Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Organic food is not necessarily healthier?

In a study recently published in a US journal,
researchers at the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
found there were no major differences
between organic and conventionally-produced food.

As some of my organic-conscious friends around
have already started to debate over the finding,
I also feel compelled to speak up
for the sake of mother Earth.

Despite the so called scientific studies on organic food,
I would like to stress that
the results may not be reliable,
-- depending on the methods of analyses.

Being a biologist myself,
I am constantly reminded
to review scientific reports critically.

A few general points that scientists usually consider
to determine whether a scientific report is reliable:

1. Read first hand the original report;
2. Look at the "Method" section which is often likely biased
· see if the subjects are being compared on the same platform?
-- are both non-/organic foods grown in the same region,
on similar soil, under comparable weather/climate etc?
· see if the tested representatives of each group are truly representative?

-- my impression is the quality of organic foods can vary a lot.
Simply using a mean value to assess isn't a wise approach.
· is the statistical analysis method sound? are data normalised?

With my personal prejudice,
it's not easy to compare non-/organic foods directly,
simply due to the loose definition of organic food,
high biological variability/operators' variability
and limitation of testing device/technology.

Simply put,
the methodology of any study has to be scrutinised
before even trusting any of the data..

It's too easy to be drifted into
controversial but unnecessary debates
cooked up by the media,
without assessing the original report.

Also, with a lot of food politics around nowadays,
it's also important to find out who fund the research studies
i.e. check for vested interest/hidden agendas?

Well wishes,
Kee Yew

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