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    Is Organic Food Better For You Than Conventionally Produced Food?
    By News Staff | July 29th 2009 09:28 PM | 38 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Is organic food better for you than conventional food?   It's the second most asked question we get here about food, the first being 'What is the difference between organic and inorganic food?  (Also Lee Silver's What is the meaning of "organic" (and inorganic) food?

    If you like paying $15 a  dozen for eggs you aren't going to like the answer to the first one.   Even if you like paying $15 a dozen for eggs, you won't like the answer to the second one, since the list of inorganic ingredients allowed in organic food is as long as your arm.

    Systematic review of the literature over 50 years finds no evidence for superior nutritional content of organic produce.    Yes, yes, supposedly organic food has some superior process but that's all it is, a process.   Like GMO hysteria, there is no difference in the actual food.

    Hey, we're all about commerce.   Yayyyyyy, capitalism.   And if you want to pay higher prices for organic foods based on their perceived health and nutrition benefits, you're welcome to it.   They certainly know their framing, since the global organic food market was estimated in 2007 to be worth nearly $40 billion.

    Researchers from the London School of Hygiene&Tropical Medicine have now completed the most extensive systematic review, published today in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, of the available published literature on nutrient content of organic food ever conducted. The review focussed on nutritional content and did not include a review of the content of contaminants or chemical residues in foods from different agricultural production regimens.

    Over 50,000 papers were searched, and a total of 162 relevant articles were identified that were published over a fifty-year period up to 29 February 2008 and compared the nutrient content of organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. To ensure methodological rigour the quality of each article was assessed.

    To be graded as satisfactory quality, the studies had to provide information on the organic certification scheme from which the foodstuffs were derived, the cultivar of crop or breed of livestock analysed, the nutrient or other nutritionally relevant substance assessed, the laboratory analytical methods used, and the methods used for statistical analysis. 55 of the identified papers were of satisfactory quality, and analysis was conducted comparing the content in organically and conventionally produced foods of the 13 most commonly reported nutrient categories.

    The researchers found organically and conventionally produced foods to be comparable in their nutrient content. For 10 out of the 13 nutrient categories analysed, there were no significant differences between production methods in nutrient content. Differences that were detected were most likely to be due to differences in fertilizer use (nitrogen, phosphorus), and ripeness at harvest (acidity), and it is unlikely that consuming these nutrients at the levels reported in organic foods would provide any health benefit.

    Alan Dangour, of the London School of Hygiene&Tropical Medicine’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, and one of the report’s authors, comments, said "A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority. Research in this area would benefit from greater scientific rigour and a better understanding of the various factors that determine the nutrient content of foodstuffs."

    This does not mean you want to eat food dipped in pesticides and it's certainly true that the pesticides in use today are much worse for the environment than the DDT they replaced, but food preparation was important 60 years ago too.

    Citation: Am J Clin Nutr (July 29, 2009). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28041

    Comments

    For those of us who buy organic that is disappointing news. However I will continue to buy it for other reasons. You mention pesticides which are a concern. The EWG’s guideline Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides is an interesting read http://www.foodnews.org/methodology.php.

    $15 organic eggs! Are there really $15 doz. eggs? That is a bit of a stretch. I pay $5.50- $6.00 Cnd. But can find them for less directly from the farmer or at the market.

    I get organic eggs for $3.50 and sometimes $3 a dozen. And the Essex Farm in Upstate New York you can get a yearlong CSA for half of what the average American spends per year on food . It's all organic and includes meats, vegetables, syrup, eggs, nuts, grains, flours and fruit and you can take as much as you like. It's a financially viable and ecologically sustainable way of farming. If I thought more of this article I would write a longer review, but these are just some things for readers to think about.

