RANT: Both Food Babe and Science Babe Bloggers are Full of $h!t

food-babe-science-babe-bloggers-juicygreenmomUnless you live in a world without internet, you’ve probably seen the post on Gawker by Science Babe eloquently titled: “The ‘Food Babe’ Blogger Is Full of Shit”. As an eco-mom blogger, I follow a lot of green living & clean eating blogs, but have never paid attention to Food Babe until this came up.

I don’t doubt what Science Babe argues about the lack of evidence and sensationalist claims on Food Babe’s site. It is unfortunate that with the internet, it is very easy to get a message out without any real substance to back it up. But here’s my beef – the Science Babe Blogger is equally – pardon me – full of shit. In truth, both Food Babe and Science Babe make unsubstantiated claims.

This is what clinched it for me:

“Hari claims going organic will save you from pesticides, but organic farming uses pesticides too. Some of them are far more toxic than conventional pesticides. (Remember, the dose makes the poison. Neither apple would have enough pesticide by the time it reaches market to be harmful.)

The difference between organic and conventional? For a product that’s no healthier, organic is more expensive and they give Hari a commission.”

Okay. So it’s true that Food Babe is incorrect when she says that organic produce is pesticide-free. It is free from synthetic pesticides, not necessarily natural pesticides. However “neither apple would have enough pesticide by the time it reaches market to be harmful” is false. And so is the claim that organic is “no healthier”. Let me explain.

  1. Are organic certification standards the same in the US and Canada?

The US and Canada have an equivalency agreement – they accept both USDA (US Department of Agriculture) organic and Canada Organic (regulated by Canada Organic Regime) certification, as long as the standards for each country are met. (In Canada, for example, sodium nitrate is not permitted, whereas in the US it IS permitted – so those USDA organic products would not be allowed to be labeled as organic in Canada.)

  1. What does “certified organic” really mean?

No synthetic pesticides are permitted. Only natural pesticides are permitted, and in Canada, these can be found on the Permitted Substances List (compare this to conventional farming where you as a consumer have no idea what kind of pesticides are used). However, “organic producers are required to use non-toxic, integrated pest, weed, and disease prevention plans prior to considering organically approved material application. Organic producers must also mitigate risks of inadvertent pesticide drift from neighboring land through buffers or timing of plantings.” (organic-center.org, italics mine). So yes, natural pesticides can be used, BUT these are used in a limited fashion and have low toxicity levels (in the US, these are evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency). Organic farmers are also “required to conduct periodic residue testing for prohibited pesticides, contaminants and GMOs” to ensure they are up to snuff (organic-center.org).

  1. Do synthetic pesticides really stay on produce long enough for us to ingest them?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list every year after USDA testing pesticide residue on produce samples. “Pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables tested by USDA, even when they were washed and, in some cases, peeled” (EWG, italics mine). EWG singles out produce with the highest pesticide loads for the Dirty Dozen list – this list ALWAYS has apples at the top of the list (in 2015, 99% of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue). The Clean Fifteen list are the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues. Sorry, Science Babe, that conventional apple you’re eating IS full of synthetic pesticides.

  1. Are synthetic pesticides really that bad?

“Pesticides are chemicals that are designed to kill. [They] are not smart chemicals. Once dispersed into the environment, pesticides can affect human health, and the health of other plants and animals on the planet.” (David Suzuki Foundation)

A scientific review of 265 studies demonstrated “clear evidence that pesticide exposure increases risk to human health” (Dr. Cathy Vakil, writing for David Suzuki Foundation). These studies found links between pesticides and various forms of cancer, neurotoxicity, birth defects, and fertility. Many synthetic pesticides used in Canada “are banned in other developed countries because of their ties to cancer, reproductive disorders and acute toxicity… [and] The World Health Organization estimates that over 200,000 people die every year from pesticide poisoning.” (Ecoholic, p.63-64, italics mine)

The toxicity of a formula of pesticides (made up of several) has been shown to be more powerful than the toxicity of those single pesticides on their own (“up to one thousand times more toxic”, Mesnage et al, 2014. So claims based on single pesticide toxicity tests don’t give an accurate picture of what’s really going on. (By the way, “Roundup was among the most toxic herbicides and insecticides tested.” Mesnage et al, 2014)

Also, “the Canadian Environmental Law Association says… 90% to 100% of us have pesticides in our tissues. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment… says that, for the health of our children, our wildlife and ourselves, synthetic pesticide use should be abandoned. Period.” (Ecoholic, p.64, italics mine)

So, no, Science Babe, synthetic pesticides and natural pesticides are not equal when it comes down to toxicity.

  1. It’s not just the pesticides – it’s the produce itself.

The USDA has documented that the nutrient value of foods has declined over the past few decades. Potatoes and tomatoes have far less nutrients than in the past because they have been bred to look nice on shelves. Choosing organic means that you are getting the heritage or “heirloom” varieties that were around before this decline (Art Wiebe, writing for David Suzuki Foundation).


Unfortunately, the science behind organic proves that the “Science” in Science Babe is also full of shit.

