The organic debate in full bloom (5×8 – 9/5/12)

Is there really a difference, Lambeau Field by horse-drawn carriage, a look at the iPhone 5, how North Carolina stole and lost businesses, and some math and grammar lessons.


No story got the mailbag filled more quickly yesterday than the story about a Stanford study that questioned the value of organic food. The Stanford doctors concluded there’s little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics, the Associated Press reported. It acknowledged eating organic fruits and veggies can lower exposure to pesticides, but the amount was within safety limits. And organic foods are not proven more nutritious, the study said.

The reaction to that debatable study was a good lesson in how we process information with which we don’t agree. There must be an integrity problem with the authors. On Twitter, for example, people suggested the study must have been paid for by Monsanto or a chemical company. It wasn’t. According to Stanford, there was no outside funding for the study.

That leaves us with the merits of the study, requiring us to dig into it a bit more.

Surely, for example, using fewer — or no — pesticides is better environmentally, right? Maybe not, the New York Times says, because the crop yield is less on organic farms. The environmental effect of organic produce was actually greater per product shipped, one analysis concluded.

But Mother Jones, listing five ways the Stanford study fell short, criticizes the conclusion that because both organic and conventionally-grown produce is below EPA-established safe levels, the two are roughly the same.

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 traces 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. Crunching the authors’ own raw data, Benbrook finds “an overall 81% lower risk or incidence of one more pesticide residues in the organic samples compared to the conventional samples.”

The Atlantic puts another twist on the issue, calling buying organic “a human rights issue.” Apart from the effect on the consumer, the impact of pesticides on the people who pick the fruits and vegetables is undeniable.

Related: A team of urban farmers is transforming empty lots in Brooklyn into sensor-embedded, smartphone-monitored community gardens. (


Oh, you Packers fans! You’re just so… different. A couple near Tomah is on their way to Lambeau Field for Sunday’s opener against the 49ers. They left early because they’re traveling in a green-and-gold-painted buggy, pulled by their horse, carrying Mortimer the dog. They’ve done this for 11 years. It’s a 200-mile trip and the main problem seems to be Old Paint has an attitude.


You probably don’t actually need whatever the iPhone 5 is about to offer, but you want it anyway, even though you raced out and bought the iPhone 4. Apple knows this. This is why Apple makes scads of money.

What’s iPhone got that you want? That’s part of the gimmick. By leaking its existence and keeping the contents secret, rumors do the work the marketing team used to have to pay for.

We’ll bite. Mashable has sifted through all the rumors and selected the five most believable ones, including a taller display, LTE connectivity, and new earbuds that cut back on echoes you might hear while making calls.

Making calls? On a cellphone? Good one.


I’m conflicted when I hear stories of tough times in North Carolina. It’s awful, of course, that textile mills have moved out, leaving empty storefronts, unemployed people, and abandoned factories, as this BBC feature shows in The North Carolina Town the Recovery Forgot.


Back when I was in college, one of my summer jobs was working in a factory in my hometown, loading equipment into trucks as factory after factory moved out… heading for North Carolina, and leaving economic carnage behind. Irrationally, perhaps, I still hold it against North Carolina.

What’s the future of the town in North Carolina? Not good, if history is any indication. My hometown never recovered.

States and cities spent much of the last century stealing businesses from each other and calling it “economic development.”

Meanwhile, the world’s richest woman says we should be inspired by the willingness of people in Africa to work for $2 a day (BBC)

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Bonus I: Welcome back to school, kids. Let’s work on our math skills and count to 100.

‘100’ (from 0 to 100 years in 150 seconds) from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Bonus II: Now let’s work on your grammar.


A new study finds that, despite the expense, eating organic food does not deliver significant benefits in health or nutrition. Today’s Question: Is the study discounting the benefits of organic food likely to change your eating habits?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Money, politics, and the conventions.

Second hour: Over 40 million Americans are freelance workers and temporary employment has grown over twenty percent since the start of the year. Some workers are freelance by choice, whereas, other workers have become freelancers or temporary workers by necessity. The rise of temporary workers in recent years has spun off the term “permatemps”. Is this a more permanent category of employment and who fits into this definition?

Third hour: Adam Johnson, the author of “The Orphan Master’s Son.”

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): An American RadioWorks special: “Grit, Luck & Money: Preparing Kids for College and Getting Them Through.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie with more from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The NFL is about to start its regular season with replacement referees. Thanks to a labor dispute, the regular officials have been sidelined. And judging by the pre-season mistakes of some rookie refs, week one in the NFL could be quite

interesting. NPR will have the story.