We’re often led to believe that organic food and organic farming benefit everyone, from the farmer to retailers and the consumers, as it is fresh and free of man-made chemicals. The promise of a better life with organic food has often been contested because of its reliance on this warm, fuzzy feeling of a better tomorrow but without tangible numbers to it.
Well, a new study conducted by Newcastle University’s Professor for Ecological Agriculture Carlo Leifert, the most extensive organic study done to date, has concluded that organic food is actually more nutritious and not merely a healthy lifestyle choice.
What does the study say?
This is a meta-study. Which is to say, instead of putting together a study ground-up, a team of international experts led by Newcastle University analysed 343 existing studies into the compositional differences between organic and conventional crops, and concluded that consuming organic foods and its derivatives would be equivalent to adding 1-2 portions of fruits and green veggies to your diet. The study found that organic food is 60% higher in key antioxidants and contains up to 50% lesser concentrations of toxic heavy metal impurities such as Cadmium, when compared to conventionally grown crops.
How is this study different?
The findings contradict those of a 2009 UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissioned study which found that organic food was not really very different or more nutritious than conventional fruits/vegetables and made these conclusions based on only 46 earlier publications. The experts believe that this new study is far more credible because it analyses a much larger sample size of 343 peer reviewed studies which allowed them to draw more definitive conclusions.
A Grist piece however, questions just how much chemical concentration will hurt us, and hence the relevance of the numbers:
The analysis found that conventional foods were four times more likely to have pesticide residues than organic varieties. However, as the authors put it, “the data available did not allow scientiﬁcally robust comparisons of the concentrations of pesticides.” That is, we don’t know if those pesticide residues were in quantities large enough to actually hurt anyone.
Clear differences between organic vs regular food
According to a press release by the Newcastle University, Professor Leifert was quoted as saying, “The organic vs non-organic debate has rumbled on for decades now but the evidence from this study is overwhelming – that organic food is high in antioxidants and lower in toxic metals and pesticides.
“But this study should just be a starting point. We have shown without doubt that there are compositional differences between organic and conventional crops, and now there is an urgent need to carry out well-controlled human dietary intervention and cohort studies specifically designed to identify and quantify the health impacts of switching to organic food.”
The Alternative is an online media publication focused on sustainable living and social impact.