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Read the Label Carefully!

by Donald Prothero, May 18 2011

I was in a big hurry and needed to pick up a strong cold medication for sinus congestion before going to a Skeptic Society meeting. Not knowing any better, I stopped a health food chain store in Pasadena—and was stunned by what I saw. Everything was advertised as “organic” (even though studies show no clear evidence that organic is significantly healthier, or that all foods labeled “organic” are indeed grown or raised that way). Everything was WAY more expensive than conventional grocery store prices. The place was crawling with yuppie couples in Birkenstocks and expensive designer clothes from Land’s End and L.L. Bean. It was a two-story chaos, with lots of dead ends and confusing and poorly laid-out aisles. It was almost like a casino, which is designed to slow you down and make you see as much of the floor space as possible. Consequently, it took me quite a while to find the cold products. By this time, I was running late. Because the clerk recommended it, I grabbed a box off the shelf called “Umcka cold care”. When I reached the checkout, I discovered it cost $17 for just 20 tablets!

When I got back to the car, I looked closer. In tiny letters, the box said “Homeopathic”! I guess I should have expected that in a heath food store, there would be homeopathic remedies, but I didn’t realize that they would ONLY have quack medicines. Readers of this blog are probably familiar with the problem with homeopathy. Most homeopathic medicines are diluted down so much that they contain few or no molecules of the active ingredient, and so they are literally just drinking water. In the case of these pills I bought, there is a long list of inactive ingredients, and just a tiny amount of the Pelargonium sidoides plant, a South African herb that MIGHT have some effect on reducing cold symptoms—although the medical studies are inconclusive, and most colds go away as our immune systems take care of the viral infection.

The claims of homeopathy have been tested over and over again, and none has passed muster. In 2005, the premier British medical journal The Lancet published an analysis of 220 studies about homeopathy, half of them conventional studies of medicines, and half of them of controlled homeopathic experiments. They found no evidence that homeopathy had any real value except as a placebo. In 2006, the European Journal of Cancer surveyed 6 studies, and found homeopathy had no effect (Milazzo et al., 2006). Even studies by homeopaths themselves often show that their products have no significant effect, despite their biases to prove otherwise.

In January 2010, a group of British skeptics decided to stage an event to show the uselessness of homeopathic remedies. They planned a “homeopathic overdose” day on Jan. 30, where they would take hundreds of times the recommended dose of homeopathic remedies to “commit suicide”. If homeopathic remedies were real drugs, such overdoses would indeed have made these people sick, or killed them. Of course, nothing adverse happened to them—except that some of them had to go to the bathroom more often from consuming so much water. Their protest was an effort to expose the fraudulent nature of  homeopathic remedies sold in British drugstores to the tune of £12 million worth of these worthless “remedies” between 2005 and 2008. Since the original stunt, groups in America and Australia have staged similar events to publicize the worthlessness of homeopathy.

In the United States, there is no national medical system fully in place yet, but homeopathy is not covered by most private medical insurance providers. About $3.1 billion were spent on homeopathic medicines in 2007, and about 2% of the U.S.  population seeks homeopathic treatment each year. Homeopathic remedies are still regulated as drugs for purity by the FDA, although the FDA does not endorse their medicinal qualities. However, the FDA considers most of homeopathic drugs harmless, because they are so diluted that they have no real active ingredients left. (The FDA is not empowered to tell consumers whether the drugs are worthless or a waste of money, just whether they are safe or not).

I should not have been surprised that an organic food store would have expensive but worthless homeopathic products on their shelves. Unfortunately, there are many mainstream grocery stores and drugstores that carry both homeopathic “medicines” next to legitimate medicines—and the consumer needs to look the packaging over carefully to make sure that it is really an FDA-approved drug based on scientific research, and not the product of some homeopathic con game. Caveat emptor!

As a coda to the story, I went to a conventional drug store immediately after I realized the health food store “medicine” was homeopathic—and bought 20 tablets of a real antihistamine-decongestant-pain reliever (for just $6), and took some of those. I felt fine the rest of the afternoon. And I saved the receipt from the health food chain, so I got my $17 back.

Reference

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65 Responses to “Read the Label Carefully!”

  1. Ron says:

    It would be a shame if people went into upscale grocery stores, found the homeopathic medicine displays, pulled out the little tubes of pills and put them back in random order. People would end up taking the wrong homeopathic “remedies” and not realize it if they bought the wrong pills. I hope that hundreds of people across the country don’t start randomizing the homeopathic pills…

  2. Martha Bunfield says:

    >And I saved the receipt from the health food chain, so I got my $17 back.
    A happy ending! Thanks, I needed one of those.

  3. Max says:

    “If homeopathic remedies were real drugs, such overdoses would indeed have made these people sick, or killed them.”

    Who says homeopathic remedies are drugs? Homeopaths call real drugs “allopathic remedies.” You may as well expose the fraudulent nature of sugar by proving that it’s not real drugs.

    • Donald Prothero says:

      Homeopaths make the claim that their “medicines” cure diseases and illnesses, and have an active role–they do NOT make the claim that their “medicines” are just expensive placebos. But all the rigorous research shows that their remedies have no medicinal effect, and are just placebos, and so their claims are fraudulent and false.

  4. Happy Camper says:

    Your first mistake was going to a “health food” store. Your second mistake was not immediately walking back out and finding a legitimate drug store.

    • SDGeoff says:

      WARNING to those looking for a conversation on homeopathy. It stops here. All the rest of the posts are arguing about organic farming. totally off-topic.

  5. Jim says:

    A point often missed in the skeptical community is that the primary purpose of organic agriculture is to decrease the environmental burdens associated with food production. That is why the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 requires organic food producers to “respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” From a regulatory standpoint it has nothing to do with health benefits for the consumers. I am not arguing that prominent people don’t make actual or implied health claims; they certainly do. A large segment of organic food consumers probably expect health benefits, but they’ve missed the point as well.
    Presumably there are benefits to reducing pesticides in our soil and groundwater. There is also a large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico due to runoff of the excess nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers used in conventional agriculture throughout the Mississippi River basin. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers also require significant energy input to produce and transport. Phosphate rock is a finite resource and in 2008 researchers estimated that “peak phosphorus” could occur within 30 years, and that “At current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years.”
    My point with all of this is that the lack of documented health benefits from organic food does not mean “yuppie couples in Birkenstocks” are ignorant or irrational for purchasing organic food. No one claims that fair trade shade grown coffee is healthier than conventional coffee, but the same types of people prefer to purchase it to promote environmental and social “sustainability”.

    • Robo Sapien says:

      Whether or not the individual buys organic because of false claims of health benefits or false claims of environmental impact, they are still buying it based on false claims.

      Of all the “organic” label food products in the market, a staggeringly low percentage of it is produced by small operations as their sole mode of income. The overwhelming majority is produced by the same companies who own the non-eco-friendly plants and refineries that produce non-organic foods. These companies aren’t shutting down or cutting back on their non-organic enterprises, so these unshaven sandal wearing tree huggers (joking) aren’t really helping the environment by purchasing this stuff. The way I see it, going organic poses a risk to our health and our economy, a risk that is not outweighed by an environmental risk that we have yet to confirm as a real danger.

      Personally, I refuse to buy anything that has the organic label, regardless of price. To me, that label is a symbol of regression and ignorant dismissal of the technologies that keep modern civilization fed with safety and quality. I like my irradiated mutant tomatos, they are sweet and juicy and colorful and parasite-free, and they stay that way in my refridgerator for longer.

      Once upon a time, the entire world lived on “organic” food. Well, those who didn’t die from famine and disease, anyway.

      • Nice stereotyping, wow.

        Tis true that the organic *label* is loose, due to …. BIG AG!

        If one *knows* the background of a particular farm, or at least knows what the Big Ag pseudoorganics are, one can dodge Big Ag.

        And, organic poses a health risk? WTF is with that unsupported assumption?

        Oh, BTW, with appropriate extra labor, the most recent studies show that with many crops, organic can grow as mu ch per acre as Big Ag.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Sure they can match “Big Ag” per acre, for much higher operating cost and lower quality produce. Perhaps I was a bit brash in asserting that there be health risks involved, as none of it would make it past the FDA if there were safety risks, but the cost of meeting FDA regs is much higher with organic methods. Also, do those studies account for the volume of produce that is discarded for being sub-spec?

        My contention is that current pesticides and irradiation are ADVANCES in quality and safety which have been unjustly demonized, and there is no point in taking steps backward due to unconfirmed fears about the environment.

      • Jim says:

        Is the Gulf Coast dead zone an unconfirmed fear? Also, you’re crazy to think that pesticides don’t pose health and environmental risks. Yes, there are trade-offs, and it’s certainly possible that the benefits outweigh the risks, but you’re just being purposefully dense to argue that concerns of pesticides in soil, groundwater, and runoff are “unconfirmed fears” and can’t harm human health and the environment.

