Gallery: Benefits of organic food go far beyond vitamins and minerals, ...


It makes sense to this writer that organic food is a healthier option than convention produce, which is grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Take away those harmful chemicals, and organic food ought to be better for you, right? I am not alone in this line of thought, and as such, the organic food market is a $29 billion industry. That said, a study is pouring cold water on this theory, suggesting that research into organic food has found “scant evidence of health benefits”… but is the new study missing the point?

The report was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on behalf of researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, and the findings were surprising. As many media outlets are reporting, the team found no strong evidence to show that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives. That said, they did note that consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient—phosphorus—was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce.

So organic food might not contain more nutrients, but does that really matter? After all, organic farming is much better for the planet overall as it limits pesticide intake, prevents chemical fertilizers from entering groundwater and supports local farmers.

Supporters of organic food have leapt on the report with Chuck Benbrook, a professor of agriculture at Washington State University, saying: “The Stanford team’s study design precluded assessment of much of the evidence supporting these benefits, and hence their findings understate the health benefits that can follow a switch to a predominantly organic diet, organic farming methods, and the animal health-promoting practices common on organically managed livestock farms.”

“Over time, unbiased analysis coupled with modern-day science is likely to show with increasing clarity that growing and consuming organic food, especially in conjunction with healthy diets rich in fresh, whole foods, is one of the best health-promotion investments we can make today as individuals, families, and a society.”

So what do you think? Let us know below.

+ Stanford University School of Medicine


Images: haansgruber and


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  1. royalestel April 25, 2015 at 9:01 am

    The devil is in the details of the study. It was a meta-study, which means they did no direct research themselves, but relied on previous studies. Many previous studies compared conventional to organic produce by growing said “organic” produce in the same chemically burned over university test plots used to test conventional methods for decades. And even this study has a very large IF right at the beginning–IF you are an adult you might not have a health benefit. What about if you are a growing child? The other very odd thing about the study is that there was no finding in the related past studies of different nutrition content. If this is the case, why does organic produce taste better? And how many years was the organic produce raised on those plots before testing the nutrition content? As years pass, the soil microorganisms gain strength in good soil and produce more vigorous, healthy plants.

    My last comment is that current organic methods are often employed thinking of the farm as a widget factory, and don’t rely on the strengths of permaculture methods, or interspeciated stacking to naturally increase yields on the same plot of land. To wit, a 1 acre organic farm can mix the “three sisters” (corn, beans, and squash) because everything is hand-harvested. This planting method synergistically increases yields. I’m no expert, but I would bet money that you can find small organic farms that get quadruple the food yield per acre compared to large scale “organic” farms.

  2. Realitista April 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    I think you’d have a hard time proving that organic farming is better for the planet since it gets 5-34% less yield on the same land, meaning that we’d need a lot more deforestation and biodiversity loss to switch to organics. In the best case, the advantages of organic farming are still washed away by the disadvantages given current techniques.

  3. September 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Very interesting story! I was introduced to this topic a few days ago on the news. While I was appreciative of the comparisons made of the vitamin/mineral content of convention versus. organic produce, there was little discussion of the production methods.

    Organic produce may not exceed conventional in mineral content, but it is far superior for it’s taste and ethical/environmentally adapted/sustainable production methods. This is why I choose to eat organic food.

  4. sylrayj September 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Foods have their own genetic makeup, with enzyme concentrations etc. in their own specific ranges. A carrot is a carrot, an apple is an apple. It’s not a surprise that vitamin concentration tends to be a standard.

    However, it is absolutely essential to consider the other results of using organic methods vs. other, including soil health, waste production, byproducts, chemical exposure, and even the ability to use spent plant matter as fresh compost materials. We live in a closed system, and I’d rather have to deal with a compost spill than an industrial chemical accident.

  5. Jake September 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Very interesting information, thanks for sharing!

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