instant yeast onion-tomato-garlic focaccia

Made a mistake with starter quantity last night so had to improvise up a focaccia with instant yeast. (First time in more than two years I have used that laboratory-grown single-strain abomination!)  I have to make focaccia otherwise the oven just won’t cool down fast enough for the other breads to go in at the right time. Brick oven baking logistics are…..


Frankly, I was surprised to see so many nice large holes with such a relatively fast dough preparation time (I usually go overnight but am experimenting with faster processing times using higher percentage starters since you get more bounce and lighter crumbs that way which many people prefer. Also note how it’s a little translucent which usually I associate with sourdough only. But I did have about 10% of my expected sourdough starter so maybe that was enough to help round out the single strain yeast.

Tastes good too, but suspect will not stay easily edible for about a week like the ‘real’ sourdough. And it looks pretty darn good if I say so myself.

I went onto the Fresh Loaf forum to see if I could get the gram amounts for instant yeast instead of things like teaspoons and so forth in all the recipes I got on the web and so posted about this focaccia on that site:

For those advanced guests interested in formulas etc, here’s this one. You can’t see by looking but all the tomato weight is subtracted from the usual water weight. And the hydration is pretty low just because my way of subtracting from the water to compensate for tomato, onions (and usually fresh fennel) doesn’t come out right so I have adjusted it down. The hydration level ‘feels’ more like 173 = 73% – 75% or even higher.

OK. So you see Onion and Tomato (‘Tom) are each 10% of flour weight and that weight is subtracted from the water (3324). I put in more oil than usual because yeast breads tend to be much less moist and chewy than sourdough, but I always have oil in a focaccia. Heavy dose of fennel seeds but unfortunately no fennel because I forgot to buy it when last in town. Also added garlic percent since this year in Cape Breton it is not strong tasting, probably because of overly dry summer.

In terms of flour, this one is mainly Meunerie Milanaise Sifted 50, my favorite.

So this was mixed around 10.00 am and went into the oven at 18:15, so about 8 hours process time. For me that is as fast as I could ever imagine. Am curious to see how this ages. Right now it is super fresh and really very good, but I suspect that already by tomorrow it won’t hold up as well as the usual sourdough.


Russia suspends GM corn use

( GM on right, normal on left )

” Historically, biotech companies have proved the safety of GM crops based on trials involving feeding rats for a period of 90 days.

However, experts at the University of Caen conducted an experiment running for the full lives of rats – two years.

The findings, which were peer reviewed by independent experts before being published in a respected scientific journal, found raised levels of breast cancer, liver and kidney damage.

Consumer scepticism in the UK and Europe means GM corn is not on supermarket shelves here, however it is fed to farm animals, including hens, pigs and dairy cows.

Important: In the USA, and much of Europe, corn is used to make an array of food products including cornflakes (picture posed by model)Important: In the USA, and much of Europe, corn is used to make an array of food products including cornflakes (picture posed by model)

Last week Monsanto said it did not think the French study would affect its license to export the NK603 to Europe but would wait to hear from EFSA.

The company said: ‘Based on our initial review, we do not believe the study presents information that would justify any change in EFSA’s views on the safety of genetically modified corn products or alter their approval status for genetically modified imports.’

The biotech industry and university researchers involved in GM research have mounted a major PR campaign over the last year to win over sceptical consumers.

In the past week, pro-GM scientists have been lining up to undermine the French experiments and criticise the way they were conducted.

However, a number of independent academics have praised the French team’s work, describing it as the most thorough and extensive feeding trials involving GM to date.”

New Long Term study – GM’s unfit for human consumption yet in animal feed everywhere

This latest from Mike Adams:

“(NaturalNews) Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto’s Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. That’s the conclusion of a shocking new study that looked at the long-term effects of consuming Monsanto’s genetically modified corn.

The study has been deemed “the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats.” News of the horrifying findings is spreading like wildfire across the internet, with even the mainstream media seemingly in shock over the photos of rats with multiple grotesque tumors… tumors so large the rats even had difficulty breathing in some cases. GMOs may be the new thalidomide.

