The Impact of Organic: Beyond Nutrition

September 13th, 2012

Last week, a Stanford University study came to the conclusion that there is little evidence of increased health benefits from organic foods versus their standard issue, non-organic counterparts. “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” said Dena Bravata, MD, MS, a senior associate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy who helped lead the study comparing organic and conventional foods.

The study was fueled by the growing popularity of organic products – which by definition are produced without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents or chemical food additives. All that organic foods lack that differentiate them from conventional options they certainly reflect in price as they are, in all cases, more expensive than non-organic options, sometimes even costing twice as much.

While this study does indicate that there are no immediate health benefits from organic versus conventional foods, it also concludes that organic produce has a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than its conventional counterparts. Just because we don’t know the long-term health benefits or detriments of this difference, does not mean the point should be dismissed. Does the 30 percent pesticide difference add up over the course of years or over the course of a lifetime? Maybe it does. And maybe it doesn’t. But for the consumers in the “maybe it does” camp, paying higher prices for peace of mind is a reasonable trade-off.

Let’s not forget that for many organic-seeking consumers the value isn’t placed on their health alone – but also on the health of animals and the environment. There are undeniable differences between the affects of organic versus conventional farming on the health of the world around us. So, although eating an organic apple versus a conventional apple may not be more nutritious for us, there are other health implications that hang in the balance.

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