Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Oct

Is Organic a Scam? – Nutrient Differences

tomatoesEven if you can get folks to begrudgingly admit that organic foods tends to contain fewer pesticide residues than conventional (and that this might even impact a person’s health or the way a child develops), they’ll dig in their heels when it comes to the nutritional content. And why shouldn’t they? Organic isn’t really about getting more vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients; it’s always been about getting vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients without the conventional pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that so often accompany conventional produce. The presupposition that proponents of organic produce claim it contains more nutrients is a bit of a straw man, as that claim is rarely – if ever – made.

But what if that mythological claim actually held a kernel of truth? I mean, now that they’ve mentioned it and let that monkey out of its cage, let’s explore a bit to find out, starting with the Stanford study that sparked this whole topic.

If you take the Stanford meta-analysis at its word, you’ll conclude that “published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” Yet critics of the study argue that mistakes were made and that certain nutrients were overlooked, or undervalued, by the authors. One such critic, Dr. Kirsten Brandt, an agricultural scientist who specializes in how growing conditions impact the nutritional density and composition of produce, conducted a similar meta-analysis of the literature that covered much of the same literature as the Stanford study and came to a slightly different conclusion.

Brandt’s review covered more nutrients than the Stanford review. She found it puzzling that the Stanford researchers chose to “include [nutrients] where the difference was smallest to begin with” while omitting others “that were just as well-described in the papers they included.” They also wrote that there was no difference in total flavanol content, which directly contradicted Brandt’s findings, but a closer look showed that they’d merely misspelled flavonol – an honest mistake, albeit one that cloaked a major benefit of organic produce.

Contrary to the recent paper, Brandt’s analysis found that organic produce tended to provide significantly more vitamin C and “secondary metabolites.” Secondary metabolites, or bioactive compounds that aren’t directly involved in the plant’s growth, maturation, or reproduction, include the antioxidant compounds – the polyphenols, the flavonoids, and all the other phytonutrients  - that make fruits and vegetables so uniquely healthful and which the evidence suggests is the primary explanation for the association of produce consumption with increased health. Although these secondary metabolites provide health benefits to those who eat them, for the plants, they are self-defense mechanisms. And without copious amounts of conventional agricultural chemicals doing the protecting, plants grown organically must manufacture more of their own protective compounds to stay alive, particularly if they’re subjected to stressors (like physical trauma, at least in the case of sweet potatoes). This is good for us. It’s as if growing plants organically trains them to be better and more beneficial.

Other papers suggest nutritional differences as well, also primarily in terms of secondary metabolites and other “minor” antioxidant compounds:

A 2010 study examining the fruit quality of three varieties of organic and conventional strawberries found some pretty important differences. First, organic strawberries tended to win the blind taste tests. They were smaller, but denser. They were brighter, which correlated with increased levels of phenolic compounds and other antioxidants. Organic strawberries also had more vitamin C, lasted longer on the shelf, and were more resistant to fungus (despite having no anti-fungals applied).

Another review (PDF) found that, by and large, organic produce had greater levels of secondary metabolities and tended toward more magnesium, vitamin C, iron, and phosphorus. Interestingly, the author also found that differences existed between newly-organic farms and more “mature” organic farms; the longer soil was worked using organic methods, the more nutrient-rich its produce. Thus, it’s possible that many of the studies showing little to no difference between conventional and organic were using “young” organic farms that had yet to reach their potential.

Most of these secondary metabolites aren’t going to show up in a nutritional database. They won’t help you pad your MyFitnessPal stats. They aren’t “essential” to health like vitamin D, vitamin C, or protein are and thus won’t register as very important in most meta-analyses, but they certainly make life a whole lot better (and longer, and healthier, and possibly even less cancer-y).

What about minerals?

Seeing as how the mineral content of produce depends on the mineral content of the soil in which the produce was grown, most studies find little difference between the mineral content of organic and conventional stuff. The biggest general determinant of mineral density in food appears to be geographical location, since different regions have different soil compositions. Even members of the same vegetable variety from different areas of the country can have wildly different levels of certain minerals depending on the mineral level of the soil. That said, one study found that organic crops had higher levels of magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and phosphorus, with lower levels of nitrates. It’s not that getting ordained by the organic gods magically increases the amount of magnesium in your soil; if organic chard has more magnesium, it may be that the organic chard farmer was just really dedicated to soil maintenance. From talking to the farmers at the farmers markets, I get the sense that this is probably the case.

My personal hunch? The food I buy from the farmers market from people with dirt under their fingernails is more nutritious than the food I get from the grocery store. It certainly tastes better. The odd-looking winter squash with orange knobby protrusions that the farmer says tastes like a cross between kabocha and butternut, or the pale butternut squash from Trader Joe’s? The dry-farmed early girl tomato that weighs twice as much as the same-sized store-bought conventional tomato? The room temp broccoli that’s never seen a fridge before laid out in the Santa Monica sunshine, or the bushel of Costco broccoli florets languishing in the industrial refrigerator? All that flavor, that weight, and that density can’t just be handwaved away as ephemera without a nutritional corollary. Nutrients – no matter how micro they are – occupy physical space. They have mass. If this tomato weighs a quarter pound more than that tomato, there is something qualitatively different about it, and it’s probably got something to do with the nutritional content (with it, ya know, being food and all).

