Response to "Organic food won't help you get pregnant"

Response to the National Review op-ed "Organic food won't help you get pregnant" by Julie Kelly published on December 6.

Photo credit: Lisa Williams

Did Julie Kelly actually read the peer reviewed scientific article she is bashing?  It appears not.

The study by Harvard University Researchers and published in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine did NOT gauge how often study participants ate organic fruits and vegetables. In fact, organic or not organic was in no way considered in the study's methodology.  Instead the study assessed the intake of fruits and vegetables known to have high levels of pesticide residues vs fruits and vegetables known to have low levels of pesticide residues – without reference to production method. Kelly makes the same error in her reference to a previously published study that links consumption of high pesticide fruits and vegetables to lower sperm count and quality in men.

Kelly also seems to be either confused about what constitutes peer review or just throwing out lies. JAMA Internal Medicine is a well-respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal.  What that means is that all articles published in that journal must go through a rigorous peer review process before they are accepted and published.  To claim that the study was not peer-reviewed is just plain false.

While Kelly is correct in pointing out that the study has not been replicated yet, it’s also worth pointing out that that’s because it was only published a month ago.  Believe it or not, it is going to take more than one month for other scientists to replicate the study and publish their research findings.

The study authors recognize that their research identifies a correlation (as opposed to causation) between the consumption of high pesticide residue produce and negative reproductive outcomes in their study population and they call for more research to address this. They also note - in an interview with CNN and not in their publication - that organic is just one option for those that want to reduce risk that may be associated with pesticide exposure.  While Kelly interprets this suggestion as industry-influenced “dishonesty and shamelessness” to “exploit a vulnerable group,” it could also simply be that the researchers are making an informed recommendation based on their research results in hopes that it will lead to improved health outcomes for others.

It’s clear that Julie Kelly likely cannot be convinced that these research results are not part of a larger conspiracy, but she should at least read the research paper before she attacks it.


pesticides, vegetables, pregnancy, rebuttal, peer review, Julie Kelly, National Review