Hopefully the apples you’re eating are not.


What do you think about organic produce?

30 Responses

  1. Thank you, Sensible Babe.

    ” organic farming uses pesticides too. Some of them are far more toxic than conventional pesticides.” —That’s just got to be wrong. She makes a bizarre statement like that and doesn’t back it up…in a post criticizing another blogger for unfounded statements?

    • OK, now I go to her actual site I see she has hyperlinks for those statements. I don’t think the pages she links to, though, actually prove what she’s implying there – that natural pesticides used in organic farming are as, or more harmful to humans and the environment as the synthetic ones. That would be a very radical position to take, and I don’t think it can be supported.

      • I completely agree with you. I checked out her links as well. But I think the science cited by the David Suzuki Foundation, Adria Vasil, and the Environmental Working Group alone are enough to show that synthetic pesticides are indeed more harmful. Of course I’m not saying that natural pesticides are perfectly safe – anything can be harmful depending on the amount. But I think it’s clear that synthetic pesticides have been shown to be very harmful to humans and the environment, and contribute to our “toxic body burden”.

  2. Hi-

    I think you make some very good points. One thing, though – not all organic produce are heritage varieties, and some large scale organic farms may not necessarily be engaging in sound soil practices (organic isn’t just about pesticides). Also, buying organic produce that is shipped thousands of miles creates other issues – I’m not sure of the sense in buying organic apples from Chile when I live on the east coast of Canada, for example.

    I agree, though, that minimizing exposure to pesticides is important– particularly for the workers who are applying the pesticides. I believe that many of the cancer and mortality deaths related to synthetic pesticides are among the workers applying them -often without proper training or haz mat protection.

    • Thanks for making those points, Mary. I agree with you about shipping thousands of miles – I definitely think buying local is extremely important because we have to consider the carbon footprint of transporting produce. And I also hear you about large scale farms – especially when the same company is selling organic AND conventional produce, you have to wonder about contamination. I love my Organic Box program here in Edmonton because they really make an effort to source locally AND give people an opportunity to really know their farmers – something that is truly lacking in our current food system.

    • Thank you. I think the root of the problem is that our food system has become so complicated. It shouldn’t be. But it is super confusing trying to dig through everyone’s claims and biased research. We just have to make the best choices we can.

  3. I am so not a fan of food babe… I didn’t realize there was a science babe as well! I’m all for being informed, and think as consumers we should all be, but I also think we should be aware of sensationalism on both sides of the coin.

    • Totally agree with you. Apparently Science Babe came into being because of her hatred for Food Babe. I get it, but there is definitely sensationalism on both sides. It really bugged me that nobody was pointing out the other side.

  4. I think there is a lot of misconception about “organic”. A lot of people think it means NO pesticides whereas, as you rightly pointed, it means no synthetic. I was just discussing organic cotton with a friend and she mentioned that there were so many different certifications out that there that people are not aware of the different standards that come with them – just like the difference between Canadian and US stds. I think this is what happens when there is no universal standard. Over here we don’t have that many organic options – we have a local farm that sells organic vegetables but I can’t afford it, and the ones from overseas are even more expensive 🙁

    • Yes, and then do you really want the carbon footprint associated with buying produce from overseas?? I hear you. We just have to try to be informed and do the best we can!

  5. Oh wow! I have to admit I was one of the naive people about this issue. I had no idea about “organic” and the use of pesticides. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  6. Sometimes I wish I could either go back in time or go completely off grid and live in the wilderness. The damage we have done so thoughtlessly is depression and overwhelming. I simply cannot afford the higher prices of organic food with seven people to feed, even though I know that it would be better for us.

    • You’re right, I think that’s definitely a good reason for going off the grid! Or moving somewhere that you can grow your own food year-round (I certainly can’t with 6 months of winter). We’ve just complicated things too much.

  7. It really is so confusing! I think you’re right.. I think all we can do is try to make the best decisions possible, with as much information as we can gather, while trying to become as self-sufficient as possible.

  8. Thanks so much for shedding light on this. I remember when my grandmother use to grow all of the veggies we ate and I really want to start growing my own because the public is unaware of the different certifications and labels that goes along with how veggies are done

    • I love growing my own veggies and we have definitely fallen away from that as a society. If we all started growing our own food all the time – imagine how things would change??

  9. It’s so confusing, trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not and what’s best for our children. It doesn’t help that organic foods are more expensive.

  10. I hadn’t thought about the nutritional value of heirloom vs conventional produce, though I know that nutritional value also depends on soil health. Again, organic farming *tends* to be better for the soil, though with large-scale organic farms, that is not always the case.

  11. Thank you for this information. We have, in the past year, really been changing our eating habits to organic vs. non. I wasn’t aware that pesticides were still used on organic, but it makes sense that they do just that it’s a much safer method.

    • I do believe that organic is still the better choice, though there are those out there who say that pesticides used in organic farming are just as bad. I think that’s where buying local and getting to know your farmers really comes into play. My view is that organic from a big company that produces both organic and conventional produce is more likely to have bad stuff on it than organic from a small family farm.

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