“Monsanto Roundup weedkiller and GM maize implicated in ‘shocking’ new cancer study” wrote The Grocery, a popular UK publication. (…)

It reported, “Scientists found that rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females.”

The Daily Mail reported, “Fresh row over GM foods as French study claims rats fed the controversial crops suffered tumors.” (…)

It goes on to say: “The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.”

The study, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen, was the first ever study to examine the long-term (lifetime) effects of eating GMOs. You may find yourself thinking it is absolutely astonishing that no such studies were ever conducted before GM corn was approved for widespread use by the USDA and FDA, but such is the power of corporate lobbying and corporate greed.The study was published in The Food & Chemical Toxicology Journaland was just presented at a news conference in London.

Findings from the study

Here are some of the shocking findings from the study:

• Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.

• Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.

• Rats fed GM corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.

• The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GM corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips.

The Daily Mail is reporting on some of the reaction to the findings:

France’s Jose Bove, vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s commission for agriculture and known as a fierce opponent of GM, called for an immediate suspension of all EU cultivation and import authorisations of GM crops. ‘This study finally shows we are right and that it is urgent to quickly review all GMO evaluation processes,’ he said in a statement. ‘National and European food security agencies must carry out new studies financed by public funding to guarantee healthy food for European consumers.’ (…)

Read the study abstract

The study is entitled, “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health.” Read the abstract here:

That abstract include this text. Note: “hepatorenal toxicity” means toxic to the liver.

Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded.

Here are some quotes from the researchers:

“This research shows an extraordinary number of tumors developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts.” – Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist, King’s College London.

“We can expect that the consumption of GM maize and the herbicide Roundup, impacts seriously on human health.” – Dr Antoniou.

“This is the first time that a long-term animal feeding trial has examined the impact of feeding GM corn or the herbicide Roundup, or a combination of both and the results are extremely serious. In the male rats, there was liver and kidney disorders, including tumors and even more worryingly, in the female rats, there were mammary tumors at a level which is extremely concerning; up to 80 percent of the female rats had mammary tumors by the end of the trial.” – Patrick Holden, Director, Sustainable Food Trust.

Spread the word: GMOs are toxic!

Share this story. Tweet it, Facebook it, post it.

See the “What is a GMO” video by Nutiva:

Watch the new video on GMOs by Jeffrey Smith:

Other linked articles:

When the Iron Bird Flies

I just realised I could post a link to my old book on this blog, so here it is:

The ScribD blurb:

When the Iron Bird Flies

An introduction to Buddhism via Tibetan schools initially designed for younger Western readers. Written in the early 1990’s, contracted to Crossroads-Herder NYC (who published the Pope amongst others) but not published because they went out of business. Gives an overview of the main theory and method of the three main levels of the buddhist tradition known as the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Of particular interest for those unfamiliar with the tradition might be the introduction of the Six Realms which give a graphic, intuitive, provocative and perhaps different explanation/description of the various states of mind experienced by all of us both over the course of a life and from moment to moment.

Also, having downloaded many good books and texts from Scribd I wanted to give something back, in this case it just happens to be something I wrote myself.

Rats Monsanto

LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Rats fed a lifetime diet of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn or exposed to its top-selling weedkiller Roundup suffered tumours and multiple organ damage, according to a French study published on Wednesday.
Although the lead researcher’s past record as a critic of the industry may make other experts wary of drawing hasty conclusions, the finding will stoke controversy about the safety of GM crops.
In an unusual move, the research group did not allow reporters to seek outside comment on their paper before its publication in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology and presentation at a news conference in London.
Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen and colleagues said rats fed on a diet containing NK603 – a seed variety made tolerant to dousings of Roundup – or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in the United States died earlier than those on a standard diet.
The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumours, as well as severe liver and kidney damage.
The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.
Seralini was part of a team that flagged previous safety concerns based on a shorter rat study in a scientific paper published in December 2009 but this takes things a step further by tracking the animals throughout their two-year lifespan.
Monsanto said at the time of the earlier research that the French researchers had reached “unsubstantiated conclusions.”
Seralini believes his latest lifetime rat tests give a more realistic and authoritative view of risks than the 90-day feeding trials that form the basis of GM crop approvals, since three months is only the equivalent of early adulthood in rats.