    I will also continue to buy the "pricey" organically produced foods. I find this article silly! 1st of all I buy my free range organic eggs from a farm for 3 dollars per dozen yes 3 dollars far from 15! I don't understand how some one can believe thats food produced from cheaper methods with cheaper things like feed that have less nutrients can produce a product equal to the foods that have been given more nutritionally rich feed. Haven't you hear the saying you get what you pay for. And I saw it was mentioned that the organic food industry was worth 40 billion. Any idea what the conventional food industry is worth? Nestle alone made 37.5 billion dollar profit in 2010. Add McDonalds 5.5 billion to that and you have already surpassed the 40B. Capitalism is the reason that conventional food producing practices were ever created. All for a bigger bottom line with no consideration of the consumer. And as for the list of inorganic ingredients being allowed is as long as my arm. Allowed by who? the USDA? That just means there certification does not mean anything! The people who make money on conventionally produced foods make a lot of it and will spend what ever it takes to keep the consumer misinformed. I believe my own common sense over any propaganda. Here is a link to my blogs organic category. We are new and trying to build an audience. http://organicallythought.com/organic/

    Your research is faulty, and your attitude is disturbing. Many of our health problems today come directly from the problems with our food supply, not the least of which is the loss of nutrients in foods grown on depleted soils. Allergies are on the rise and can be traced to the allergens injected into GMO foods. Our milk has the added benefits of a proven cancer-causing gene, a bit of E-coli, a touch of antibiotics, and pus. Yeah.
    Go to your local farm. You can get fresh eggs from happy and healthy chickens for $2.50-$3.50/dozen.
    Organic, or close to organic, raised on sustainable farms is the solution, not only for our planet, but for our health. Do better research, please. Watch Food, Inc. Watch The Meatrix. At the very least, think.

    Food Inc. is the most horribly misleading documentary of all time (excluding Micheal Moores Farenheit 9/11)

    Do some actual research on nutrition and animal production please.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof...
    While you're comments are highly emotive and may scare a few people who don't have a good understanding of the area, you have not provided any EVIDENCE to discredit the above post. In fact, the post above refers to peer-reviewed studies in credible scientific journals, which gives it far more credibility than a few shocking anecdotes that can be easily made up on the spot. If you would like to hold an argument, you're going to have to do better than that. You said, "Do better research, please". I say... do SOME research.

    Wayne Turner
    Most "organic" farmers, at least in my area (the Triangle/Piedmont area of North Carolina) are committed to farming practices that reduce soil erosion and agricultural runoff into watersheds. Often they use non-fuel intensive farming methods such as no-till cropping for grains. They are more expensive because most of them haven't achieved economies of scale.  A more interesting aspect of food production, at least to me, is local vs non-local. Food that has to be trucked in from across the country, picked green and gassed to ripen, has several drawbacks. One is that the use of petro-chemicals, both in the use of fuel to produce and transport the food and in production of fertilizer, add a hidden cost to the food in terms of pollution. Another is that locally produced food contributes to local and regional economies. I am not an economist, but it seems to me that a strong local economy that is not so dependent on the decisions of global capitalists is preferable to one that is vulnerable to, say, the price of eggs in China. And, as anybody who has bought a grocery store tomato can attest, local food justs tastes better.

    Hank
    I do think at some point we'll find a solution to food production that has less chemicals but we can't start letting people starve until it's found.   The problem?   The natural solution will still be called 'GMO'.

    I like Judy's 'think' comment - as if scientists are the ones not doing the thinking.   There is actually zero difference between GMO food and non-GMO food so thinking means a solution to crops that won't grow in remote areas of the world would be a good thing - then we not only let people be locally grown and self-sustaining, we cut down on emissions to ship food to them.

    Claims that there are nutritional differences between an organically grown carrot, for example, and a non-organically one are crap.   Very few papers claim it and those had suspect methodology - I can compare two organically grown carrorts and get nutritional disparities too so if that's my dataset it's a pretty bad study.

    Don't get me wrong, I believe in healthy food - I am absolutely confident I have personally killed/gutted/cleaned/processed/grown and (not so much) cooked ( my wife likes to cook so that is the not so much qualifier there) more food for my family than any reader or writer on this site.   If I had my way no one else would ever touch anything I eat ... but any claims that organic food are chemically superior and you have not personally watched every pesticide put on it (and there are pesticides in anything you buy unless you are one of those rich activists buy $15/dozen eggs - why anyone thinks an organic pesticide is magically better for your body is beyond me) are simply engaged in wishful thinking.
    If GMO foods are no different from conventional foods, why are they banned in other parts of the world, including the EU? Scientists in those countries came to the conclusion that GMO foods are dangerous.

