If you think that organic food is safer, healthier, more nutritious, and is more eco-friendly, you might be surprised to learn that virtually all of these claims are largely hype. As for taste and quality, those depend on far more than using manure fertilizer or natural pesticides. That’s the gist of The Truth About Organic Foods, a provocative new book by CFACT Advisor Alex Avery, who serves as Director of Research and Education for the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues.

The book is a dispassionate examination of the organic pseudo-religion’s odd origins and unscientific basis. Chapter by chapter, it deconstructs common perceptions regarding organic health and environmental claims. Written for the average consumer, it provides budget-stretched families with a resource to alleviate food fears and is a welcome tool with which to turn the tables on organic purists.

It should be required reading for all food reporters.

The book begins with the movement’s origins in the 1920s lectures of a German mystic, who advised farmers to only use animal manure because the then-new synthetic nitrogen fertilizers lacked vital “cosmic energy”. Steiner also recommended stuffing cow’s horns and deer bladders with manure and herbs to boost yields and ward off pests. Seriously.

In the 1930s and 40s, social elites echoed Steiner’s belief in the superiority of manure-fertilized crops. The movement finally got its name when American J.I. Rodale published his first issue of Organic Gardening Magazine in 1942. 75 years later, organic activists still cannot point to any credible science to support their long-held beliefs.

Organic believers say organic food is more nutritious. It is their founding belief. Yet dozens of experiments have concluded otherwise, as Avery notes, including their own research. In the late 1940s the wealthy niece of a British Prime Minister donated her sizeable farm to prove the point. In 1977, Lady Balfour admitted that the experiment “revealed no consistent or significant differences.” Today, the organic activist group created to conduct the experiment claims the issue hasn’t been adequately studied and hides its research like a tobacco company.

Many consumers say they purchase organic food to avoid pesticides. Not likely. Every vegetable contains about five percent of its weight in natural pesticides, many of them carcinogenic. According to toxicologist Bruce Ames, one cup of coffee contains more carcinogens than a year’s worth of synthetic pesticide residues – usually found on produce at only a few parts per billion (equal to one second in 32 years!).

Think conventional meat and dairy products are loaded with hormones and antibiotics? Facts: More than 97% of all meat in the U.S. is totally free of antibiotics and more than 99.5% is free of synthetic hormones. Hormones aren’t even allowed or sold for use in pigs or poultry. Only one sample in 400 violates the ultra-cautious antibiotic limits set by the FDA. Beef hormones produce leaner beef and the billionths of a gram traces occasionally found in beef are many thousands of times less than the natural hormones found in even organic meat, milk, and eggs – not to mention the hormones naturally produced by our own bodies. The World Health Organization and food safety authorities in the U.S., Canada, Japan and even Europe have all declared them safe.

Milk is even more pure: 100% of it is tested for antibiotic residues with zero tolerance for even trace contamination. The biotech hormone given to cows is a perfect copy of the natural, so the milk is in all respects indistinguishable from organic.

Switching from phantom food risks to real ones, organic foods have repeatedly been found to harbor more illness-causing bacteria. The January 2007 issue of Consumer Reports found organic chicken had 300% more Salmonella than regular and university studies have found more bacteria in organic veggies.

Finally, if you think organic farming is better for the planet that too is wrong. Just for starters, giving up synthetic fertilizer would require sacrificing millions of people to reduce food needs—or sacrificing millions of square miles of wildlife habitat to make more manure.

It’s high time that consumers know the truth about organic food. You will find no better, or more accessible source for this truth than The Truth About Organic Foods.