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Friday, September 7, 2012

Forget What You Heard, Organic Food is Still Better

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 10:35 AM

click to enlarge Organic artichokes at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. - FLICKR/SUMMERTOMATO

The food world is aflutter. Stanford just released a study detailing how organic food is no more nutritious than non-organic food. Everyone is talking about it. I never realized how many people have truly bitter feelings toward the organic movement. What's that about? If you don't want to pay extra for organic food, you simply don't buy it. You don't have to be such a hater about it.

This study isn't really my bag though because I'm not someone who chooses organic for health reasons. My dang sheets are organic -- I'm not eating those. I buy organic products because of the environment. Many of the people totally jazzed about this review seem to forget that for a lot of us, organic is an environmental issue. Even the head researcher noted, "If you look beyond health effects, there are plenty of other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional." And she cites the environmental benefits and animal welfare. The National Resources Defense Council has much to say on this:

Pesticide or fertilizer laden runoff from farmlands washes into rivers, lakes, and streams, contaminating waterways, and destroying habitat. Many pesticides are also toxic to health, and have been linked to respiratory problems, neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, cancer and reproductive problems. Every year, farm workers and people living near conventional farms suffer from poisonings and serious health effects from pesticide spraying.

So maybe your non-organic apple is okay to eat, but it's not harmless by any means.

Back to the nutrition issue: Did people actually think an organic vegetable has more vitamins than a non-organic vegetable? I didn't know anyone thought that. It's not about what the organic food has, it's about what it doesn't have: crazy hormones and antibiotics. I have few phobias, but one is super-bugs that develop from antibiotic-overuse and take over the world! Not that I eat the stuff, but the review found that organic chicken and organic pork reduce your risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And if you meat-eaters stop eating super-bugs, you're less likely to cough them up on me! I'd appreciate that.

And let's not forget about pesticides! While not all non-organic food poses a great risk for pesticide exposure, the review says organic food reduces that risk by 30 percent. Now, if you aren't sure whether to be concerned about pesticides, this report is not going to help you. While they analyzed a zillion studies on organic foods, they only ranged from two days to two years. The longterm health concerns from non-organic food hasn't been studied. Sorry!

I leave you with this quote by Betsy Wattenberg, a toxicologist at the University of Minnesota, via Discovery News:

It is really difficult to draw a conclusion from the paper except that there is a lack of good comprehensive studies.... I wouldn't say the conclusion is there's no difference (between organics and conventional foods). It's that we just don't have the evidence to say there's no difference, which is different from saying there's no difference.

I hope that clears things up for you.

Megan Rascal writes our Week in Vegan column and is a regular contributor to Vegansaurus.

Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Megan Rascal

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