    If you honestly believe in healthy food, you might want to look more carefully and more thoroughly at the science. The short video below features Jeffrey Smith...author of Seeds of Deception.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUYOhJE-8U0

    There are other dangers inherent in our current industrial food system...water and air pollution, depletion of nutrients in the soil, increased allergies, illnesses among farm workers and those who live near these industrial "farms," cruelty to animals...that can be directly connected to the increasing obesity and chronic illness in all Americans. Check out http://www.themeatrix1.com.

    Sustainable agricultural practices feed the world. Current practices aren't sustainable; they'll eventually crash. Then, you'll be happy to pay $15/dozen for eggs, if you can find them. (By the way, where did you get that price?)

    Hank
    You have a few problems with your phrasing , though I generally agree with your sentiment.   First, you rely on a logical fallacy - namely argumentum ad verecundiam.  You've chosen to believe that EU decision-making is free from special interests and the US is not, despite the fact that 85% of the agriculture subsidies - for the entire planet - are European.    So, they have a lot to gain by keeping prices for food high, namely that they have to spend fewer taxpayer dollars to subsidize them.    

    Science had nothing to do with the EU decision - the standard of approval is different and the governments there are under constant attack from their scientists for deviating from the consensus on food.   EU policy has nothing at all to do with the quality of their scientists and I am sure I speak for every scientist in the US when I say that the US has 6% of the world population and produces 32% of the world's science - so other countries having different policies has no bearing at all on the quality of science.

    How many organic food advocates in the US give rallies to support nuclear power?   It's used all over Europe but activists killed the industry here, a similar unscientific decision that was done by policymakers.   So America is anti-science on nuclear power and Europe is anti-science on food.  It happens.  

    Second, you may not mean it this way but subtle slurs like "If you honestly believe in healthy food" do nothing to help.   Insulting people who accept science and therefore disagre with your beliefs by implying they don't care as much about healthy food as you do is not constructive.
    "If GMO foods are no different from conventional foods, why are they banned in other parts of the world, including the EU? Scientists in those countries came to the conclusion that GMO foods are dangerous."

    Because people at large are morons. And so are politicians

    No, americans are morons. At first I was shocked when I began reading comments on here and of course the article itself, but then I remembered what country I live in. THIS is the reason why the US is the way it is.. Obesity, depression, diabetes, cancer.. etc. etc. etc. It is because americans are IGNORANT and egotistical and believe they know everything. How can anyone possibly.. except for the billionaires that reap all the benefits from this industry that rapes our nation... believe, that organic food has no benefits to our bodies, to animals, to the planet? Are you kidding me? This is a NON debate. The food in our supermarkets is polluted pure and simple, if you believe otherwise.. honestly, I feel very, very sorry for you. Go ahead and keep eating the food that is destroying our country in every way possible and only.. ONLY.. is beneficial to the very very few wealthy men that own the companies. I will do my part and shop organically and locally and pray that the majority will begin to really care and do the same. I really am so ashamed sometimes.. really really ashamed to call myself an american when I see the way people in this country think. It is truly sad.

    Please provide your credentials as a biologist and/ or microbiologist or something similar.

    If you do not have those, please kindly shut up, and leave this to scientists. Thanks

    I am aware that the truth hurts. Try not to take it too personally.. Just try and not be a typical, american moron. It's really that simple. Oh and the scientists that created these GMO foods, their opinion can REALLY be trusted.. it is all about the payday for them, who cares what is does to our children, right? As long as you can upgrade your house and car. I just feel so sorry for people like this, people with no conscience.

    How can you assume that all scientists are all about their payday, and nothing else? Have you ever talked to a scientist? I thought it was common knowledge that the majority of them went into their fields to make a difference.. not for money.
    It's a hard job. Once they make discoveries.. a difference.. people like you set them back. Ignorance stops the world from seeing how helpful they really are..

    ... psh.

    So true. People screaming about crap they have no idea whatsoever about is what holds back science. Most notably in the fields of agriculture, medicine, and energy.

    All I have to say to you two is this.... I sleep soundly at night, how about you?

    As do I, although I'm not sure what it is you are referring to.