      • First, agreed with Jim that there are *confirmed* fears. That said, Mass Ag overuses most the chemicals it does.

        Second, there is less fear of monopolization on the organic side, if we get true organic certification (California certification is far more the real deal than is USDA).

        Third, as oil prices continue to rise, and assuming there’s some validity to Mass Ag, Robo, I think you’ll see the price difference narrow more and more. Get outside the “big,” highly subsidized crops, and it’s not that great a diff right now.

        Fourth, the “discarding”? I’ll bet that (and I’ve just read a book on food waste), you’ll find at least as much discarding, by percentage, under Mass Ag producers.

        Otherwise, your responses to others indicate that you seem to be, in part, making a straw man out of organic farming.

      • Jim says:

        You actually have no idea what you are talking about do you?

        The results of two minutes on Web of Science (Nemecek et al., 2011, Life cycle assessment of Swiss farming systems: I. Integrated and organic farming):

        “In the overall assessment OF (organic farming) was revealed to be either superior or similar to IP (integrated production) in environmental terms. OF has its main strengths in better resource conservation, since the farming system relies mainly on farm-internal resources and limits the input of external auxiliary materials. This results in less fossil and mineral resources being consumed. Moreover the greatly restricted use of pesticides makes it possible to markedly reduce ecotoxicity potentials on the one hand, and to achieve a higher biodiversity potential on the other. This overall positive assessment is not valid for all organic products: some products such as potatoes had higher environmental burdens than their counterparts from IP.”

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Yes, we know it is better for the environment, but sustainability sucks, the whole world can’t afford to pay $5 for a tomato. This might seem callous to you, but I find it more important to keep human beings fed than to worry about some dead fish. The dead zone is said to be the size of New Jersey, but still just a speck on the world’s oceans.

      • Jim says:

        Firstly, if “we know it is better for the environment” then why did your first comment refer to “false claims of environmental impact”. You’ve clearly shifted your argument and you continue to move goalposts.

        Secondly, the people freely choosing to pay $5 for an organic tomato obviously can afford it. No one is forcing third world countries to purchase organic produce at Whole Foods.

        Finally, there are obviously trade-offs between economic and environmental concerns. No one denies that. You sound just like a global warming denialist coming up with bullshit conspiracy theories implicating thousands of environmental scientists. You paint all environmental concerns as some sort of woo bullshit, but a lot of researchers have spent decades trying to determine the potential and actual detrimental impacts of various pollutants in the environment. Their work has saved lives, improved human health and helped preserve ecosystems.

      • James says:

        —> The overwhelming majority is produced by the same companies who own the non-eco-friendly plants and refineries that produce non-organic foods.

        There are a finite number of customers (only so many people). If a large company is able to a) draw new customers and b) see a demand shift from non-organic to organic foods, they’ll…wait for it….produce more organic foods.

        By creating demand for the product, they most certainly do influence the market.

        —> or false claims of environmental impact

        Citations please. There are mountains of evidence of the negative impacts of many modern farming practices. Whether the positives outweigh the negatives is another question all together. Are you seriously proposing there is _zero_ negative impact to modern farming practices such as pesticides and, thus, not using pesticides has _zero_ benefit?

        —> Once upon a time, the entire world lived on “organic” food. Well, those who didn’t die from famine and disease, anyway.

        An inane observation. Farming practices in general have vastly improved over the centuries. Yes, modern farming has provided massive benefit to the world. But at a cost. If there were alternative means of producing foods that did not have the same negative costs why slander those who can afford and take advantage of them?

        As a skeptic, I’ve learned there is one sure sign that you are dealing with an ideologue: Blanket dismissal of the opposing side using vituperative stereotypes and absolutist language. Very few things in the world are so black and white.

        As you’ve so eloquently shown, there is ample ignorance on both sides of the fence to go around.

      • Amen, James. There’s clearly straw men being posted here by people with stereotypes of organic farming, people also who thin that “organic” and “Mass Ag” are two poles of a dichotomy with nothing in between, either.

    • Chuck P. says:

      I don’t think it’s at all clear that organic foods are better for the environment than conventional. Organic foods tend to have far lower yields than conventional (especially GM) crops. Lower yields means it takes twice as much land to produce the same amount of food organically as it would conventionally. Twice as much land, twice as much water twice as much fertilizer run off, twice as many diesel burning tractors, etc. The supposed environmental benefits of organic foods are at least as unproven as the supposed health benefits.