Closer to Home – about Land Grants and the Louisburg-Gabarus highway

Doing legal research this morning as part of an Appeal I am self-representing later this year in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Halifax, I stumbled on this (entirely unrelated) topic concerning original Land Grants, whose titles were granted in perpetuity to all heirs and descendants. If most of this information is basically true, then locals in Gabarus and Louisburg might well be able to mount a successful legal motion to get the old roads joining these two foundational communities on the island back in service, essentially kicking the Federales who closed the road as part of mounting the Fortress Louisburg Historic Site (principally for non resident tourists) out of the picture.

Generally speaking I believe we all should become more educated in terms of fundamental Common Law and related issues about which 99.9% of us – including senior  professionals such as judges and government officials and law professors – are abysmally ignorant. We might soon be losing our civilisation if we don’t wake up!

“On June 16, 2010,  the Crown Land Patent Initiative Committee, an internal group of the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA), met with members of the Federal Conservative Caucus for an informative discussion on the powerful force and effect of Crown Land Patent grants.

Supported with years of in-depth research, the group informed the MP’s that Crown Land Patents are the root of title to property and were originally issued to settlers to award them ownership of property or land. Land Patents are legal contracts with the Crown that give land owners certain rights as detailed in each land patent and remain in effect in perpetuity, even though the properties may change ownership many times. The Land Patent committee cited a number of “property issue” court cases that were won based on recognition of the crown land patents.
All land owners are encouraged to apply for their crown land patent grants.

The OLA committee presenting members were President Jack MacLaren, Elizabeth Marshall, Duaine McKinley, Garry Otten and Deborah Madill.

The Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) was formed in 2006 to preserve and protect the rights of property owners and to enshrine property rights within the Constitution of Canada and the laws of the Province of Ontario. The OLA mandate is to aid landowners whose rights to; own, use, manage, enjoy or benefit from, have been, or will be affected or harmed through Government actions. In addition, they actively support those Politicians and Governments who support, property rights and demonstrate and encourage small, fiscally responsible Government. For more information on the OLA or land patents visit the OLA web site at

“Smart metres, water metres, land appropriation, forced re-zoning, amalgamation, municipal plans, the Mineral and Aggregate Act, Toronto’s Greenbelt,unwanted access to your property by any ministry or official for any reason other than serious crime, the Endangered Species Act and basically any legislation that may impact land ownership rights could be completely moot and some would suggest outright illegal in the eyes of the Supreme Court of Canada so long as you hold a Crown Land Patent Grant….

“Land patent grants are the original contracts between  the Crown and the original settlers, their heirs and assigns forever; you are either the heirs or the assigns of those patentees (as  landowners),” she said. “Those (CLPGs) grant you your rights; your water rights, your mineral  rights, your right to tell the MNR, the bylaw offi cers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera this is my land, get off. “I am not just saying this as a sermon; this is absolute solid, 100 per cent concrete,” she said, referring to several court cases spanning about 100 years. “These documents overrule orders in council, they overrule legislation, they overrule just about everything. All legislation is, is a thought, a whim or an idea.” She explained the farce of legislation is that it is created by the ideals  of the people in charge and a result of the time they are created, easily reneged when another party or person gets another idea “or whim.” “They put it on paper and they think it’s a real law; and that’s what we are being ruined by, legislation that is a thought, a whim, an idea,” she added. “It  doesn’t have to be constitutional, don’t ever think that any piece of any legislation has to follow  any rules, it does not.” She said one such piece of legislation was in 1950 under the Lands Grant  Act, where, she said, the proof and power of the original land grants was buried in the wording. That was challenged in the Superior Court of Ontario by a group of residents who all shared a  private section of beach that was frequently trespassed upon by the public. The township decided  it would attempt to appropriate the beach section, creating a development plan to do so, from the property owners to create public land. But the residents each secured their CLPGs, which  all proved ownership to the waterfront and court ruled in favour of the private landowners. “(The   township) could not plan for those beaches, they didn’t own it; if you don’t own it you can’t plan  for it,” she said. “All of these plans, they may work on Crown land, they may work on public land,  but when it comes to your land, you are the only one that actually has a plan and that’s your  survey, registered against your title.

