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Last year, the Coop chain of grocery stores, known as a pioneer for organic food in Sweden with over 600 locations in the country, partnered with the the Swedish Environmental Research Institute to conduct an experiment on a family of five for three weeks. The family, which ate a conventional, non-organic diet to keep food costs down, switched to organic for two weeks, giving daily urine samples.
The results, which were presented to the public in a viral video called “The Organic Effect,” with tens of millions of views across social media platforms, showed that before switching to organic the family’s urine contained pesticides, fungicides and other agricultural chemicals. After eating an all organic diet for two weeks, the chemicals were no longer there. “Now, almost all the pesticides have disappeared,” says the video featuring three adorable blonde children and their parents.
The problem is, that’s not the whole story. In an analysis for the Skepchick “Bad Chart Thursday” series last year, Melanie Mallon delves into what she calls “Organic Cherry Picking.” She explains that the hyped results of the poorly-designed experiment showed exactly what we’d expect when dropping conventionally grown food: the level of pesticides used in conventional farming practically disappeared from the family’s urine. But the kicker? Most people don’t realize that organic agriculture uses pesticides too, albeit different ones. And the experiment didn’t test for pesticides used in organic agriculture.
This is like assigning a group of people to drink screwdrivers (that’s OJ and vodka for our teetotalers), then having them swap the screwdrivers for rum and cola, and concluding that rum and cola drinks lead to zero vodka levels in the body.