A recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine (September 4, 2012) has created a stir about the value of eating organic. The research was conducted by a Stanford University team that was funded in part by some of the companies that stand to earn big bucks with pesticides and genetically-modified foods.
The Stanford study is a review of 240 scientific studies on organic versus conventionally-grown produce and meats. The authors of the article conclude: “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Yet, a closer look at the data shows that consumers can markedly reduce their intake of pesticide residues and their exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria by choosing organic produce and meat. The article showed a 30% decrease in measured urinary pesticides in children who ate organically-grown versus conventionally-grown (pesticides used) food. Although the authors of the article did not see this as a significant difference, we know that this is important in infants, small children and pregnant women for the newly-developing nervous systems.
In addition, the study showed that there is more antibiotic resistance in the bacteria from conventionally-grown (use of antibiotics) than organically-grown chicken and pork. These resistant bacteria represent a threat to humans who may have difficulty getting rid of them if they become sickened with them.
Contradicting a large body of evidence about the higher nutritional value of organically-grown produce, the Stanford team stated that nutrient levels in the conventionally-grown and organically-grown produce varied so widely in their study that they could not make a statement about the nutritional value of one versus the other.
Other concerns that were not raised by the Stanford team include the effects of pesticides on the environment (our air and water are becoming contaminated) and on the agricultural workers who use them.
If you want to understand what’s going on: Follow the money.
1) Download the Environmental Working Group Guide to Pesticides in Produce and take it with you shopping or download the app for the EWG’s 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce (or “Dirty Dozen”) for your smart phone.
2) Continue to eat organic produce as much as possible.
3) Continue to eat antibiotic and hormone free meats, if you are a meat eater. Eat grass-fed beef when consuming beef.
4) Vote Yes on Prop 37 in California which calls for labeling of genetically-engineered foods.