“And your title goes all the way back to the Crown Land  Patent Grants because the (grants) are your root of title,” she added, warning that one way the grants have been hidden was altering the  law so lawyers only had to go back 40 years in a title search for property purchase. “You in fact  may not even be able to have the land that you have because they have not done a complete  search from you to the (CLPG).” She told all in attendance they should go about securing their offi  cial, certifi ed copy of the CLPG at a small cost to ensure they know their full rights and exactly  what they own and what, if anything, the government may have access to.

“It will tell you whether you do or you do not own your water, if you have navigable water ways, whether you do or do not own your beaches, it will tell you whether you own your mineral  lights…it won’t even have your name on it, it will be the original patentees’,” she explained. She said in other court cases that landed at the federal Supreme Court, the rulings were “it clearly states  council cannot overrule the reservations or the guarantees of the (CLPGs),” and that the  municipalities, province or federal government has no authority to create legislation that would overrule the patents. “It’s up to you folks to get your patents and start standing up for and  understanding your own rights; when people come on to your land that are offi cials from the municipality or the MNR or whatever, if they are coming there to tell you…‘I’m the bylaw  inspector, you can’t paint your trim pink,’ you can say ‘get off my land, you have no right or authority; I have a contract with the Crown, what do you have…get off my land’. “You have the right to tell anyone and everyone to get off your land unless you have committed a criminal  offence,” she added, so long as the landowner physically has a certifi ed copy of the CLPG, which should be posted and visible.

Metering Private Wells

She said it is even more crucial right now that property owners, regardless of the size of property,  get theirs now. Ms. Marshall said she has read new provincial legislation coming out that identifi  es the government’s desire to put water metres on private wells. “They already have their source  water committees looking at metering wells, private, individual wells,” she said, again warning that depending on what the original negotiation was, the CLPG could say that the Crown has the right  to the water, and in that case, there will be little power to stop a meter going on the well. However, if the CLPG does not clearly identify the reservation of water rights to the Crown, she said the  property owner has every right to deny entry, even to enact a citizen’s arrest for trespassing  against the offi cial. She said the CLPGs outweigh any legislation that may impact a person’s  property and under common law, identify that no person shall pollute, block or alter the fl ow of neighbour’s water, air or land, so environmental protection is already built in, requiring no  additional water or species  protection acts. “These patents are your rights, they are your responsibilities and they are your good-neighbour paper,” Ms. Marshall said. “You have the  authority; these things are also a lot of responsibility, you cannot just go hog wild, it is set in  common law.” She said it is a powerful tool that could shatter many of the current systems in the  country, thus the fear from all levels of government. Ms. Marshall suggested farmers and people in the greenbelts, who had sever limitations put on their ability to develop or use their lands as they see fit, could be due all their appropriated lands back or financial compensation. She referred to  another successful court case of an elderly gentleman in Petawawa, where the local council wished to alter the zoning of his land from rural residential to mineral aggregate against his wishes. Using his land patent grant, that was quashed. The documents have also been used to stop governments from taking over private land mineral rights and she said could overrule –in favour of the original landowners — any international, national or provincial heritage sites, UNESCO sites and formed marsh lands. She said it could throw wrenches into many municipal plans and systems, including water treatment systems and the municipal water act that places people in urban areas on one system. She said under the CLPGs, that is an unnecessary infringement of rights.”

