Bad Chart Thursday: Organic Cherry Picking
Haven’t you heard? They conduct real science experiments now. Using a lab and everything. Still not impressed? Wait until you hear about their UNDENIABLE results.
Coop, a Swedish
organic grocery chain, partnered with ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors to experiment on a Swedish family of five for three weeks. The first week, the family ate non-organic, then switched to organic for the next two weeks. Throughout the study period, the family gave daily urine samples, which were analyzed by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL for a selected 12 pesticides, those used in conventional agriculture.
That’s right. They didn’t test for residues from the pesticides used in organic agriculture, such as (in Sweden) lime sulfur, pyrethrins, iron (III) phosphate, and oh so much more.
The brain-achingly obvious results of this adverstudy? Pesticides not used in organic agriculture do not show up in the body (or show up in much lower amounts) when eating organic compared with eating foods on which those pesticides were used.
In other words, a substance that doesn’t go in your body probably won’t show up in your urine.
I, for one, cannot wait for their next experiment, in which they PROVE that not drinking alcohol will lead to little or no alcohol in your system compared with drinking alcohol.
Groundbreaking work. Truly.
Here is one of the charts showing their results for four pesticide metabolites (left to right): chlormequat chloride, mepiquat, 3-PBA, and TCP. (Click image for a larger version.)
The left chart shows nanograms per milliliter of each substance “Before the family eats organic, median,” and the right shows the same “During the weeks with organic food, median.”
The chart is laden with emotional manipulation. The scale is set so that the lefthand bar, for chlormequat chloride, goes OFF THE CHARTS. Traces of eight pesticides were found, but they deliberately chose to show only the four with the highest levels. And the background image shows the innocent little white blond boy who was supposedly being poisoned with pesticides. What kind of monster parents would knowingly do this to their child? The intent to shame parents into
funding a new Coop branch buying organic is clear in that the video advertisement shows charts only of the children, not the parents.
Jeff Beer, author of the Fast Company
advertisement article about this, chose to screencap this chart instead of the other two shown in the video no doubt because this one shows nothing in the “After” chart, whereas the charts for the two girls show some pesticide levels in the “After” chart.
Of course, this experiment could easily be conducted by testing only for organic pesticide levels and we would see an empty or near-empty “Before Organic” chart followed by an “After Organic” chart showing pesticide levels. Could we then conclude that organic is poisoning our children?
Probably not any more than this advertisement can make the opposite claim. That we have chemicals in our body tells us nothing about whether those chemicals in those amounts are harmful. The dose makes the poison. Any substance can be toxic if we ingest enough of it.
So this adverstudy is nothing more than an exercise in organic cherry picking–it yields next to nothing and is rooted in shit.
* Tip of the hand-sewn-from-organic-cat-hair-fibers hat to Anne Sauer for sharing this story with me.