News of the recent study conducted by Stanford researchers has some consumers questioning whether or not purchasing organic produce is really worth it.
In my humble opinion, yes, it still is.
Though I had previously been led to believe that organic produce really does have more overall nutrition, even if that’s not the case, as this study indicates, that hasn’t been the driving force behind my choice to purchase organic.
To me, it’s what is NOT in my food that’s important.
To be certified “organic,” foods must be produced without:
- artificial growth hormones
- high fructose corn syrup
- artificial dyes (made from coal tar and petrochemicals)
- artificial sweeteners derived from chemicals
- synthetically created chemical pesticide and fertilizers
- genetically engineered proteins and ingredients
- sewage sludge (<– um, what?!)
As you can see, there’s potentially a lot more going into our bodies than just vitamins and minerals.
Did you know that 9 out of 10 broiler chickens in the United States had been fed arsenic, according to a 2011 industry estimate? Yes, you read that right, arsenic. According to Dr. Michael Greger, MD, the NIH, and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, there are “alarmingly high levels of arsenic contamination in the flesh of broiler chickens,” exceeding the EPA upper limit for arsenic in water by 6 – 9 times. [source]
So, if you want to avoid the probability of arsenic in your chicken, your best bet is to choose organic varieties.
In addition, 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are used by the meat and poultry industry to “fatten up” most of the beef, pork and chicken sold in US supermarkets. Other countries already recognize the danger this poses– the European Union banned the use of antibiotics in 1999– but to avoid them in the US, you should probably buy organic.
Not only do the chemical fertilizers and pesticides applied to conventional farms require fossil fuels to produce, scientists say they also have negative consequences for the Earth.
According to David Pimentel, an emeritus professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, each season, excess fertilizers leach into the water. “The runoff of un-utilized synthetic nitrogen fertilizer from conventional agriculture into both ground and surface waters and the atmosphere — where, as nitric oxides, it contributes to global climate change as a greenhouse gas – is a major problem in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Pimentel told Life’s Little Mysteries. “The ‘dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico are due to nitrogen fertilizer runoff from fields in the Corn Belt.”
Organic farms, by comparison, provide the nutrients needed for crop growth by enriching the soil with compost, manure and by planting “cover crops” in fields between each growing season, Pimentel explained. Cover crops, which often include legumes, not only physically protect fields from erosion, they also are associated with bacteria that can convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form plants can use, and they increase the soil’s content of organic matter, which functions to increase its water- and nutrient-holding capacity. [source]
In other words, organic farming is simply more sustainable.
In fact, many countries have drastically lessened their reliance on pesticides. “Sweden has been able to reduce pesticide use over a 10-year period by 68 percent and still get the same crop yields and the same cosmetic standards,” Pimentel said. Unfortunately, the U.S. lags behind. [source]
Each time you purchase organic produce, you’re “voting” with your dollars to support sustainable farming practices.
Though it may be unrealistic to always choose organic, thanks to high prices and limited availability in certain areas, I do think it’s a good idea to buy organic whenever possible, especially when it comes to the Dirty Dozen (the top 12 most contaminated produce).
So, while I’m disappointed to hear that my organic produce may not be any more nutrient dense than the conventional stuff, these new findings won’t change my view on the benefits of buying organic. The Stanford study did conclude that organic produce was much less likely to have traces of pesticides–> which is what I think the majority of consumers are looking for!
I think we can all agree that eating less chemicals is a good thing.
Reader Feedback: Were you surprised by the conclusions of the Stanford study? How much importance do you place on choosing organic food?