Cape Breton example:

Provincial Crown Land Grants


I will use Cape Breton Island as an example, but it applies to Nova Scotia (New Scotland), and any other province or territory in which Crown Land Grant Patents where issued to the original settlers.

1.Find the provinces Crown Land Grant Map (Natural Resources Dept) example: (Nova Scotia)

2.Compare closely to other detailed maps, example: Geologial and Natural History Survey of Canada 1884
These maps are incredible. They indicate all churchs, shops and even better, the homes of the settlers, some are even named.

3.Now compare with the original census of Canada-1881 … 0.01-e.php
(If you are blessed to still hold an original family bible, be sure to check with this very important document as well.)

4.Also, check out the provinces historical vital statistics (here’s Nova Scotia’s)

Then one could go to their local Lands and Deeds Office (Municipality or County), to search for any old wills from their forefathers (if one exists). One can also ensure a proper search was done on the property in question.

This is a very difficult task, settling old Family Business. Remember, many early settler’s never registered their property nor did they mortgage them. It was recorded by Natural Resources/Reciever General when they recieved the Crown Land Grant, not the county or municipality.

For fun: Old map of Gabarus area (others available from same website):

More on Stanford study

From Chris Milburn in Sydney:


Subject: [capenews-l] Critique of Stanford study on purported lack of benefit of organic food

From the Worldwatch Institute’s “Nourishing the Planet” food policy initiative comes the view that the study was significantly flawed…..w
For the last two weeks, foodies, farmers, and scientists have been debating the validity of a study released by Stanford University about the nutritional quality of organic produce. The analysis concludes that organic foods­foods grown without pesticides and other agro-chemicals­are not superior in quality to conventionally produced varieties. According to the study, the risk of exposure to pesticides and other harsh chemicals is only negligibly higher in conventional foods. In other words, the study argues that consumers who pay higher prices for the supposed health benefits of organic foods have been wasting their money. But our friends Chuck Benbrook, Dawn Undurraga, and Francis Moore Lappe disagree.

Although the Stanford study claims that there is a 30 percent “risk difference” between organic and conventional foods, Chuck Benbrook,  a scientist and former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences, finds, “an overall 81 percent lower risk or incidence of one or more pesticide residues in the organic samples compared to the conventional samples”­using Stanford’s data. This discrepancy is the result of the Stanford researchers’ decision to omit certain criterion from their system of analysis, such as the difference between single and multiple pesticide traces (i.e. the difference between an organic apple containing a trace amount of one pesticide, and a conventional apple lathered in a highly-concentrated assortment of different pesticides).

Even if the Stanford analysis were accurate, it wouldn’t warrant the “breaking news” media attention it has received. Dawn Undurraga of the Environmental Working Group notes that as a new mom, even a 31 percent difference in pesticide residue is enough to reinforce her preference for organic foods. She reminds us that even using the low Stanford figures, a consumer is five times more likely to ingest pesticides with conventional than with organic varieties­a fact that the mainstream media has completely overlooked.

And Francis Moore Lappe, in a Huffington Post article, reprehends the Stanford scientists for not considering long term studies of organic versus conventional consumption in their analysis (the studies they used ranged from two days to two years). Ms. Lappe notes that the short-term studies used in the research are inadequate for determining the health impacts of pesticide consumption–she says “it is well established that chemical exposure often takes decades to show up, for example, in cancer or neurological disorders.”

And the Stanford study didn’t consider the environmental impacts of organic versus conventional food production. Organic food procurement has a host of benefits, none of which are acknowledged in the report: it contributes to increased biodiversity in the field­more birds and beneficial insects, better soil biota­and to decreased pollution associated with the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And American farm workers, who have an  average lifespan of 49 years, will likely benefit from a decrease in the application of pesticides.

What do you think about the Stanford study and the media attention is has received? Do you think that organic food is healthier? Email me with your thoughts!