Plus, the “organic” produce I get – whether it’s unofficial organic or proudly displays the emblazonment for all to see – tastes better to me and my family. The strawberries are firmer, sweeter, and more tart; if it’s the increased vitamin C content coupled with more robust intracellular plant matrices (yep, made that up), I don’t really care. The kale’s more bitter and pleasantly pungent; if that’s the increased polyphenol content, good for it. I like the taste. The increased micronutrient density (if it exists, and it looks like it probably does) is just a welcome addition.

Still, the research appears to say that, contrary to what the latest study would have you believe, organic produce tends to be more nutritious, particularly if you count something like a plant pigment with antioxidant qualities or a flavonoid as a “nutrient.” I definitely do, but I can see why someone who lives and dies by a standard nutritional database would overlook them. Vitamins and minerals are vital and all, but they aren’t everything.

What do you think, folks? I realize that you’ve probably never ordered micronutrient testing for your organic baby bok choy and compared it to the stuff from the supermarket, but have you noticed any qualitative differences between produce from different sources? What about that most important of qualities – taste? Let me and everyone know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Organic is a must if, you don’t want all of the ill effect of pesticides to be passed on to the next generation. After all children are built from their parent’s cells. Here in the primal world it should be self evident to all you are what you eat. What you feed your food is what it will feed you. So you are what you eat and what you allow your food to eat. I think it is just that simple

    apical meristem wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • I grew up in an extremely environmentally aware place (full of old hippies with organic gardens) and the very idea of spraying anything seems completely at odds with the organic farming I knew.

      It’s starting to sound like there are “organic” and then there are actually organic farms and perhaps thats why there is no consensus on which is better because half of the growers are “organic” not organic as it was originally intended with complementary plantings and natural predators being encouraged etc.

      Grocery store organic is a far cry from farmers market organic as well I’ve noticed. Grocery store organic stuff looks like crap and tastes little better in my experience, but farmer’s market stuff is awesome in general.

      JohnC wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • I agree with you, who wants to feed their family dangerous chemicals in their foods? I think where this issue really needs to go is how the FDA has deregulated the term organic. What does it really mean these days? From my understanding, there is a giant range of what is considered organic… from a farmer that replenishes crucial trace minerals in the soil to a farmer that throws GMO corn fed cow dung into the fields. If this is truly the case, who knows what fields they are testing in these studies. The only nutrients that are going to be in the organic products are the nutrients that are replenished in the fields. Seems simple. Oh and thank you for organic farming, its worth it to me to pay you extra!

      Kristin wrote on October 12th, 2012
  2. I don’t eat produce.

    rob wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • You’re missing the boat without at least some produce. All fruits and vegetables offer a powerhouse of nutrients that the human body needs for optimal health.

      Shary wrote on October 9th, 2012
      • Tell that to all the human populations who had optimal health on a carnivorous diet. Plants are not necessary when you eat the entire animal; for example liver has 3 times more vitamin C than blueberries.

        Sofie wrote on October 9th, 2012
        • I agree that they aren’t necessary (if you’re getting the full gamut from good animal parts) but they’re still *helpful*.

          Jonathan wrote on October 9th, 2012
        • Not sure they were on a Carnivorous Diet. Human’s are Omnivores, eat both plant and meat. When they couldn’t hunt they would forage for food. Its a bit different in modern times with readily available food. But to discontinue plants just because we can have access to meat 24/7 isn’t right thinking.

          But i agree, we should at least try to eat as much different cuts of meat as possible, especially organ meat, which is highly nutritious.

          Matt wrote on October 9th, 2012
        • Not true, Sofie. One slice of beef liver contains an average of 1.3 mg of vitamin C, which is practically nada, whereas a serving of blueberries contains about 14 mg. of C. Ripe strawberries come in at around 85 mg. of C, and black currants provide a whopping 200 mg of vitamin C per every 100 gram serving.

          There’s no comparison unless you eat the entire liver of a large animal, which would deliver so much vitamin A as to be almost toxic.

          Do the research. Fresh fruit and veggies contain many nutrients that are not available in meat, just as meat contains seem things that aren’t available from plant sources. That’s why healthy humans are omnivores.

