Is Organic Worth It? The Debate Continues.
Is organic food more nutritious than conventional food? According to an independent report commissioned by the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency, the answer is no. But perhaps we should be asking a different question: Does it really matter?
It certainly does to some people. The report, which surveyed 162 studies and was released at the end of July, caused an outcry when it concluded "there is no good evidence" that the differences in nutrient content between organic and conventionally grown foods "are relevant to consumer health."
The sharp-tongued British restaurant critic A.A. Gill told the Sunday Times of London that the report proved "organic has no more meaning than a marketing tool." Meanwhile, the Organic Center, a research firm in Boulder, Colo., relased its own report, accusing British researcher and public health nutritionist Alan Dangour of downplaying positive findings about organic food.
Among other criticisms, the center complained that by implementing a strict cutoff date, the report failed to include important, superior studies that revealed positive effects of organic foods. A four-year European Union study, published in October 2007, found that organic milk contained 60 percent more antioxidants and healthful fatty acids than normal milk. It also showed that organic tomatoes, wheat and onions had vitamin levels up to 20 percent higher than conventional crops.
Sales of organic food continue to skyrocket. According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic food and non-food products reached $24.6 billion in 2008, up 17.1 percent from 2007. So it's no wonder that people want to know whether they are getting their money's worth.
But is looking at nutrients the right way to judge organic food?
For me, it's beside the point. The organic label doesn't guarantee better nutrition -- or better flavor, for that matter. Organic rules speak to how and which pesticides are used; whether animals used for food are given antibiotics and hormones, and they ban the use of genetically modified seeds. By choosing organic foods, you support farmers who limit the amount and types of pesticides they use. That theoretically helps the environment and certainly limits the amount of residue on your food. (Check out which fruits and vegetables contain the most residue on the Organic Center's pocket guide.)
In my experience, some organic food does taste better (though it can sometimes look uglier than conventionally grown produce.) But it depends on the farmer, the weather and the crop. The quantity of nutrients was never my concern. Seriously: How many organic carrots or beets would I need to eat to increase my antioxidants levels or vitamin A intake to make a difference? People who want to be more healthful can make the simple decision to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and leave it at that.
What do you think? Would you buy organic food because it's more nutritious, or for more holistic reasons?
-- Jane Black
August 5, 2009; 3:10 PM ET
Categories: Sustainable Food | Tags: Jane Black, organic, sustainable food
Save & Share: Previous: Chat Leftovers: Why Is My Tuna Shining?
Next: Flour Girl: The Tart That Got Away
Posted by: easygoinggreen | August 5, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ColleenFoodieTots | August 5, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.