All the best,

Danielle Nierenberg

Nourishing the Planet Project Director

Worldwatch Institute
Phone: +1-202-590-1037

Organic Foods – a Pro & Con take


” On the whole, science has soured on the promises of organic food. While it is good practice not to use antibiotics in livestock feed, the rest of the claims made by the “natural food movement” simply don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. Organic farmers and ranchers are not saving the world, one apple and one pasture at a time. So, don’t buy into the scare tactics or the bromides.

Instead, it is time to face up to reality: If you’re a regular organic shopper, you’ve been duped.

Dr. Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience and holds a Ph.D. in microbiology. Tom Hartsfield is a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas and a regular contributor to the RealClearScience Newton Blog”


(NaturalNews) If you read the mainstream news headlines today, you might be shocked to see headlines that say things like, “Organic foods no healthier than conventional foods” or “Organic foods may not be healthier for you.” You’ll see these headlines all across the usual disinfo outlets: NPR, Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post, WebMD and elsewhere.

The problem with these headlines is that they are flatly false. The study these news outlets are quoting actually confirms that organic foods are far healthier for you than conventional foods.

So how is the mainstream media lying about this? By fudging the facts, of course.

For starters, the “study” isn’t even a study. It was just a review of other studies. No new laboratory analysis was done whatsoever!

The “review” was conducted at Stanford University and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. You can read the abstract here:

As the study itself concludes:

• Exposure to chemical pesticides was significantly lower in organic foods (roughly 30% less than conventional foods).

• Exposure to “superbugs” in meat (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) was also significantly lower in organic foods (roughly a 33% risk difference).

• The study conclusion says, right out, that “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

How the media lied

Somehow, the mainstream media took this study and then lied to their readers, claiming organic food is “no different” than conventional food. That is a flat-out lie, of course. Because it fails to mention all the following:

• GMOs are not allowed in organic foods. So GMO exposure is many orders of magnitude higher in conventional foods, where GMOs are commonplace.

• Artificial chemical sweeteners are not allowed in organic foods. But conventional foods are often sweetened with toxic chemicals such as aspartame or saccharin.

• The study completely failed to look at the use of genetically-modified bovine growth hormones (rBGH) in conventional milk versus organic milk.

• The environmental impact of conventional food production is devastating to the planet. Chemical pesticides aren’t just found in the crops; they also run off into the streams, rivers and oceans. No mainstream media article that covered this story even bothered to mention this hugely important issue — it’s one of the primary reasons to buy organic!

• The funding source of the study is listed as “None.” Does anybody really believe that? All these scientists supposedly volunteered their time and don’t get paid to engage in scientific endeavors? It’s absurd. The money for the study had to come from somewhere, and the fact that the Annals of Internal Medicine is hiding the source by listing “none” is just further evidence of scientific wrongdoing.

A total psyop to confuse the public and push GMOs

Ultimately, this study comes down to being a total psyop pushed by the mainstream media for the purpose of confusing the public and ultimately promoting GMOs.

The media’s coverage of this is pure disinfo along the lines of other health disinfo campaigns such as:

• Mercury in vaccines is actually GOOD for you and makes vaccines work better:

etc. etc.
Sep 7th update:
“Organic is a fable of the pampered parts of the planet — romantic and comforting. Now, thanks to Stanford researchers, we know just how replete with myth the “O” fable is.”
“Is organic food little more than a trumped-up marketing scheme, another way for affluent consumers to waste money? A just-released paper by Stanford University researchers—and the reaction to it by the media—suggests as much. (Abstract here; I have a copy of the full study, but can’t upload it for copyright reasons.)

“Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce,” declared a New York Times headline. “Organic food hardly healthier, study suggests,” announced CBS News. “Is organic healthier? Study says not so much, but it’s key reason consumers buy,” the Washington Post grumbled.

In reality, though, the study in some places makes a strong case for organic—though you’d barely know it from the language the authors use. And in places where it finds organic wanting, key information gets left out. To assess the state of science on organic food and its health benefits, the authors performed what’s known among academics as a “meta-analysis”—they gathered all the research papers they could find on the topic dating back decades, eliminated ones that didn’t meet their criteria for scientific rigor, and summarized the results.