          Shary wrote on October 9th, 2012
        • Your comments is all wrong and makes absolutely no sense. To start off meat today has hardly any nutrients for your body, the animals are feed and maintained poorly which means you will not receive any benefits of it. Second off you stated one vitamin that the body needs and the vitamins C ONE VITAMIN and it comes from the liver…. Okay well these animals are fed GMO feed and a large dosage of antibiotics and hormones what part of the body works its butt off to eliminate these chemicals, the liver, at a certain point it will give up and retain all these chemicals and you eat it. How will you get vitamin A meat has doesn’t have all vitamin B complexes how will u get a GOOD and healthy dosage of C, D, E,H, magnesium, iodine ECT….. If you keep eating meat its only matter of time you get sick. Im only telling you this because i care and want more people to know that produce is much more important than meat.

          Luca wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Not eating produce is healthy because I don’t have to worry about what kind of produce to eat.

        Organic? Conventional? I’m avoiding that issue altogether.

        For bonus points I don’t have to drive myself to a farmer’s market on the bad side of town during the weekend.

        rob wrote on October 9th, 2012
        • Your statement doesn’t really make any sense: not eating produce is “healthy” because then you don’t have to worry about it? Eating produce may require a little more effort than completely avoiding it, but the nutritional advantage to balancing the nutrients in protein and good fats with those found in plants is hard to dispute. For optimal health, you should consider adding fruits and vegetables to your diet.

          dianekjs wrote on October 9th, 2012
        • But the issue of conventional vs. organic meat and dairy and eggs is far more complicated (not to mention expensive) than that of produce! I’ve switched over to mostly locally grown and organic produce, but can’t quite make the switch to protein sources. The eggs I know are organic and humanitarian cost more than three times as much. There are mid-priced eggs that call themselves free-range etc., but their claims can’t be verified. My solution is to eat as much produce as I can from my local farmers. Their organic certification has a legal meaning, which most claims about eggs and meat don’t.

          willaful wrote on October 15th, 2012
      • Fruits and veggies are also delicious!!

        Ben Hirshberg wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • you eat cow or other meat which eats produce. Grass is produce for cow. So, you eat produce just not directly.

      apical meristem wrote on October 13th, 2012
  3. One day there was an event next to my farmers market and the parking was a mess. I decided to keep it simple and just go to Sprouts instead of fight the traffic. So, I walk in and pick up a bag of cherries. Cherries were just coming in season and I had bought a few handfuls last week at the farmers market. I stood there in Sprouts, with the bag of cherries in my hand, looking at the not-so-fresh cherries and thinking how they wouldn’t even taste as good as the ones from the farmers market and they probably cost more. So, I put the bag down, walked back out and braved the not-as-bad-as-it-looked traffic to get my tasty farmers market fresh cherries.

    Meesha wrote on October 9th, 2012
  4. IMHO, if you have access to and can afford organic, then by all means go ahead. But I’d bet that the overwhelming advantage in health improvement goes to just eating vegetables in the first place. That is, people who eat mostly meat or mostly carbs will see a greater improvement in health by eating more conventional veggies than people who eat a proper amount of conventional veggies would see by going organic.

    And I’d also like to see how the differences between conventional and organic stacks up when comparing food you eat whole vs. food you open. (That is, compare items like tomatoes, carrots, and apples to peas, bananas, and oranges.)

    Ron Helwig wrote on October 9th, 2012
  5. I really wish there was a farmer’s market here in town… The nearest ones are a few hundred miles away, and I’d have to get there by boat or plane. :(

    Charlayna wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • Lol, thats far :P sorry to hear.

      emina wrote on October 10th, 2012
    • grow some things in your own space…

      HopelessDreamer wrote on October 14th, 2012
  6. My biggest concern is buying fake organic. Who polices this at farmer’s market? Anecdotally I’ve heard stories where when the normal produce gets old the stand owners simply put it in the organic section where NO ONE knows the difference but people are more accepting of slightly bruised or more “challenged” looking produce, where they sell it for MORE. What a joke! They giggle at the stupid yuppies buying their “organic” produce. Who the heck will ever know the difference? I wish someone would do a secret buyer analysis of organic produce sold in a variety of places. I’ll bet a significant amount of produce sold as more expensive organic is anything but. Like the sushi studies done where a large portion of fish sold was NOT what was advertised or represented but cheaper or even farm-raised garbage fish. I just do not TRUST it.

    Eddie wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • So at my farmer’s markets a STAND is organic or not. There is no way that the few organic farmers at the markets I frequent are going to risk their reputation by selling some other farm’s produce that is not organic. That’s their competition….

      At the farm I visit, they do sell their own produce (organic) as well as non-organic produce supplied from other area farms, but again, the don’t sell their own fennel AND non-organic fennel. They only bring in stuff they don’t grow themselves.

      This comment is so bizarre – if you don’t trust the farms you visit then grow your own veggies ???

