New Study Says Organic Produce Is No More Nutritious Than Conventional

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Are organic fruits and vegetables more nutritious than their conventionally-grown counterparts? The debate has raged for years, and now the results from a four-year study conducted by scientists from Stanford University say that, no, organic produce doesn’t get any extra points for nutrition. But organic food advocates say the study missed a few key points:

According to The New York Times, the study, which combined data from 237 studies and examined a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and meats over a four-year period, concluded that “vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts… Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli.” The conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables did have more pesticide residue, but “the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits.”

The study did find that organic produce contained higher amounts of phosphorus and more more compounds known as phenols, which some believe can help prevent cancer. But the “size of the difference varied widely from study to study,” so researchers took that result with some level of caution. It appears that produce ripeness had more to do with nutritional value than any other factor. As the NYT states, “a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one.”

So what does this mean for organic food? Has it just been a marketing ploy to get consumers to pay more? Not so fast. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, says “organic organic food is living up to its promise.”

Advocates for organic farming said the Stanford researchers failed to appreciate the differences they did find between the two types of food — differences that validated the reasons people usually cite for buying organic. Organic produce, as expected, was much less likely to retain traces of pesticides. Organic chicken and pork were less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria… The study also found that organic milk contained more omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered beneficial for the heart.

Advocates also say the study “sidestepped” the debate over the current “healthy” levels of pesticides. But regardless, advocates say that nutritional value is only one reason why people choose to buy organic.

[Other reasons people buy organic include] concerns about the effects of pesticides on young children, the environmental impact of large-scale conventional farming and the potential public health threat if antibiotic-resistant bacterial genes jumped to human pathogens.

Read the whole article and then come back and tell us what you think! Does this study in any way affect whether or not you will continue to buy organic fruits, vegetables, and meat in the future?

(Image: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock)