Organic Food is Still Better

Andrea Fabry

Andrea Fabry › Andrea is a former journalist, a radio host, and the mother of nine children. She is ...


Apparently we’re no better off eating organic foods than conventional foods. According to a study released this week, “…published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” The New York Times headline on this story reads, “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce.”

Wait a minute. Does this mean I’m wasting my time and money trying to reduce our chemical exposure? Am I crazy for spending our hard earned money on grass fed beef? How about that extra effort to track down fresh, organic milk?

After studying the media coverage and examining the study’s abstract, I’ve come to a different conclusion.

Hint: I’ll be headed to my local Farmer’s Market this weekend as always.

Here are five important facts I believe mainstream media has failed to emphasize:

Lower urinary pesticide levels. The study’s abstract states, “Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets.” Since this study is an aggregate of more than 200 studies over a 40 year period I can understand why two studies may not be enough to make a conclusion. However, the study goes on to say that, “studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences.” From what I can gather, no study found significantly lower pesticide levels for those who ate conventional foods. My conclusion? Two studies supporting the premise that organic foods contain less pesticides is significant.

Higher levels of phosphorus. The study’s abstract states, “All estimates of differences in nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were highly heterogeneous except for the estimate for phosphorus; phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant.” Phosphorus helps with bone formation, digestion, protein formation, hormone balance, cell repair, and much more. I find the elevated levels of phosphorus in organic food significant.

Higher levels of phenols. The study showed that organic produce contained more of the phytochemical phenol. Phenolic compounds such as flavonoids and tocopherols are known for their antioxidant properties. The phenol found in Green Tea is thought to help with cancer prevention. Other phenols provide flavor. Raspberry ketones, for instance, are responsible for the flavor of raspberries. Capsaicin gives hot peppers their warmth. If the natural phenol content is higher in organic produce, no wonder organic tastes better than conventional!

Lower levels of pesticide residue. The study’s abstract states, “The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce.” 38% of conventional produce showed detectable levels of pesticides compared to 7% of organic produce. The abstract plays down this finding saying, “differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small.” I choose to buy organic because I want less pesticides in and on my food. I don’t care about “safe limits.” We’re exposed to so many chemicals on a daily basis I’m confident I’ll do better with less of them in my food.

Lower levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The study’s abstract states, “Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork.” The study shows a 33% difference between organic and conventional meat. Most antibiotics in this country are used in animal feed and we know the drugs easily disrupt the animals’ gut flora and immune systems. This makes them perfect hosts for antibiotic resistant “Superbugs.” I find the 33% difference enough for me to continue supporting my local organic farmers.

If I were writing the headlines for The New York Times, I might change the wording for this story to read, “Stanford Study Validates Organic Farming.”

Of course, I don’t write the headlines. I make decisions about what to feed myself and my family. After examining this news story, I have no doubt that organic is the healthier choice.

Has this study affected your views on organic or conventional foods?

Photo Credit: Walking J Farm