    You are clearly uneducated on anything surrounding anything that even closely resembles any kind of science, so what you say is 100% irrelevant. Kindly shut the hell up, and let people who actually know what the hell they are talking about handle big boy stuff.

    Wow. You sure sound like a Big Boy when you tell me to shut the hell up. ( Almost as big as my three year old son.) Just on the basis of you acting like a child, I truly hope you are not a scientist. I must have really struck a nerve with my comments! Maybe this will make you reevaluate your life.. Oh, I can dream, can't I?

    Oh look at me! Big internet tough guy. I have a 3 year old son which means I'm waaay more mature than all of you.
    Psh.
    Do you get a kick out of this, or are you just stubborn?
    Both anons, just can it and leave. No point arguing, seriously.

    Again, you have not yet provided any evidence that you are educated in any way.

    You did strike a nerve with me, it irritates me to no end when uneducated fools act as though they know anything.

    "Are you kidding me? This is a NON debate. The food in our supermarkets is polluted pure and simple, if you believe otherwise.. honestly, I feel very, very sorry for you."
    Cite reputable sources, and provide your credentials as some type of microbiologist or any kind of scientist. Quit talking out of your ass

    Hank is right. In regards to the EU issue, the politicians' decision to ban GMO's simply serves a protective tariff for their countries' respective farmers-- who are unable to compete with the more efficient production of U.S. farms.

    I think some of the commenters have taken the scope of this research too far. This paper doesn't discuss the health or environmental aspects of additives or production methods, only the highly characterized nutrients found in the foodstuffs themselves. As with all science you will find dissenting papers but the consensus of research has agreed on this issue, the production style has little to no effect on nutritional value.

    "I am sure I speak for every scientist in the US when I say that the US has 6% of the world population and produces 32% of the world's science - so other countries having different policies has no bearing at all on the quality of science."

    Oh pe-lease. Can you back this up - in any way? Amongst the bad car, japanese import, second rate techincal "marvels" of the US, what makes it the "32%" leader of the world? Most of what america does it restamp what someone else did and label it "Proudly American".

    As to the GM food. . . Seriously, have you eaten kellog's recently? Corn flakes make me sick to my stomach. Took a while for me to figure out they were made of reject quality pig's food. While not all "organic" foods are great for you, it's a heck of a lot better then letting the food industry run wild in all respects. That, and organic apples taste better and aren't dye painted, so they get those votes too.

    *facepalm*

    Only literally dozens of research universities coming up with new medicines, new means of chemical production, understanding of biology, chemistry and physics and more efficient agriculture. But I suppose pointing out electronics is the lazy mans way of going about things.

    For the past several decades almost every nobel prize for science and medicine is given to researchers in America. This doesn't meant we're better or smarter, it means, for whatever reason, the cutting edge and life changing research is done here. It was said in response to people that think because Europe wants to ban GMO that means we should. It doesn't mean we're smarter, but it means they are not automatically smarter either. They have huge established rich farming lobbies too that they protect with their laws, just like us.

    Hank
    Indeed - 85% of the world's agriculture subsidies are European countries keeping European prices low so farmers there can compete.   The agriculture interests are simultaneously vulnerable to any change in policy so could be weakened easily and yet still powerful lobbyists, which makes no sense to anyone outside Europe.

    Basically, no other country should do what Europe does because Europe is only making best policy for Europe.   And there are groups that will map their data to the cultural topology they want to achieve there just like here or anywhere else.

    Food is food.  Anyone tells you organic food is somehow magically better for you is selling something - probably organic food.  Because the list of exemptions is long and pesticides are still used, organic of its own means nothing.   If you didn't grow it, use your judgment.
    This article is titled incorrectly. It should say, "Is organic food more nutritionally beneficial than conventionally produced food?"

    The term, "better for you", in the title implies a spectrum of considerations, not least of which is dealing with the effects of industrialized chemicals, which you specifically say you are not addressing.

    Hank
    Natural toxic pesticides are no better than the industrial kind. Claiming it is ... and that the 'organic' process is somehow better when they are too many exceptions to be legitimate, is proof that it is a multi-billion dollar industry and not a health cause. Big Organic is no better than Monsanto.
    logicman
    Big Organic is no better than Monsanto.