      Kate wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • I’d suggest talking with the farmers at the market. I imagine some of what your describing happens, but, if you spend a few minutes talking with the farmers you can get a pretty good read on people and what there about. Many of the farmers got into the growing scene because of there passion for bringing local organic produce. These farms often open to visitors and are proud to show off their operation. While not fool proof this might help you build a bit more trust.

      luke depron wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • so look the seller in the eyes and ask them point blank. then consider it a challenge to your own intuition how they answer.

      talk to the people – ask questions, look the in the eye. if they are growing organic as they say – you will know.

      trust is a funny thing – you would trust a printed label at whole paycheck, but not your own questioning of the grower in front of you?

      ravi wrote on October 9th, 2012
  7. It’s really no big deal in my opinion. If you’re eating whole food anyway you’re already eating better than 90% of the population that eats garbage. A lot of people I know that eat organic don’t have their macronutrient priorities in order. They’ll eat organic cookies and bread, take herbal supplements, and they’ll still insist that they’re healthy. Simply put, most people need to “graduate” to eating organic once they actually know how to eat.

    JPizzay wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • Exactly right and in the end there’s no clear difference coming out of all these studies anyway so really I think just learn how to judge good produce and try to get it as fresh as possible and don’t freaking worry about it because the stress is probably far worse for you anyway! :)

      JohnC wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • yeah, I’ve been witness to organic milk chocolate, organic pizza, organic knock-off oreos and more. It makes me chuckle.

      Girlfriend wrote on October 9th, 2012
  8. I am certain we do not understand all the issues, or reasons why organic is more favorable. However, at our house we tend to focus on the meat, dairy, and eggs to get organic or grass fed or the like and not so much the produce (funds not unlimited). See the recent piece in Mother Jones that states the Obamas, Bushes, and Clintons all ate organic at the White House (and the Romneys as well). Obviously, our leaders believe organic is better for personal health. In South Florida where I live, time to get the garden planted.

    Colleen wrote on October 9th, 2012
  9. Does anybody know who funded that Stanford study? I bet it was one of the Big Food conglomerates, like maybe Dole–somebody trying to tell us inferior, even canned, produce is best, just to further bamboozle the public.

    Wenchypoo wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • http://www.naturalnews.com/037108_Stanford_Ingram_Olkin_Big_Tobacco.html

      http://www.naturalnews.com/037208_organic_foods_study_Stanford_Cargill.html

      just about any study from a university can be considered biased considering where their funding comes from.

      jrVegantoPrimal wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • I replied to you a little while ago with two links addressing your exact question. For some reason, maybe because of the links, it hasn’t shown up.

      One of the co-authors, Dr. Ingram Olkin, has been on record supporting the tobacco industry and the GMO industry, and they have been in his pockets since the 60′s.

      Also –

      According to Cargill’s own website the agri-giant has established a 25-year partnership with Stanford to conduct “research, teaching, and outreach” as part of the program.

      Cargill has awarded Stanford several large cash infusions totaling $5 million…This money has been specifically earmarked for fostering “long-term solutions for issues of food security, food and diet diversification, food subsidies, and food safety”

      jrVegantoPrimal wrote on October 9th, 2012
  10. You don’t always have to go to a farmer’s market to get organic. I can get the same produce from the same farms at several health food stores in town.

    I just think that most organic stuff tastes better. Too often the conventional produce, especially the fruit and the tomatoes, gets thrown out because it never gets ripe or just gets mealy. But the organic stuff does get ripe and tastes good enough to eat. I waste a lot less money when I actually eat the produce.

    Also, there’s way more variety in the organic stuff. Strange tropical fruits, unusual varieties of common produce, different colors. Always something new to try to keep it interesting.

    Diane wrote on October 9th, 2012
  11. I think I can’t afford organic produce from the local health food store. 4 dollars for a cucumber is outrageous. I CAN afford the stuff from the local farmer’s market, which is not technically organic, but this is Calgary. They’ve mostly shut down for winter. *shrug*

    Aria wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • I have trouble paying that kind of prices myself, but cancer treatment is more expensive.

      LM wrote on October 9th, 2012
  12. I do think that some of the food that is put out there as “organic” isn’t organic. And I agree with Colleen–if I have money to spend on anything organic its going towards grass-fed meats and butter…for produce I grow my own or wash carefully and pray. There is a big taste difference between what I grow myself and what I buy from the supermarket—even if what’s bought from the supermarket is labled organic.

    Ms. T. wrote on October 9th, 2012
  13. I bought brocklii from the farmers market about 2 weeks ago. It is still good. If would of bought it at the local store it would have have gone bad 10 days ago. That saves me money there. It also tastes so much better .

    ponymama wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • Really? I find the opposite! When I have to buy conventional because organic isn’t available, the conventional is still gree and peppy and my organic has to be consumed within days or else it goes bad!

      Sarah A. wrote on October 11th, 2012
      • True for organic vs. conventional purchased at a supermarket. Not true for organic purchased at farmers markets. Often you are buying produce picked that morning or close to it. At a supermarket, the organic produce is often older because the masses shop there and the demand for organic is much less than for conventional.

        missbrett wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  14. “handwaved away as ephemera without a nutritional corollary”…

    …methinks Shakespeare doth write for MDA !

