Mark Bittman says Yes.
I tried to ignore the month-old “Stanford study.” I really did. It made so little sense that I thought it would have little impact.
That was dumb of me, and I’m sorry.
The study, which suggested — incredibly — that there is no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” caused as great an uproar as anything that has happened, food-wise, this year….
If I may play with metaphor for a moment, the study was like declaring guns no more dangerous than baseball bats when it comes to blunt-object head injuries. It was the equivalent of comparing milk and Elmer’s glue on the basis of whiteness. It did, in short, miss the point. Even Crystal Smith-Spangler, a Stanford co-author, perfectly captured the narrowness of the study when she said: “some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.” That’s because they didn’t look — or even worse, they ignored….
Suspect conclusions derived from suspect studies are increasingly common. In the last couple of weeks: having a poor sense of smell might be linked to being a psychopath. People who read food labels are thinner. G.M.O.’s give rats tumors. (That one in particular violated many rules of both science and ethics.) Usually these “revelations” are of little more than passing interest, but they can sometimes be downright destructive. Susan Clark, the executive director of the Columbia Foundation, summed up the flaws of the Stanford approach perfectly in a letter to her colleagues:
“The researchers started with a narrow set of assumptions and arrived at entirely predictable conclusions. Stanford should be ashamed of the lack of expertise about food and farming among the researchers, a low level of academic rigor in the study, its biased conclusions, and lack of transparency about the industry ties of the major researchers on the study. Normally we busy people would simply ignore another useless academic study, but this study was so aggressively spun by the PR masters that it requires a response.”