Humans have practiced agriculture for thousands of years. The food that we produced over the millenniums allowed for the expansion of culture and societies, the flourishing of arts and science. For the past 10,000 years the food that sustained human development had been cultivated with organic methods. It was only recently that large chemical companies such as Monsanto and DuPont took an interest in repurposing their technology in our fields. This departure from organic agriculture transpired a mere seven decades ago and has transformed food production into big business. We are only just now beginning to realize the ramifications of this dramatic shift.
It’s a fact that the organic food and fiber movement has been under attack from all angles. Funding is scarce, policy is skewed and the media seeks to disparage those who grow, eat and believe organic food is more holistic. Dare we say it is better for our health, for our planet and our children?
We have always “had that feeling” from the depths of our intuition that organic food, grown in soil that is brimming with life, sustained without toxic chemical applications is healthier and better for us. Now a groundbreaking study hot off the presses from the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom confirms those beliefs. The finding from this study shows conclusive evidence that organic crops and the food made from them are nutritionally superior to their conventional counterparts. It is more than a feeling! The science proves it.
The study is the largest of its kind and it found that organic foods and crops have a suite of advantages over their conventional counterparts, including more antioxidants, less toxic heavy metals, and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues. The study reviewed 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains. They applied sophisticated meta-analysis techniques to quantify differences between organic and non-organic foods.
My friend, and esteemed scientist, Charles Benbrook, University researcher at Washington State was one of the co-authors on the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Overwhelmingly the research found that organic crops have definite nutritional benefits that stem from the way the crops are produced!
Organic fruit and vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants than conventional fruit and vegetables!
A plant grown on convention soil will typically have access to high levels of synthetic nitrogen. This extra nitrogen provides “extra resources” and thus produces more sugars and starches. As a result, the harvested portion of the plant will often contain lower concentrations of advantageous nutrients. These good nutrients, namely health-promoting antioxidants are well known to fight chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Overall, organic crops had 18 to 69 percent higher concentrations of antioxidant compounds. The team concluded that consumers who switch to organic fruit, vegetables, and cereals would get 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants. That’s the equivalent of about two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day! Please don’t cut back on fruits and vegetables as a result! Just keep them organic.
The occurrence of pesticide residues in organic food is lower than in conventional food!
The study found that pesticides residues were three to four times more likely in conventional foods than organic ones, because organic farmers are not allowed to apply toxic, synthetic pesticides. Didn’t we always have the feeling that this was true? This finding is perhaps the most important to our children.
In 1993, The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report on the effect of pesticides in the diets of infants and children. This historic report concluded that many of “the pesticides applied to food crops in this country are present in foods and may pose risks to human health.” The report demonstrated that infants and children have special sensitivities to these toxic inputs. Children consume notably more of certain foods relative to their body weight than do adults. Thus, their ingestion of pesticide residues on these foods may be proportionately higher than that of adults.
Organic crops have lower levels of toxic metal than conventional crops!
One of the most surprising finding was that conventional crops have roughly twice as much cadmium, a toxic heavy metal contaminant, as organic crops do. The most likely explanation is that certain fertilizers approved for use only on conventional farms make cadmium more available to plant roots. It is widely known that Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that can accumulate in the body and cause kidney failure, bone softening, and liver damage. A doubling of cadmium intakes from food could push some individuals over safe daily intake levels. Metal in my body parts just gives me the Heebie-jeebies!
The evidence is in that organic food has more antioxidants, less pesticide residues and less toxic heavy metal contaminants. Why then have previous widely touted studies shown different results?
More than half the studies in the Newcastle analysis were not available to the research team that carried out a similar study in 2009 commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency. Another, rather infamous review published by a Stanford University team in 2011 failed to identify any significant clinical health benefits from consumption of organic food, but incorporated less than half the number of comparisons for most health-promoting nutrients. This new analysis benefited from a much larger and higher quality set of studies.
As a teen I was prone to rock out to the group Boston and the lyrics from one of their songs somehow apply here:
It’s more than a feeling – When I hear that old song they used to play….
(More than a feeling) I begin dreaming – Of new science that won’t go away.
Organic is the good food choice now. It is more than a feeling, the science is there!
If you want to help spread the good news:
And you feel like Tweeting or posting to Facebook, The Organic Center put together suggested posts that you can share on social media. Feel free to copy and paste them directly into your feed, or use them as guides to create your own novel statements about the research and its findings.