    Great article too :o)

    sjmusic2 wrote on October 9th, 2012
  15. I buy organic produce for 2 reasons: 1) the avoidance of pesticides and their ilk, and 2) the avoidance of GMOs. I have a serious problem with potential genetically modified foods, and since Prop 37 hasn’t yet passed here in California, I don’t want to take chances. At least when it’s certified organic, I know I’m not getting GMOs.

    Megan wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • I don’t think that’s true, unless there’s a second layer to the certification that I don’t know about, which is totally possible.
      In my understanding, “organic” labeling generally applies to the growing conditions, antibiotic and pesticide use, etc. There is no reason that GMO crops cannot be grown organically. In the case of “round-up ready” crops, etc, then the GM state is tied tightly to pesticide use, but that wouldn’t have to be the case. In a totally made-up example, you could have a gene from soybeans for some kind of weevil resistance, move that gene into carrots, and then you could grow your “modified” carrots organically.
      [In fact, depending how you look at it, all the heirloom vegetables were genetically manipulated (in this case bred by generations of gardeners rather than by scientists) to have certain characteristics, which is not so different... once the gene is integrated into the DNA, it stays and is passed on to future generations of plants.]

      anabelle wrote on October 9th, 2012
      • There was a discussion of this on the previous MDA posts about organic produce. There is a difference between selective breeding and genetic modification. In selective breeding you are taking two organisms that could theoretically breed in the wild. It’s hard to see how inserting genetic information from an organism of a different genus, one that could never breed on its own with the host organism, and call that the same thing, and then to say furthermore that it probably won’t affect humans negatively. There is no basis for that conclusion. Especially when you consider that the Bt toxin from crops genetically modified with DNA from a bacteria (Bacillus thurengiensis) are being found in pregnant women and the umbilical blood of their babies. Bt is a stomach toxin and it’s safety in mammals is still in question but it does bind to the intestines of mice.

        Additionally, there is this from the October 2012 Blaylock Wellness Report by Dr. Russell Blaylock, “A new study published in the journal of “Food and Chemical Toxicology” reported on one of the best-conducted and one of the only long-term studies of the effect of genetically modified (GMO) foods on overall health and tumor induction. Most studies on the safety of GMO foods follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups with strong financial ties to the makers of these foods. Virtually all of these studies use rats and are terminated at 90 days.
        In this study, animals were fed the GMO corn for two years in concentrations commensurate to what people would eat. What they found is beyond shocking.
        The animals fed GMO food died 2 to 3 times more often than the animals eating a normal diet. Male rats demonstrated liver damage an significant kidney damage 2.5 to 5.5 times more often than control rats.
        Of extreme concern was the finding that the females developed massive breast tumors at a high rate in the GMO fed animals.
        Some 80 to 90 percent of soy used in our food is now genetically modified, and women are consuming incredible amounts in a mistake belief that is will prevent breast cancer. Even more frightening is that almost half of all babies are now being fed soy-based formula. This is not the only study to find problems with GMO foods, but is ts the most damning.”

        Tina wrote on October 10th, 2012
      • As far as I know organic certificates don’t allow GMOs. Period. Whatever you may think about it.
        I don’t want to go into the whole discussion whether GM food is safe or not, that’s for everybody individually to decide. But if somebody wants to avoid GMO, organic is their best bet.

        Magda wrote on October 11th, 2012
      • The USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of GMOs, listing them as “excluded methods,” and defining those methods as “a variety of methods to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes…. Such prohibited methods include cell fusion, microencapsulation and macroencapsulation, and recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes when achieved by recombinant DNA technology).”
        http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/12/16/organic-101-what-organic-farming-and-processing-doesn%E2%80%99t-allow/

        brandon wrote on October 14th, 2012
  16. It is so easy in a busy schedule to momentarily forget the difference in taste and satiety between organic and conventional produce. This year to help remind ourselves of this, we are doing a 100% local Thanksgiving–even with homemade hard cider. It’s going to be a great reminder (and hopefully tradition).

    Brent wrote on October 9th, 2012
  17. Just because it’s organic does not mean it is not sprayed with pesticides. At the farmer’s market I was told they don’t spray the apples directly but they spray the tree. So is it really pesticide free?
    Also, some of the so called organic produce grows right next to the sprayed produce, so doesn’t it get sprayed by default?
    I think that unless you grow it yourself or have a very reputable source than you are just fooling yourself into believing you got what you paid for.

    Anna wrote on October 9th, 2012
  18. This is always a hotly disputed topic!!

    Since the numerous studies do not give a clear and constant winner, I tend to look at the larger picture and ideals…

    If it makes you feel better (and you can afford it), eat organic!

