Tired of hearing your hippie friends cluck their tongues at you for eating "unhealthy" regular produce instead of the pricier organic stuff they buy? I'm a super-strict vegetarian who lives in California, and those people even get on my nerves. From now on, send anyone who chastises your non-organic ways to these two new studies that say organic food may not be so wonderful, despite the fact that it's oftentimes more expensive and revered by the Bikram set.
USA Today reported on the first study, which was created by culling data from hundreds of other smaller studies performed over the past 50 years. The main takeaway, said Dena Bravata, an author of the paper and a doctor at Stanford's Center for Health Policy, is that "there isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health":
•There were no significant differences in the vitamin content of organic and conventional fruits and vegetables. The studies looked specifically at vitamins A, C and E.
•Detectable pesticide residue was found in 7% of organic produce and 38% of conventional produce. However, only three studies found pesticide residue that exceeded maximum allowed limits in the European Union on organic or conventional produce. As to how pesticides could be in organic product that must be grown without them by law, Smith-Spangler said it could either be long-lasting, now-banned pesticides in the soil or drift from nearby fields.
•Both organic and conventional foods were at similar risk for bacterial contamination.
Despite the fact that organic produce doesn't appear to be significantly healthier, a Nielsen survey from 2010 found that 76 percent of people who buy it said they do so because it's healthier. And 51 percent of people said they believed organic produce was more nutritious.
But say you're eating organic for the health of the environment, not for your own health. Well, according to another new study, this one out of the University of Oxford, organic farming may also not be all that it's cracked up to be when it comes to environmental benefits:
The researchers analysed data from 71 studies published in peer-reviewed journals that compared organic and conventional farms in Europe.
This literature revealed that whilst organic farming almost always supports more biodiversity and generally has a positive wider environmental impact per unit of land, it does not necessarily have a positive impact per unit of production.
Organic milk, cereals, and pork all generated higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product than their conventionally farmed counterparts – although organic beef and olives had lower emissions in most cases. In general organic products required less energy input, but more land than the same quantity of conventional products.
Science: Making Whole Foods acolytes less smug since before Whole Foods even existed.