Is Organic Food Healthier?
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about the recent Stanford University study on organic food. Even the New York Times and NPR declared “Expensive Organic Food No Healthier, Study Finds!” But how credible is this study?
The research they’re talking about is not a new study. Rather, it looks at the results from previous studies on the nutrient content in organic food. The problem with the way the researchers presented their results is that it grossly oversimplifies what makes food “healthy.”
After analyzing around 200 studies on organic food’s nutrient content, the researchers found that organic meat and produce did have an equivalent nutrient content – so that organic kale probably has around the same amount of iron as conventional kale. What the study failed to take into account are two important health factors associated with organics: the impact of long-term exposure to pesticide residues on food and the indirect health impacts of conventional farming.
On the next page, read about where the study fell short, and tell us your thoughts on this research!
Organics and Health: It’s About the Pesticides
The Stanford study completely dismisses the health impacts of pesticide residues on conventional produce, even though the researchers themselves admit that organics tend to have around 30 percent lower pesticide levels than conventional produce. That is nothing to sneeze at.
There have been no long-term studies on pesticide residues and their effects on human health, but the pesticides we spray on our food are definitely questionable from a health standpoint. Atrazine, for example, is a known endocrine disruptor and carcinogen. I’ll gladly shell out the extra bucks for kale that has the same iron content as conventional but 30 percent less atrazine residue!
In fact, the fact that we don’t know how these toxins affect our bodies long-term is all the more reason to avoid them.
Indirect Public Health Impacts of Conventional Farming
Conventional produce’s health impacts don’t start at your dinner plate. Farm workers are among the people at highest risk for pesticide poisoning because of conventional farming’s heavy reliance on chemical pesticides.
You also have to consider pesticide runoff. You spray pesticides onto plants, but that doesn’t mean they stay there. When it rains or when farmers water their crops, the water washes some of that pesticide residue away, where it eventually makes its way into rivers and streams, polluting our waterways and harming wildlife and fragile ecosystems. That pollution finds its way up the food chain and eventually ends up in our bodies, too, whether we choose organic or not.
Yes, if we’re comparing only nutrient content, organics and conventional produce may be comparable, but when you take a hard look at conventional farming and conventional produce, it still doesn’t measure up.
Have you been reading about the Stanford study? Have you changed your shopping habits since it came out? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!