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A few weeks ago the UK's Food Standards Agency published a report concluding that organic food was no healthier than conventionally produced food. Advocates of organic food erupted in charges of gross scientific misconduct: The FSA cherry-picked the data. It didn't take into account the impact of synthetic fertilizer and insecticides. It failed to consider the growing evidence on the connection between pesticide exposure and Parkinson's Disease. Many factors, all agreed, still had to be measured and compared.
These objections were sound. Still, as I watched the organic defense unfold, I experienced a grim sense of déjà vu. If the past is any indication, those of us who follow these matters are now doomed to wade through a heap of future studies examining the relative health benefits of organic versus conventional food.
A similar argument played out a generation ago over the question of agricultural yields. Could organic compete with conventional when it came to output? We still have no definitive answer. Nonetheless, the din of debate continues, with advocates arguing that organic can feed the world while detractors insist it would cause mass starvation. The only clear result of all the research has been to push interested parties to the extremes.