This video floated across my Facebook timeline and knowing the person who posted it I took a look. I have no doubt that the person who posted this is sincere in their beliefs that natural and organic are positive for the human race, but I am equally sure that they are not aware of the whole story. So let’s break it down –

Who is paying for this?

Coop Sweden is a chain of grocery stores owned by a company called KF Group. The company is made up of 39 consumer cooperative societies and Coop is their main retail arm for groceries. The KF group also has other business interests such as real estate, digital publishing and conference facilities. They are a large business. with Coop making over 20% of total grocery sales in Sweden.

Coop themselves have their own line of packaged organic goods, and use a company called Saba for fresh fruit and vegetables.  Saba is majority owned by American food company  Dole Food Company (60 percent).

Interestingly Sweden has been pushing to ensure 30% of arable land is utilised for organic produce, but still imports over 70% of all organic goods. A side effect of promoting organic in Sweden is that the economy is taking a beating on imports.

In 2014 Coop increased organic sales by 40%, with organic making up 7% of all Coop grocery sales. In short, organic is a nice piece of business that is growing at a fantastic rate.

What is the message they want you to swallow?

The message pushed by the video is that is you eat organic the chemicals that they link with non-organic foods, reduce or disappear altogether. By extrapolation that means you are healthier. Because chemicals…duh!

What are the rabbit holes?

The urine tests

The average person will believe what they have seen on TV crime shows or hospital shows where someone orders “tests” and something rare and amazing is discovered. This is not how testing works. Tests are specific. The chemicals in the urine are not the only chemicals, they are just the ones tested for.  IVL (the lab) was instructed to test for 12 chemicals but found only 8. The ad only displayed results for 4, so either they didn’t find the spectacular results they were looking for, or they still had results after the organifying (made up word- dibs first use).

Note no testing was done for organic pesticides….yes organic farmers do use pesticides. Depending on where you are in the world depends on what pesticides are permitted, but think versions of detergents, pyrethrum, vinegar, salts. Organic farms have to be as hygienic as any other and will use bleach or chlorine based products for cleaning.  The myth that organic farming is chemical free is just that, a myth.

Chemicals

There is more than a little hysteria when the word chemical is used when linked to organic. Chemicals must be bad, because they are man-made, right? The thing is, no distinction is made as to what are bad and what are good chemicals. Think of naturally occurring chemicals like arsenic and tell me that because it exists in organic forms in nature then it is a “good” chemical.

The Chemicals Mentioned

Yes it was small print and they did say they were “pesticides” but here’s the skinny on what was tested for and what they actually are

Chlormequat Chloride

This is a plant growth inhibitor, not a pesticide. It stops fruit and vegetable plants growing tall and rangy, making it less likely to lose produce and easier to harvest. It is also considered a low risk pesticide in the USA, but not permitted to be used on edible materials as no recent studies have been done that conform to current standards.

European standards note in studies about Chlormequat Chloride  [there’s] “no evidence for bioaccumulation…extensively absorbed, barely metabolised and rapidly excreted mainly by urine.” In other words it goes right through you.

Mepiquat chloride

Another plant growth regulator and one rated as not likely to be a carcinogen by the EPA and widely used for vegetables and melon growth worldwide. Again it was noted in studies that “was excreted mostly in urine, and did not accumulate in tissues”

3-PBA

3-PBA is a pyrethroid metabolite that is used in fly sprays as well as a crop insecticide. Again it is mostly excreted in your urine after ingestion and should be completely gone within 4 days. Again the EPA does not consider it a cancer risk.

TCP

Now we are talking… if we are talking 1,2,3-Trichloropropane that is. This is used as a soil fumigant (not in the USA since the ’80s) and part of the pesticide making process. It is also involved in solvents and paint thinners and other industrial applications. Globally it is recognised as a water and soil contaminent and studies are underway to see how its existence in the environment can be remedied.

Men in white coats

Our Western brains are programmed to think that a man in a white coat is someone of authority. Someone with lots of know-how, years of intensive study, someone who knows the mysteries that we can never hope to know. Put a white coat on a man and he becomes superhuman in our subconscious. Let’s look closer at the man in the white coat in the advertisement. The title placed next to him in the ad is “Jorgan Magner  – Swedish Environmental Research Institute”. Jorgen is a real researcher at where the tests were done, which is not always the case in advertisements.  Men in white coats will always be more authoritative to your thinking, even when the small print says “This man is not a doctor”.  If an ad is showing you a man in a white coat they want you to think more of what is being said than it probably warrants. What if Jorgen wasn’t wearing his coat in the ad, you could have mistaken him for the cleaner!

Emotional Blackmail

You are a bad mother filling your child with harmful chemicals if you don’t feed them organic. Are you poisoning your children? Of course when we go back to the fact that the chemicals displayed are all, bar 1, not dangerous and that the dose makes the poison (and the detected levels were tiny) then if you are feeding your kids meat and vegetables then you are doing a good job, whether they are organic or not. Don’t be emotionally manipulated.

Just on that… the poignant pause after the mother says she doesn’t want those chemicals back in her children..yeah I hope they told her she has swapped one set of insecticides for another.

Coop is just doing this to be nice, and promote organic

We know that Coop is not doing this as a moral stance on organic food, they would have dropped their conventional produce entirely if they were…or at least dropped their organic prices to match conventional grocery price and took the financial hit so people could have better access to organic produce (remember the reason the lady didn’t buy organic in the first place was cost).  They actually state they are doing this “to support organic farming”. Coop is mentioned in articles as helping farmers switch to organic, but as of yet I have not been able to find out whether they charge for that service.

Conclusion

This is an ad to increase sales in a specific part of the Coop business. The “experiment” demonstrates nothing more than if you remove conventional foods from your diet, chemicals that are part of the creation of that food reduce or disappear. The ad itself is misleading and emotionally manipulative. Choose organic if you like, but do so without considering this ad as evidence.

 

p.s. Here’s some manual things you can do to minimise chemical residue on your foods

 

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