Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Organic food has same nutrients as conventionally grown
The last time I was the messenger on this topic, three people unsubscribed in protest. Once, when I spoke about organically grown food on the radio, a lady from Tasmania kindly took the time to ring and abuse me. It is a very emotional area. Let me see if I can get the message across clearly.
A report published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition came to the conclusion that organically grown produce and livestock had a similar nutrient offering to conventionally grown food. The reviewers trawled all the research for the past 50 years and found only 55 good quality research studies comparing organic and conventionally grown food, many conducted this century. The comparison did not include pesticide residue or the environmental impact.
The price is not right
In many cases, it won’t matter how you dress up organic produce because most people won’t be prepared to pay the premium price. I once inadvertently paid four times the price for organic onions. Most organic produce is at least 50% dearer that the regular type. I’m not suggesting that anyone is getting ripped-off as organic farming will be more labour intensive and therefore command a higher price. On the other hand there will only be a small number of suburbs where organic produce will sell well.
What else is relevant?
The other critical factor is that less than one in ten adults eat enough fruit and vegetables to be good for them. Most adults need to double their vegetable intake to get the benefits they provide, before they start to wonder whether they should go organic or not.
Fresh produce in Australia is tested for pesticide residues. Most farmers will ensure that they meet the withholding times to ensure they are below the Maximum Residue Limits for pesticides, which are set by international scientific agreement. At lot of fresh produce has no detectable pesticide or herbicide residue at the point of sale. All the same, this will not appease many people who prefer no pesticides to be used in the first place (and if they weren’t used then fruit and vegetables will be a lot more expensive than they are now).
What does it all mean?
If you can afford it, and you eat plenty of organic produce, then keep buying it. Many of you already are as the organic market is rapidly growing. It sends a message that you prefer food that is a little more gentle on the environment. For those of us with plenty of mouths to feed and a modest budget, then feel comfortable eating good quality conventionally grown food, as the nutrient levels are very similar to organic produce. Remember that how you look after fresh produce after it has been bought will have the greatest impact on its nutrient content. Eat fresh food as soon as you can after purchase to get the most nutrients from your meal.
References: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009; doi 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28041