      • Not true on the “far lower yields.” See comments above. Also, non-organic farming, but still “good use farming” without massive inputs of chemical fertilizer, etc., can come out abuut the same as Mass Ag on output.

        On GM crops, they’re generally modified to have higher resistance to chemical herbicides, NOT for much higher yields.

        Both organic and non-organic “good use” farming focus on NOT using so much chemical fertilizer in the first place, so I don’t know what you’re talking about … and I’m not sure you do, either.

      • Chuck P. says:

        Do you have a reference for organic crops with yields equivalent to conventional? I thought the whole point on non-organic farming was to take advantage of higher yields available.
        Re GM, crops can be engineered to be better at whatever we want them to. One of the most exciting GM ideas I’ve heard about is crops betting engineer to fix nitrogen directly out of the atmosphere. This would eliminate the biggest requirement for fertilizer and directly address the dead zone addressed above.

      • Indeed I do: http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html

        Plus, crop rotation and things like that, which Mass Ag by its nature tends not to do, are part of the sustainability edge.

        On dead zones, it would be nice …

        That said, the Mass Ag system encourages, in the US, lazy use of materials, and not just fertilizer.

        Compare Israeli farms to US Southwest ones one water use efficiency/economy.

      • Jim says:

        Actually, the study I cited earlier (Nemecek et al., 2011) considered the lower yields from organic agriculture, and still found it to be environmentally preferable.

      • James says:

        Chuck,

        I’m afraid your exaggerating the difference in yields by quite a large margin. There are numerous studies cited on Wikipedia from reputable, peer reviewed journals (like Science). Most results range in yields from 80-92% of conventional farming. I wouldn’t call that “far lower”. “Marginally lower” is more accurate.

        The 2007 study cited that did a meta analysis of 293 yield comparisons (these are often the most reliable as they smooth out the red herrings and outliers) found that

        —> organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base. (from the abstract)

        The study also found that in developed nations, yield was around 92% of conventional agriculture, but in developing countries organic farming actually produced 80% *more* yield than conventional farming.

        What is consistently “far lower” in organic farming is use of fertilizer and pesticides (50% and 97% respectively).

        The numbers are compelling and close enough to at least warrant consideration and serious cost/benefit assessment rather than being dismissed off handedly.

    • Mario says:

      Sorry but organic products are just a sort of “I’m putting my grand of sand” mentality for wannabe tree-huggers, environmentally speaking there is minimum if none benefits, and let’s be honest we desperate need sustainable energy production and a real paradigm shift not just making people using paper bags instead of plastic ones.

      First one needs more land to harvest a pound of organic strawberries than regular ones, that means more deforestation, even is just a couple of square inches, summed up in a big plantation is a big difference.

      Second unless one buys them in a local market that transport them on foot or in bicycles from the site of harvesting to the selling place then the same trucks that runs with oil will likely transport them, actually more likely you would increase the number of trips that truck has to make, and the exact same freezers and air conditioned facilities will sell them so you’re increasing the CO2 print.

      And third beside the placebo like effect of Homeopathic there is no scientific evidence that they are better than their pesticide and hormones covered cousins.

      So they’re neither saving the planet nor eating healthier, just rationalizing a belief and spending way more money…but if that make them happier I don’t have a problem with it, just don’t make it an ideology.

      • Max says:

        You really think that food covered in pesticides and hormones is as healthy as food that isn’t?

      • Mario says:

        No, I was being sarcastic about it, so far all the tests have failed to probe dangerous amounts of all that, and taking into account that at least 90% of food is not “organic certified” and that 100% of people need to eat to stay alive furthermore the syndromes and diseases related with pesticides and hormones overdose(yeah I know that’s the part where paranoia continues, what if these small doses….) are not the leading cause of morbility or mortality.

        One more thing most hormones are specific to each species and not only that but if you found a way of making them bio-availables orally, then my friend you’re sitting on million dollar idea.

        I do not trust in the well minded food industry just in the greed of the lawyers looking for the next big lawsuit, so if they haven’t found anything…well I’ll keep drinking tap water and enjoying my life with the delicacies my wallet can pay for.

      • James says:

        I drink tap water, modern miracle that is (didn’t drink it in new orleans, the pipes are ancient there….they had a lot of problems). I also often buy organic foods. I grew up in the south by the Gulf and have witnessed first hand the effects of pesticide run offs in kill zones and other negative effects of modern agriculture.