In another post I’ll get to the question of nutritional benefits—the idea, expressed by the Stanford authors, that organic and conventional foods are roughly equivalent in terms of vitamins and other nutrients. What I want to discuss now is the problem of pesticide exposure, and why I think the Stanford researchers are underestimating the risks.


In short, the authors’ findings confirm what the Environmental Working Group, crunching USDA data, has been telling us for years: that organic fruits and vegetables harbor significantly fewer pesticide residues than their chemically grown peers. Summing up the evidence of the studies they looked at, the Stanford researchers find what they call a 30 percent “risk difference” between organic and conventional food—which to the mind not trained in statistics, sounds like organic foods carry 30 percent less risk of exposing you to pesticides. And they immediately undercut that finding by noting that the pesticide traces found in both organic and conventional food tend to be at levels lower than the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum allowed limits. Takeaway: Conventional produce carries trivially small levels of pesticides, and you might as well save your money and forget organic.

What’s wrong with this comforting picture?

1. Conventional produce is much worse than organic on the pesticide-exposure question than the 30 percent number suggests. That’s what Chuck Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’ Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, shows in a detailed critique of the study. To get the 30 percent number, the authors used an odd statistical construct they call “risk difference.” By their method, if 5 percent of organic vegetables contain at least one pesticide trace and 35 percent of conventional vegetables contain at least one trace, then the “risk difference” is 30 percent (35 minus 5). But that’s a silly way of thinking about it, because there’s a much greater difference between those numbers than “30 percent” suggests. Crunching the authors’ own raw data, Benbrook finds “an overall 81% lower risk or incidence of one or more pesticide residues in the organic samples compared to the conventional samples.”

But even that doesn’t get to the full extent of the study’s underestimation, since:

2. To arrive at their “risk difference” metric, the authors didn’t distinguish between a single pesticide trace and multiple traces; or between light traces and heavier traces. For their purposes, an organic apple carrying a tiny residue of a relatively innocuous pesticide is equivalent to a conventional apple containing a cocktail of several relatively toxic pesticides. Here’s Benbrook on why that’s silly:

a) most residues in organic food occur at much lower levels than in conventional food, b) residues are not as likely in organic foods, c) multiple residues in a single sample are rare in organic food but common in conventional produce, and d) high-­risk pesticides rarely appear as residues in organic food, and when they do, the levels are usually much lower than those found in conventional food (especially the levels in imported produce).

Now, the authors might reply that all of this is trivial, because the traces that researchers find on produce, whether conventional or organic, almost always come in at levels below the EPA’s safety threshold. But:

3. This ignores a growing body of research that pregnant women’s fetuses can be harmed at low exposures of organophosphate pesticides, as can young children.

And what’s more:

4. The authors—like the EPA itself—ignore the “cocktail effect” of exposure to several pesticides, say, from a single apple. As Environmental Working Group’s analysis of USDA data shows, conventional produce like apples, blueberries, and bell peppers often carry traces of many pesticides. The EPA regulates pesticide traces only on an individual basis, disregarding possible synergistic effects. The European Commission is starting to take them more seriously. Here’s a report commissioned by the European Commission in 2009:

There is a consensus in the field of mixture toxicology that the customary chemical-by-chemical approach to risk assessment might be too simplistic. It is in danger of underestimating the risk of chemicals to human health and to the environment.

Which brings us to the fifth point:

5. We probably know more about how exposure to low levels of multiple pesticides affect amphibians than we do about how they affect people—and what our amphibious friends are telling us isn’t pretty.

In short, the Stanford study seriously underplays the benefit of going organic to avoid pesticide traces, especially for vulnerable populations like pregnant women and kids. In a future post, I’ll show why it does the same for exposure to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in meat, and doesn’t give organic its due with regard to nutritional benefits.”

Abstract of study (not publicly available) here: