A study that received extensive media attention has suggested that the "nutritional quality" of organic food is not superior to food produced by conventional farming methods. What should we think of this?

This study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and was widely picked up by the media, found no difference in the "nutritional quality" of organic and non-organic food.

However, organic food is not attractive only because of its content in terms of vitamins and essential minerals, the only factors measured in this study. Organic foods also contain a wealth of useful phytochemical compounds (polyphenols and others) which are generally found in larger amounts among organic produce than their conventional counterparts but were not measured in this study. Furthermore, organic food is attractive above all because it limits the presence of chemical residues from fertilizers and pesticides.

As I pointed out in Anticancer, a study at the University of Washington in Seattle showed that children aged 2 to 5 who were fed a diet mainly comprising food from conventional, non-organic sources had residues of pesticides in their urine every day -- levels that in some cases reached four times the maximum level considered safe by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. When the same children received 70% of their food from organic sources had barely detectable quantities of these residues. (1)

Since then, another study at Emory University in Atlanta has confirmed this observation in 23 young children. The authors conclude: " We were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production. (2)

Organic food remains the essential solution for the future of our health and that of the planet.

(I should point out however, that, in general, it’s still better to eat broccoli even with pesticide residues on it than to not eat broccoli. The benefits of such vegetables so rich in anticancer ingredients trumps the possible harm of pesticides).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Curl, C.L., R.A. Fenske, and K. Elgethun, Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2003. 111(3): p. 377-82.

2. Lu, C., et al., Organic diets significantly lower children's dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006. 114(2): p. 260-3.