        The apple tastes the same to me and there’s no evidence that there’s any negative effects to organically grown foods. If I can afford the apple for pennies on the dollar more (much less than I spend on coffee), why does that make me some kind of tree hugging, paranoid crazy guy?

      • tmac57 says:

        Wait! Aren’t hormone replacement drugs taken orally?

      • Mario says:

        Yeah you’re right, if you want to spend those extra pennies is your call, I’m not against organic food if I look something delicious I don’t care whether is organic or not, but only If I can pay for it.

        I’m just against putting them like the solution for food production problems, the cure for health problems or the best ecologic idea in centuries, and the final solution for the hell that has been eating our whole life this poisoned regular food.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        I believe the land requirements for organic are roughly +30% for farms with animals, +80% for farms without.

      • Nope, there’s NOT that difference in many cases, at least not on land with animals: http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html

        Also, again, there’s “good use” ag that’s not necessarily organic, but practices many sustainability ideas that organic ag does.

        I’m with Jim. If a couple of ppl here aren’t willfully promoting straw men, they’re at least speaking out of uninformed ignorance.

      • Jim says:

        Have you actually looked at any life-cycle assessments when building your arguments? The first rule of skepticism is that your intuition is often wrong. For one, your “analysis” completely ignored the effects of pesticide use and over application of fertilizers. Those fertilizers and pesticides have direct detrimental effects on human health and the environment, and indirect effects from the fossil fuels used to produce, transport, and apply them. Also, in the U.S. you typically are going to be planting on grasslands, so deforestation from decreased yields probably is not a major issue.

        I agree with you on the need for a paradigm shift, but the actual evidence does show that there are environmental benefits associated with using organic instead of conventional agriculture, and there is nothing wrong with people freely choosing to spend more of their own money for that.

      • Simply wrong, Mario. At least on grains, organic, or “good use” nonorganic, too, I’ll bet, can equal per-acre output of Mass Ag — demonstrated research: http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html

      • Mario says:

        C’mon you people, you are showing reports which are not conclusive, the paper does not and can not state that the amount of evidence is either overwhelming regarding the higher productivity of organic crops (BTW all of the data is at least 10 years old, what does new reports say?), that in itself excludes it as a metanalysis, which should be the proper tool to analyse that amount of studies.

        The organic crops have grown incredibly fast but, where are the new studies that leave little or no doubt about the productivity? how much money and people would it take for them to take the whole country food production?, what would happen if the organic food would cost exactly the same than regular grown, most of this farmers do it because the money is better, chef put them on menus because they can charge extra for it.

        Like I said I’m not against organic food I’m just saying take it easy with all those worries, pesticides, hormones are bad no doubt about it, but the levels are so low that we had to develop new machines to actually measure them, we are not dying like flies, we are not having syndromes and diseases related to those poisons that we are eating in epidemic proportions, we hit the 7 billion humans mark this year, so obviously those apocalyptic views of our food system can’t be true.

        @tmac57: yes they are, but they have to go through a coating process to guard them against gastric acid and to make sure they deliver the right amount of drug, considering that the liver would metabolize some of it.

        I’m sorry if I sounded belligerent or pedant, trust me it’s never my intention, sometimes is just my bad English.

  6. MKR says:

    “Expensive designer clothes from Land’s End and L.L. Bean”? That’s like saying “expensive Italian sports cars from General Motors.” Land’s End and L.L. Bean sell clothes only under their own labels, not under designer labels, and their clothes are not expensive.

  7. Donald Prothero says:

    We’re just impoverished teachers living in LA, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. We have no choice but to buy our clothes at Costco, Walmart, and Target.

    • Robo Sapien says:

      It is the humblest of crusaders with the noblest of causes who wear the simplest of attire. Hat’s off to you, sir.

      • Somite says:

        Ditto. Son of a teacher here. Teachers are heroes.

      • M167A1 says:

        Please insert snarky comment about primary and secondary teachers —-Here–>>
        (I get them when they are college freshment..sigh)

        I’m glad I don’t get them any younger….

  8. Somite says:

    Part of the expense of organic foods markets is that they are not subsidized by cheaper processed sugar-added foods found in larger supermarkets. I also like the simplicity of the message. People could eat “organic” and it would be a much better diet than what most people normally buy at the supermarket.

    This would all be solved if carrots were not more expensive than twinkies. This is due to our screwed up food policies that actually ends up killing people with metabolic disease later in life. This is well documented and researched by nutritionists and I would prefer skeptics address this first than criticizing slightly more expensive specialty shops.

