Slowly but surely, the marketing-induced “health halo” surrounding organic food is starting to disappear. One of the more common misperceptions is that organic food is more nutritious than “conventional” food. But according to a massive review of data from the UK’s Food Standards Agency, there’s no scientific evidence to back up that claim. Another misperception is that “organic” equals “pesticide-free.” This simply isn’t true. Organic agriculture can use organic (i.e. non-synthetic) pesticides, and these can still be toxic. Rotenone, for one example, comes from the roots of tropical plants and is linked to tumors in rats and cell damage. (That’s not to imply that any pesticides, synthetic or organic, are dangerous to human health. Just wash your produce.)

Over at Scientific American, Christie Wilcox takes on these and other organic myths. And the most compelling (and perhaps controversial) are her statements about why organic isn’t necessarily better for the environment:

But the real reason organic farming isn’t more green than conventional is that while it might be better for local environments on the small scale, organic farms produce far less food per unit land than conventional ones. Organic farms produce around 80% that what the same size conventional farm produces (some studies place organic yields below 50% those of conventional farms!).

Right now, roughly 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and about 16 million of those will die from it. If we were to switch to entirely organic farming, the number of people suffering would jump by 1.3 billion, assuming we use the same amount of land that we’re using now. Unfortunately, what’s far more likely is that switches to organic farming will result in the creation of new farms via the destruction of currently untouched habitats, thus plowing over the little wild habitat left for many threatened and endangered species.

Read the full piece here.