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Time’s Toxic Residues

Published on: 10:02AM Aug 25, 2010

The current issue of Time magazine – certainly at the front of the line of organizations we call the mainstream media – has an extensive assessment of organic food.  Specifically, it asks the question of whether organic foods, and food production, is better for people.

Drilling down to dairy foods (and specifically, fluid milk), the article concludes that yes, organic dairy products are better, and here’s where the reporting goes off the deep end as Time renders the verdict in the case of organic vs. conventional milk :

Verdict: Go organic if you can; the extra chemistry in commercial cows is just too much.

Time bases that conclusion on the fact that “Cows that produce organic milk are not treated with antibiotics or hormones; this is especially important, as drug-resistant bacteria and early-onset puberty in girls continue to be on the rise.”

Nowhere does the article say what “extra chemistry” may be present in conventional milk.  In terms of hormone levels, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association asked that very question two years ago, and in a peer-reviewed research paper, found that hormone levels were consistent between organic and conventional milk.  If anyone has studied milk in this country and found different and purportedly better hormone levels in organic milk, I would like to see their research [sounds of crickets chirping].  Organic milk has growth hormone levels the same as conventional, otherwise those cows wouldn’t lactate. 

 In terms of antibiotic levels, no one outside the dairy industry seems to know or care that every tanker load of milk is tested for antibiotics to prevent residues from entering the food chain.  Last year, more than three million residue tests were conducted, and fewer than one milk tanker truck in 1,000 tests positive; those loads of milk that do are dumped at the cost of the farmer. 

The thing is, I see these pro-organic milk arguments show up in media interviews all the time.  That’s time, small case, as in not just Time magazine, but in interviews that supposed health and medical experts give.  And that rationale they inevitably cite for preferring organics is hormone levels in milk, even though they, as purported experts, never cite any data to back up their conclusions.  Is this journalism, or is it just wishful thinking because other right-minded people believe in the same thing – which is not necessarily believing in the facts?