Why do you buy organic? Is it because organic food is more nutritious? Because it’s healthier? Or tastes better? Because of what isn’t on it? The debate over the benefits of organic vs. conventional produce was rocked last week by a published study stating that conventional produce had the same amount of nutrients as organic produce. Here’s a report on the original article from The New York Times, followed by a rebuttle published on The Huffington Post. If you want to weigh in, we’d love to know what you think.
Does an organic strawberry contain more vitamin C than a conventional one?
Maybe — or maybe not.
Stanford University scientists have weighed in on the “maybe not” side of the debate after an extensive examination of four decades of research comparing organic and conventional foods.
They concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli.
The researchers also found no obvious health advantages to organic meats.
Conventional fruits and vegetables did have more pesticide residue, but the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits, the scientists said. The Environmental Protection Agency sets the limits at levels that it says do not harm humans.
“When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy and the senior author of the paper, which appears in Tuesday’s issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. “I think we were definitely surprised.”
The conclusions will almost certainly fuel the debate over whether organic foods are a smart choice for healthier living or a marketing tool that gulls people into overpaying. The production of organic food is governed by a raft of regulations that generally prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, hormones and additives.
Yesterday’s report out of Stanford that organic foods may not be much healthier or more nutritious than their conventional counterparts has caused quite a stir.
A deeper investigation into the study reveals a few things that the researchers failed to report.
While the scientists analyzed vitamins and minerals, food isn’t simply a delivery device for these things alone. We are quickly learning in this industrialized food era that our food can be full of a lot of other things. It has become a delivery device for artificial colors, additives, preservatives, added growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides and so much more.
The term “organic” actually refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed and legally details the permitted use (or not) of certain ingredients in these foods.
The details are that the U.S. Congress adopted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 as part of the 1990 Farm Bill which was then followed with the National Organic Program final rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The standards include a national list of approved synthetic and prohibited non-synthetic substances for organic production, which means that organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of:
• artificial growth hormones
• high fructose corn syrup
• artificial dyes (made from coal tar and petrochemicals)
• artificial sweeteners derived from chemicals
• synthetically created chemical pesticide and fertilizers
• genetically engineered proteins and ingredients
• sewage sludge
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, these added ingredients are actually what differentiate organic foods from their conventional counterparts. Yet nowhere in that Stanford study, comparing organic food to conventional, are these things measured. There is no measure of the insecticidal toxins produced by a genetically engineered corn plant, no measure of the added growth hormones used in conventional dairy, no measure of the fact that 80 percent of the antibiotics used today are used on the chicken, pork, beef and animals that we eat.
So, what do you think? Why do you buy organic? Here’s where we stand.