    One interesting item is organic wine – I spoke with a producer and they said that the standards of certification vary and the sulphites used to preserve red wine are in no way harmful in the small quantities which they are used in red wine – this is a worthwhile trade-off for the superior taste preserved wine can have…

    Luke M-Davies wrote on October 9th, 2012
  19. Flavor means a lot. If you take a tomato grown in depleted sandy soil in Florida with typical pesticides and chemical fertilizer versus one grown in rich, fertile soil in Oregon where I grew up (or anywhere with the equal) – there is no comparison. I’d even wager that the one grown in Oregon would provide vastly greater nutrition in a side by side comparison. These generalizations of organic vs non organic from a meta-analysis are useless. When you get down to specific produce, I choose based on smell, taste, color, texture, local when possible, and organic is the first choice, if it looks edible.

    Jonathan wrote on October 9th, 2012
  20. Not surprising the white house eats organic..not coming out of their food budget. Nothing is pesticide free as it is floating in the air from being sprayed at all the non-organic farms..
    When the weather allows it, grow your own and wash the rest

    Dee wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • Actually, the president and his family DO pay for their own food… Unless it’s a state dinner.

      Kate wrote on October 11th, 2012
  21. Non-organic cannot grow a decent avocado.
    Most organic food I can take or leave, but an organic avocado is a completely different food. It’s a sublime delicacy, while the non-organic variant is either an imposition or a curate’s egg.

    Anon wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • Hmm, growing up in California, I remember avocado trees receiving no care in the neighborhoods they were grown in and they were delicious. Not saying you’re 100% wrong since this is just based on my limited experience and since the avocados didn’t have to travel further than the back yard to get consumed.

      Tina wrote on October 10th, 2012
  22. Better safe than sorry!

    Team Oberg wrote on October 9th, 2012
  23. I once heard an “expert” make the claim that conventional pesticides also kill microorganisms in the soil. Since those microorganisms are responsible for breaking down minerals small enough to be absorbed by plants, plants grown with conventional pesticides contain fewer nutrients. This same “expert” claimed that a preserved–maybe frozen–of 100 year old spinach was compared to spinach grow today and the 100 year old spinach contained 10 times the nutritional value. Have you seen any studies with results which are consistent with these claims?

    Guru Lou wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • IIRC, Weston Price’s data on certain foods leads to the same conclusion. Don’t have the exact figures right now though.

      Jonathan wrote on October 10th, 2012
  24. I used to have an organic farmer friend. Spent hundreds of dollars with her for quality produce, which she harvested the day of pick-up. You can’t get much better than this, unless you grow your own food. I’m not a great gardener by any means, but I keep trying to better my skills, because there is nothing – NOTHING- better than going to your garden and plucking something fresh for a salad. I respect people who buy organic produce at the store, but the farmers’ market is better and fresher.

    My farmer friend told me that the produce lost much of its nutrient value after the first 24 hours. Your soil and its enrichment is very important, too, and that’s something I would like to learn more about, and with time, I will!

    Lynn wrote on October 9th, 2012
  25. I also need to say that though I do not consider myself a very good gardener, 98% of what I grew had a better flavor than anything I’ve ever bought at the supermarket. What I lack for in yield, I make up for in quality.

    Lynn wrote on October 9th, 2012
  26. We have a family garden where we grow silver beet, broccoli, sweet potato (kumara) etc. all organically, and having to resort to vegetables from the store (non-organic) is always depressing…they just don’t taste as good or as healthy (if you can taste ‘healthiness’….maybe we should add ‘healthy’ to ‘sweet’, ‘bitter’, ‘sour’ as a taste?!)

    The fact that it goes from ground to plate within hours is another nice highlight

    Isaac Warbrick wrote on October 9th, 2012
  27. Out on the road, organic or grass fed anything isn’t an option. I have recently studied edible wild foods which often more nutritious (lambs quarter and purslane) and are FREE. Lambs quarter is aka wild spinach. Purslane has more antioxidants than any cultivated plant. Wood sorrel adds a delightful salty/lemony perk to any soup or salad and, with the right recipe, makes a delicious salad dressing/sauce. Common thistle has a root large enough to feed a family without the insulin whammy of cultivated potatoes. Heck, even kudzu turns out to be quite nutritious. Study up, take a nature walk with your local herbalist. The is food all around you, growing in the “waste” ground of every vacant lot or road way. Use some caution though. Make SURE you know what you’re taking home. Never pick near railroads since the beds are heavily sprayed. There is a vast world of food out here, folks, and it only costs a leisurely walk and some dirt under your nails to acquire it.

    TruckerLady wrote on October 9th, 2012
  28. First world problems.

    JohnC wrote on October 9th, 2012
    • Actually no; human bodies are human bodies, and pesticides are poisonous in the Third World as much as they are in the First World.

      LM wrote on October 9th, 2012
      • I meant only first world people could possibly have the time and resources to both care and do something about this problem.

        JohnC wrote on October 10th, 2012
    • Not if you’re the Hispanic out in the US fields picking the stuff.