    Agreed. 

    I grew up with food on the table from soil to kitchen and no middle men.  I was one of the 'middle children' who shelled peas and plucked chickens.  Of course, today that isn't called 'organic' or 'natural'.  It's called 'child abuse'.  But the food tasted better. 

    It was my father's desire to apply science to small scale agriculture that got me started in science.  You learn more science watching plants grow than you do by heating a frozen meal.

    Call me a cycnic, but 'organic' just means 'contains carbon'.  What happened to 'natural'?
    MarshallBarnes
    At least Big Organic isn't attempting to own the entire food supply on the planet.
    Way to go Hank Campbell! You provide somevery well-thought out and exquisitely-presented points.

    Certain phrases have a bad connotation to them, and "GMO" is definitely one of them. I'm all for supporting organic and local farmers for a variety of reasons, but the avoidance of GMOs is not one of them.

    What is the difference in a "GMO" that's been done in a lab and a "GMO" that's happened over the course of hundreds/thousands of years due to agricultural development? Have you ever looked at what our modern day corn used to be at the dawn of agriculture thousands of years ago? Looked more like wheat and yielded just a few kernels. However, due to the fact that people have been genetically modifying corn through good old Mendelian genetics for thousands of years, we now have enormous and succulent varieties of sweet corn to enjoy every summer. GMO's simply change organisms very quickly in lieu of farmers selecting generations and generations of whatever they're modifying to get all the most desireable characteristics. There is no horrible additive injected into GMOs, and there is no reduction of nutritional value (although some could argue that GMOs are MORE healthful considering they often increase the size of the individual fruiting body of the plant). The pesticides angle is a non-issue as well. Organic pesticides are poisons, just the same as non-organic ones, but they are a necessary evil if you don't want people to starve.

    I support local and organic farmers for other reasons entirely, which some people have touched on.

    1st, economically speaking, I enjoy supporting local products in most areas of my life, not just when it comes to food.

    2nd, I enjoy eating foods that haven't traveled thousands of miles to get to me. There are the obvious environmental benefits due to travel, but it also means your food has been allowed to ripen in it's natural setting and is much fresher as well as getting rid of the need for all the preservatives.

    3rd, not all organic foods taste better (a lot of that is in psychological), but certain things, e.g. strawberries, watermelons, etc, have certain amounts of sugar in them, so when the "non-organic" varieties are modified to yield increasingly large fruit, the sugars are less concentrated than they are in the smaller varieties. Compare an organic strawberry to a non-organic strawberry, and the first thing you notice when you bite into them is that the non-organic version will have a white center, while the organic versions are bright red throughout. Things like potatos, however, have very little difference in flavor whether you're going organic or not.

    And finally, I FULLY support organic meats. Non-organic meats live in their own filth and as such have to be pumped full of antibiotics, which over time makes them less and less useful to fight off infectious disease in humans and can lead to some nasty strains. Many animals, meanwhile, are fed things they were never meant to eat. Cattle evolved as grass eaters, but are being fed diets of grain that wreak havoc on their internal digestive systems. Just off coastlines around the world, millions and millions of salmon are being raised in bays. Not only does their waste infect the local populations of marine creatures and kill bay ecosystems, but they are also escaping and threatening native populations of wild salmon due to interbreeding. Organic free range meats are MUCH more expensive, but if you only choose to go organic in one thing, choose meat and balance your budget by buying less of it and more fruits and vegetables.

    Is Organic Food Better For You Than Conventionally Produced Food?

    Absolutely not! End of story! Of course that's just my not so humble opinion. ;-)
    Do you have a link to the study?

    "There is actually zero difference between GMO food and non-GMO food ..."

    Honestly, I don't understand why empty phrases are continuously used on this website. That's why I'm no longer interested in visiting it.

    "zero difference" - really? Would you first define what "zero" is, then define what "difference" is, then combine the two and finally say the same sentence again? What would the outcome be?

    So many things to say, but so pointless ... absolutely inflexible minds are thriving around with their God word - "science".

    When you are in uncomfortable position and have got no money to get out from that, you will require to take the home loans. Just because it would help you emphatically. I get short term loan every year and feel myself good just because of that.