    “The role of fructose in the pathogenesis of NAFLD and the metabolic syndrome”

    http://www.nature.com/nrgastro/journal/v7/n5/abs/nrgastro.2010.41.html

    Regarding the regulation of homeopathic “drugs” by the FDA. The FDA does require safety and efficacy for a manufactured chemical or biological marketed for a specific treatment. Homeopathic and herbal medicines are excluded from this requirement because there isn’t enough component to test or are plant extracts. This is how cigarettes which are actually toxic and carcinogenic are allowed to be sold but were not allowed to add nicotine.

    This would all be solved if efficacy was required if efficacy was claimed or packaging with labeling was included. It wouldn’t a problem to buy bunches of st john’s wort if someone wanted too. The problem is the packaging of it as a drug and efficacy claim.

    I wonder how entrenched libertarians, that would do away with the FDA, envision that drug safety would be pursued. I’m sure pharmaceuticals would be happy to do away with safety and efficacy testing and let the market decide a product is unsafe when somehow it is documented that it causes cancer 20 years later. Oops!

  9. MadScientist says:

    Homeopathy is a scourge. When traveling around places where I just don’t know the language, I worry that I might need some over-the-counter medicine of some sort and be given some homeopathic voodoo instead.

  10. Ubi Dubium says:

    Regarding the homeopathic “overdoses” that I have seen done as a demonstration: If homeopathy were actually right, and dilution increases the effect, you would be reducing the effect by taking too many. At least, that might be the claim of the woo-pushers selling this stuff. So, for comparison, I suggest trying a lethal “underdose” as part of the demonstration. Dissolve one tablet in a gallon or two of water, and give your participants each a drop.

    • tmac57 says:

      What I have heard them say in defense is “It doesn’t work that way” and “This shows how safe homeopathy is”.Both of these are just hand waving though.

    • Max says:

      If someone did overdose, THAT would be a blow to homeopathy, as when “homeopathic” Zicam nasal spray knocked out people’s sense of smell.

  11. Ed Graham says:

    …and the medicine that doesn’t work costs more.

  12. paul barry says:

    What irks me the most in the homeopathic world is the Similasan company.

    They have allergy, “pink eye”, dry eye, ear medication, and even cataract drops.
    Cataract drops is the most egregious, as it would not penetrate into the human lens.
    They are based in Switzerland. Google them along with ‘warning letter’.

    You can find their crap everywhere.

    Don, maybe they will have a “myopia” drop for you sometime soon. :)

  13. One more note to all the people poo-pooing organic ag, and not even getting the issue of sustainability — read Wendell Berry.

    • paul barry says:

      How about a reference for Wendell Berry, socraticgadfly.

      Is he a scientiist? A musician? Is he an expert on homeopathic medicine?

      Is he an expert on “organic ag”

  14. Curtis says:

    Unfortunately, due to the “war” on drugs, the only cold medicine available in most states is also just a placebo. Pseudoephedrine which worked has been replaced with phenylephrine which is worthless.

    “Phenylephrine was not significantly different from placebo in the primary end point, mean change in nasal congestion score at more than 6 hours (P = .56), whereas pseudoephedrine was significantly more effective than both placebo (P < .01) and phenylephrine (P = .01)."

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19230461

    • paul barry says:

      What the fuk does that have to do with organic farming?

      • Robo Sapien says:

        The organic farming discussion is a huge derail that started because someone took offense to Prothero being rightly skeptical of organic label products.

        If you look closely, you might notice that the original article is actually about cold medicine, which Curtis was responding to. I hope you wash your feet before putting them in your mouth.

      • Donald Prothero says:

        Funny how these threads on my posts often seem to get derailed onto unrelated tangents, and then lead to virulent debates on stuff I never mentioned. I guess it’s a good thing if people find my posts interesting and provocative, even if they lose the point….

      • paul barry says:

        kind of ironic actually, robosapiens response.

        read the label carefully.

        all my science teachers taught me to look at the label twice, then look again. from grade school college and beyond

        it’s important to read carefully.

        another lesson learned.

      • paul barry says:

        robo see 12.

        see 13.

        see your post on 14

        Curtis most certainly got the joke.

        from now on I will use the sarcasm quotes for those who are skipping ahead.

      • paul barry says:

        still waiting for a response

        you said I hope I wash my feet?

        reply please

  15. flatlander100 says:

    Wearing “expensive designer clothes from … L.L. Bean.”

    Good grief.

    You’ve got to get out more.