      Tina wrote on October 10th, 2012
  29. The more veggies you can grow and eat yourself, the better off you will be. Even if just a small amount for part of the year. Use kelp for fertilizer and get all those minerals and micro-nutrients that flow out to sea. I agree organic farmers probably take better care of their soil than their non-organic counterparts. Through composting, amendments, and fertilization. It is all a circle and if you just take from the soil without giving back, it will run dry on nutrients. If it ain’t in the soil, ain’t in the crops(or us). Certainly there are nutrients, minerals, etc which have yet to be discovered- along with their benefits. Logically those nutrients will be more available in a naturally fertilized soil.

    Greg H wrote on October 9th, 2012
  30. My mother has always thought that she had a bad allergy to carrots. It was so bad that she couldn’t even be in the same room when someone was peeling raw carrots.

    Then one day, we bought organic carrots. My mother experienced no allergy symptoms.

    I eat organic, not because I think organic food has more nutrients, but because I think it has fewer poisons. I’m not as sensitive as my mother, but I figure all those pesticides are not that good for me either.

    LM wrote on October 9th, 2012
  31. That’s why we are biologic farmers on our farm. We don’t need studies… we have healty cattle, chooks and sheep, as well as the best vegies in the district. Go Organic.

    kem wrote on October 10th, 2012
  32. It generally tastes better.
    It always has travelled less far.
    I REALLY don´t like the thought of pesticides and things like that in my food. I also try to avoid ratpoison for the same reason. ;-)
    Growing it is way, way, way easier on the Earth.
    It´s not unusual that organic farmers help keep up the diversity in the different strains of plants. I think it´s a bad idea that most crops stem from Big Agro-companys and that 75% (or whatever high number) of all ….(put in name of veggie/fruit here) could be wiped out by the same disease because everyone is growing the same strain.

    I like to think it´s more nutritious too but that is just an added bonus in this case. :-)

    Elena wrote on October 10th, 2012
  33. Does anyone know how effective the washes are at removing the residues? Give me stats, I love ‘em!

    oolybel wrote on October 10th, 2012
    • Not to be a party-pooper, but there are a couple of the veggie washes that I appear to be allergic to. I don’t know the names, but one causes terrible blisters in my mouth and the other one makes me itch. I was a ddt farm girl so I may just be chemically sensitive.

      TruckerLady wrote on October 10th, 2012
    • Look at it this way, if the pesticides were water based, the first rain would wash them of, so they have to be oil based.

      Since they’re oil based, washing produce in water doesn’t wash them off. Some produce are covered in wax as well.

      Plants will absorb the pesticides, and it won’t matter what you do to them.

      Best to get them pesticide free, that is, organic to begin with.

      raydawg wrote on October 12th, 2012
  34. I found out at Walmart (years ago) that “organic” costs $1.00. Due to some issues, I had to use the Parents Choice baby formula. They had all sorts of selections (soy, regular, DHA enhanced, organic), when I looked at the lables, the regular formula and the organic formula had the exact same ingredients, except the organic had the word “organic” listed in front of each ingredient. The regular can was $13 and the organic was $14.
    Now I am older and wiser. It’s important to be better informed. Are there some farmer’s market vendors trying to rip off an ingnorant consumer? Sure, rip off artists are everywhere. It’s up to the consumer to ask questions, educate themselves, and not fall for all the hype.
    At our farmer’s market, some of the smaller farms can’t afford to get the “organic” lable, so they just make little hand written signs that say “no pesticides”. I trust them, because I talk to them!

    Rusty wrote on October 10th, 2012
  35. I have to say that after reading so many studies that were hogwash, its hard to give credit to what they call science these days.
    I eat organic as much as I can. But its cost is so much more that our cupboards are getting bare heading into winter.
    We are not the typical Grok family of four.
    We exist off of very little. My full time work provides just enough to cover rent, gas, school activities, insurances and 2 prepay cell phones that are not all that smart.
    We actually have to have the $360 in government help to eat. For the month!
    After having said that..
    I would not trade the health benefits that my family has had from making the switch to as much organic as we can without starving ourselves.
    After going Primal in May I have lost 45 pounds, Stopped having migraines (the kind people kill themselves over), EBS, Type 2 is non existent. My kids are more manageable. And my wife has had much the same response as me.
    I would continue to buy as much as I can. Food cost has gone up to twice the amount. Not kidding. Gas is over 20% higher now since the beginning of the year.
    Rents fixing to go up next month. But we are healthier then we have ever been in our entire lives. And organic has had a lot to do with it.
    Expensive? Yes!
    The proof is in the living though. And I won’t trade this health for a “study”.
    Food is our friend. But frankenfood is our enemy.
    Hopefully my wife will find work soon and we can get off that little bit of assistance and hit the farms for food. None of them take EBT. And I understand they think we are jobless and quit trying when they see the card.
    Been a while since I have held my head up at the checkout. But I feel better then ever in my skin. And getting better thanks to Paleo and Organic.

