by Arjun Walia
It seems as if it was yesterday when the masses were completely unaware of the concerns being raised by a number of internationally recognized scientists regarding Genetically Modified Foods (GM). Now, dozens of countries in Europe have completely banned or have severe restrictions on GMOs, which includes the pesticides that go along with them. In fact, 19 new countries in Europe recently banned the growing of Genetically Modified foods in their countries, citing a number of health and environmental concerns. You can read more about that here.
The Difference Between Organic Food & Conventional Food
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic farms and processors must not use any genetically modified ingredients. This means that organic farmers can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO feed, an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients, and so on. Farmers and processors must show that they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances from farm to table. In order for something to qualify as organic, it must also be free from most synthetic materials, like pesticides and antibiotics. (source)(source)
Conventional food is (obviously) the exact opposite. Conventional food can be sprayed with pesticides, contain genetically modified ingredients, as well as administer antibiotics.
Eating Organic vs Eating Conventional
In 2012, a widely reported Stanford University study concluded that there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of conventional and organic food. (source) Since its publication, experts in the environmental and health sciences department criticized the study for completely overlooking a large and growing body of evidence regarding the adverse effects of pesticides. More specifically, a letter accepted for publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine pointed to the lack of information in the study regarding extensive data on the number, frequency, potential combinations, and associated health risks of pesticide residues in sprayed food. This publication calculated a 94% reduction in health risk attributable to eating organic forms of six pesticide intensive fruits. (source)
So is organic food more nutritious?
“In carefully designed studies comparing organic and conventional apples, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, milk, carrots, grains and several other raw foods, organic farming leads to increases on the order of 10% to 30% in the levels of several nutrients, but not all. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and phenolic acids tend to be higher in organic food about 60% to 80% of the time, while vitamin A and protein is higher in conventional food 50% to 80% of the time.” – Charles Benbrook, research professor and program leader for Measure to Manage (M2M): Far and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health at Washington State University (source)
A team led by Kristen Brant, a scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, carried out one of the most sophisticated meta-analysis of the “organic-versus-conventional food” nutrient-content debate. Their analysis was published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences in 2011, under the title, “Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods: The Cause of Organic Fruits and Vegetables.” (source)(source)
This study documents significant differences in favour of organically grown food and explains the different, yet basic farming system factors that lead to these differences. They concluded that increasing the amount of plant-available nitrogen, which is typically found in conventional farming, reduces the accumulation of (plant) defence related secondary metabolites and vitamin C, while the contents of secondary metabolites such as carotenes that are not involved in defense against disease and pests may increase.
They also found that secondary plant metabolite based nutrients in fruits and vegetables are 12 percent higher, on average, in organic food compared to conventionally grown food. Another group of nutrients that are composed of plant secondary metabolites that are involved in plant defenses against pests and response to stress were, on average, 16 percent higher.
“This subset encompasses most of the important, plant-based antioxidants that promote good health through multiple mechanisms.”
The team of researchers estimated that the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables is associated with a 12 percent higher nutrient level intake.
This is just one example of research conducted showing higher nutrient levels in organically grown food, and we are not even talking about pesticides yet.
One thing about organic food is that it’s not sprayed. A recent study conducted by researchers from RMIT university, published in the journal Environmental Research, found that an organic diet for just one week significantly reduced pesticide exposure in adults by 90 percent. (source)
Cynthia Curl, an assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Community and Environmental Health at Boise State university, recently published a pesticide exposure study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Results of her research indicated that among individuals eating similar amounts of vegetables and fruits, the ones who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower OP pesticide exposure than those who normally consume conventionally grown produce. You can read more about that here.
Click Here For More Articles