw Promise is little more than a guy trying to get people to pay him for healthy eating plans.

But I digress. The chart.

As you'll see, the numbers – whatever they may mean – are wildly higher for organic produce. People loved that. They commented in droves, sharing and re-sharing this image. Raw Promise's comment: "This kinda spells out why good Clean Organic Food is more expensive." Their followers said things like…

"soil depleted, foods depleted (may be GMO) population overfed & undernourished cravings, & many illnesses thus funding Big Pharma......."

"If that doesnt wake up the uneducated, I dont know what willlll."

"When it is put into perspective like this, it really is quite staggering and then folks wonder why there is so much sickness."

Being naturally skeptical of a pseudo-scientific chart that seemed to be missing information, I did a little digging, noticed the 1995 date, then posted the following comment:

"What is this showing exactly? The amount of minerals that show up in the produce? I would be somewhat dubious, both because of the extremes and because this is a nearly 20 year old study. Much has changed in both conventional and organic agriculture technology in that time period."

No one from Raw Promise responded but my other neighbor, Wes, took it a step further. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, he saw my comment and really dug in. He pulled out the Google.

What he found: this chart was from a study done at Rutgers University in 1948.

1948.

And, it wasn't even looking at farming practices; it compared vegetables grown in high-organic matter soils (like say, Ohio) versus those grown in low-organic matter soils (say, a sandy coastal area out west). In 1948.

In fact, this study has been so widely misquoted to support higher mineral content in organic produce, Rutgers has added a page to their website explaining why it has nothing to do with modern organic agriculture or organic produce.

In my mind, this is the perfect example of everything that's wrong with our food culture. When something so half-baked can be passed along as evidence, with nary a second thought as to whether it's true, it gets passed along. And passed along. And passed along. And then, even when a handful of farmers share the truth (and the Rutgers link and explanation), folks continued to comment in the same vein as before. It's as if people don't really want to read and think critically. At that point, you would think "Raw Promise" would have pulled the graphic and maybe even have apologized for sharing something that had nothing to do with what they thought. But they haven't. I don’t know what to make of that, other than they clearly are not truly interested in helping their followers be healthy.

Consumers have to learn to question. We have to stop jumping on a bandwagon, when someone like "Raw Promise" comes along with another un-cited "study."

Please, for the love of all things holy, buy organic if you believe it's right for you and your family. There are great, faithful, hard-working organic farmers – like Emily and her family - who are raising amazing milk, meats and vegetables.

But don't do it based on misinformation. Get the facts. Dig a little deeper.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the info, always good to find people who are interested in the quality and food quality and above all find pages with intent to disseminate that information. In my country it is difficult to find pages on farms, vegetable or any type of information, but until recently the government provided a portal of information and useful tools www.agronet.gov.co give better use of the web.

  5. Anonymous says:

    One major issue with the Internet is many things that are untrue are taken as fact. I prefer to eat organic but prefer that the facts are straight.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Holly for linking to our family farm website. You will not find misquotes or inflated facts on our site. Just pure organic family farming :) ~Emily

  7. Anonymous says:

    I just wrapped up a stint on Jury Duty this week. A week where we were told repeatedly to listen to BOTH SIDES of the case and to make our decisions based on the testimony from BOTH SIDES, facts, and common sense. It was a rewarding experience to see 12 people work together and come to a decision based on these instructions. Yet, we just can't seem to get our act together when it comes to making decisions at the grocery store.....

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for being on your toes. It reaffirms one of the few things that I remember our Accounting professor telling us years ago in Ag college, "All of you in this room can use the *same* set of figures to prove or disprove anything you want." Freddie

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is just sad. I don't know why folks want so much to believe anything a pusedo-expert shoves at them. We must keep AGvocating the truth.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It really is scary when people believe anything they see on Facebook and don't take the time to check the facts for themselves. Glad you and your neighbor took the time to dig into it.