    MSH wrote on October 10th, 2012
    • I know our farmers market does some sort of “token” exchange with EBT. You use your card to purchase the tokens and then take them direct to the farmers. Also, depending on your location there may be outreach programs to sell seasonal vegatables or to teach basic farming and gardening. We have an inner city garden that goes from neighborhood to neighborhood selling veggies most seasons. Even if there aren’t programs like this around you you can e-mail local markets and ask them why they don’t participate.

      My last advice is to find out who supplies your local restaurants with produce and if they have a storefront. I always find I can get more quality products from our little family run distributor who takes advantage of our local organic and hydro farms. Best of luck to you and congrats on your newfound health!

      Grok Fox wrote on October 10th, 2012
  36. I have found this to be very true for me. I now do compound lifts, 3 days per week, about 15-20 minutes total. I also walk about 6-7 miles per day. It keep it simple, and I feel better than ever.

    Johnny wrote on October 10th, 2012
  37. True organic dairy comes from cows fed on good pasture whereas most commercial milk comes from cows that are fed grain, mostly soy, to increase milk production. Pasture fed cows produce less than half as much milk as grain fed cows and as a consequence the milk from pasture fed cows has greater nutrient content because the amount of vitamins synthesized by cows is limited, so greater milk production of grain fed cows means diluted vitamin content.

    Grain in no the nature diet of cows so cows fed on grain, particularly soy, have constant gut irritation and liver damage and live less than half as long as pasture fed cows.

    A large percentage of “organic” dairy that is available in super markets is produced by national firms who bend the rules so that the cows’ availability of pasture is not much more than a view. The only advantage is that the grain fed the cows is organic. Most such organic milk is “ultra-pasteurized” which more than offsets any advantage.

    The website of Cornucopia rates organic milk on a scale of 0 to 5.

    http://www.cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html

    A good alternative to “organic” milk is raw milk cheese from cows fed only on pasture and silage.

    Jack Cameron wrote on October 10th, 2012
  38. I had fresh-off-the-vine strawberries (as in less than 10 seconds fresh) from our backyard this summer…
    The BEST conventional strawberry I’ve had since then did not even come close to the WORST 4-day-old refrigerated strawberry from our garden.

    And this wild apple *crunch* doesn’t taste too shabby, either. *swallow* *crunch* *chew*

    Bill C wrote on October 10th, 2012
  39. To me the triumph of marketing is the fact that organic growers have managed to make people afraid of fruits and vegetables. It’s not so long ago that they were considered health foods, and we have plenty of studies showing health benefits from eating more fruits and veggies (organic or not). Now it seems they have to be organic to really be safe.

    We’ve been eating ‘pesticide laden’ produce for decades and there’s no good evidence (that I know of) that pesticide exposure from produce would cause real health problems.

    To me this seems more of an ideological issue than scientific. This review from Stanford is not unique. Most such reviews come up with similar results, that there’s little to know nutritional difference between organic and conventionally grown produce. Some do show a difference, but those are often made by ideologically biased organizations, such as the Organic association or alt-med proponents.

    Yes, this study didn’t talk about environmental impact or many other reasons for choosing organic. But to expect it to do so means not understanding the scientific process. This study wasn’t mean to answer those questions. It was meant to answer the question of whether organic or more nutritious than conventional produce.

    In science you have to separate each piece of the puzzle and look at them individually. That’s why there are other studies looking at those other questions. That’s the only way to get reliable answers. Each study answers a specific question and then you get the big picture from looking at all the studies.

    Seppo wrote on October 11th, 2012
  40. I feel like such a bad parent after reading this article. I cost corners as much as possible to feed my children quality foods, but still cannot afford most of the organic produce. It tortures me to know I’m not giving my kids the best start in life. Not to mention, I’m contributing to harming the environment when I buy conventional.

    Maria wrote on October 11th, 2012
    • If your family is eating primal you are already doing a lot for the environment I´d say. And A LOT for your health.
      I buy organic when I can and conventional the rest of the time. I´m doing the best I can with what I´ve got and don´t fret the rest.

      Elena wrote on October 11th, 2012
    • Maria, the question which is more environmentally friendly is not quite so cut and dry. It’s true that excess use of pesticides and fertilizers is bad for the environment, especially in the US where they are used more liberally than in other places.

      But we also have to consider land use and yields per acre. Organic produce has lower yields and uses more ‘shadow’ land.

      Of course conventionally grown produce requires fossil fuel inputs.

      Which one is ultimately better for the environment, I don’t think we can say that yet. Everybody has their own ideologically-driven answer, but I’m talking about answers based on real data.

      I think it’s a moot point anyway. We shouldn’t make black and white divisions between the two models. Rather, we should take what works from both models and combine the best practices.

      I would suggest not feeling guilty. You are already doing more for your children and the environment than most parents are :)

      Seppo wrote on October 11th, 2012

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