How does pro-organic hype grow? Sometimes from the smallest seed.

An innocuous news item appeared last week under the headline “Is Organic Better?” The piece notes, “According to the journal Alternative Therapy Health and Medicine, organic foods have a higher nutrient content [than non-organically produced foods]. They have more ascorbic acid, more protein, and less nitrate.”

From that tiny sprout grew a cornucopia of pro-organic blather. The Organic Consumers Association crowed, “a recently published review? comparing the nutrition of organic and conventionally grown foods found significantly higher nutrients in organic crops.”

With so much buzz about this paper, it must be by some pretty reputable scientists, right? Wrong. It’s by Virginia “Ginger” Worthington, an organic grower and part of the “organic movement” who wrote her doctoral dissertation on “the nutritional value of organically produced foods.” (She is the co-founder of Nutrikinetics, a Washington, D.C., naturopathy and chiropractic practice that profits from “counseling” people toward eating nothing but organic foods.)

In fact, this “new” paper is essentially a reprinting of her thesis, with a few new additions. And while Worthington insists this “new” work — which she says proves “the nutritional superiority of organic food” — was peer-reviewed, according to Alternative Therapy Health and Medicine, it wasn’t. The only “peer review” was done by her thesis committee — not by the journal.

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