Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Stanford University published a study showing that organic food isn't any nutritionally better for you than conventional food. There has been a massively negative response to this from the organic community. The publishers and many food pundits have expressed surprise by this response. Their general point is that the study doesn't reveal anything that most people didn't already know.
And that's the problem. The intelligent, well-read, educated people who are involved with the organic movement do not represent the majority of people. In fact, these "ivory tower" types are so disconnected from the general population, that they are wholly unaware of what the population actually thinks. The organic population does not buy organic food for rational reasons. They do it for dogmatic reasons.
People are ascribing moral, personal, and even cosmic significance to their organic diets. And as we have found, people have a hard time seeing the shades of grey that are inherent to... everything. We don't like to see our heroes in complex terms. Our heroes are all-good, and when they reveal themselves to not be all-good, we say that they have failed us. It is a crippling event.
That is why this backlash occurred. Organic advocates don't want to see their hero in complex terms. They see it as the answer. The answer to what? Almost anything. Again, organic food isn't better for quantifiable reasons. It is better for qualitative reasons. It is metaphysically better. Even for those who don't ascribe deep significance to organic food, these views rub off onto them and the entirety of the organic industry. Most people buy organic thinking that its essentially better.
This study is quantitative evidence that this isn't true. Is organic better in some ways? Yes. But that's not enough. And that's why this backlash happened.