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Organic Produce: Good for the Body and Planet or Waste of Money?

A new "meta-analysis" by Stanford University finds few differences between conventional and organic produce and meat, with exception of lower pesticide residue levels.

Organic fruit and vegetables have no clear health advantages over regular produce and are no more nutritious despite often costing twice as much, a new study by Stanford University has found.

The study, released Tuesday, used data from more than 200 earlier studies conducted over the past 40 years. Researchers, who did not use any outside funding in order to not be perceived as having bias, looked at for evidence that organic fruit, vegetables and meats had more nutritional benefits and less dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli.

But the only advantages to organic products researchers found was that these tended to have less pesticide residue, although the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits. According to their analysis, 38 percent of non-organic produce contained pesticide residue compared to only 7 percent in organic produce.

No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce.

There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The U.S. sales of organic produce increased from $3.6 billion to $24.4 billion over the past 15 years, according to researchers, affiliated with Stanford’s School of Medicine.

Mark Kastel, a senior farm policy analyst with Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin organization that promotes organic food as a way to support family farms, released a statement Tuesday, saying Stanford researchers "failed to look outside the box" discounting many studies that have shown decreased nutritional content in the conventional food as a result of poor soil. 

He also said that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have become ubiquitous in processed food, contaminated with patented genes by Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations. 

“Consumers should not lose sight of the important impacts of organic agriculture, which produces foods without the use of toxic pesticides that have been linked to an array of health problems, including cancer and ADHD in children," Kastel said. "This study confirmed once again that organic foods contain significantly lower levels of pesticide residues, and that alone should be enough reason for every family to consider exclusively purchasing organic foods."

Do you buy organic? And will these findings impact your shopping habits?

Frank T September 06, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I buy organic fruit and vegetables when available but did not assume that they are more nutritious then non organic foods. The benefit is that they are farmed without pesticides and the plants grow in a healthier soil compared to sprayed fields. This also helps keep the soil and aquifiers clean.
Deb R September 07, 2012 at 11:20 AM
no kidding! ... when did they claim to have more nutrients? less poison is reason enough, isnt it? especially for growing, vulnerable babies and kids. better for the earth too....

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