Could there be a clear and discernible difference between organic and non-organic foods, scientifically speaking that is. An international study being published in the British Journal of Nutrition looks to find out just that. According to this study, there is indeed a difference.
The study was led by Carlo Leifert of New Castle University, finding that organic foods may actually have more antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides and toxic metals like cadmium. Researchers reported that organic foods were 19% to 69% higher.
Of course, the debate is not over. There is still plenty to ask about whether or not organic foods are better. One study is far from conclusive evidence that would tell us that we all need to turn to the organic movement. There will definitely be more exploration though, and this does open up doors.
Professor of nutrition Tom Sanders at King’s College London says that the study obviously shows differences,
but the question is are they within natural variation? And are they nutritionally relevant? I am not convinced. Sanders has also suggested that realistically, the study may actually be a bit misleading.
Other members of the nutrition community are equally as skeptical. Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research says,
The references to ‘antioxidants’ and ‘antioxidant activity’ and various ‘antioxidant’ assays would suggest a poor knowledge of the current understanding within the nutrition community of how fruit and vegetables may maintain and improve health.
The results are based on an analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies from around the world that look at the differences between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables. While these studies have never really been examined before, this could actually leave the results more open to criticism. The Guardian says:
The research is certain to be criticized: the inclusion of so many studies in the analysis could mean poor quality work skews the results, although the team did ‘sensitivity analsyes’ and found that excluding weaker work did not significantly change the outcome.
In addition, researchers find that any levels of pesticides and cadmium found in the non-organic foods were well within regulatory limits. Of course, researchers say that these would still accumulate over time. Some also find that the differences may actually come from different climates and soil types rather than organic versus non-organic.
You are not going to be better nourished if you eat organic food. What is most important is what you eat, not whether it’s organic or conventional. It’s whether you eat fruit and vegetables at all. People are buying into a lifestyle system. They get an assurance it is not being grown with chemicals and is not grown by big business.