One controversial research question in the food science literature is whether organic produce has more nutritional value than conventionally-produced crops. A study out of Stanford made it to the Big Show this week — the New York Times covered its findings which suggest there is no difference in nutritional value. It did find some difference in pesticide residue and in antioxidant content. ( Here is the NYT article.)
Other studies support this Stanford study. Antioxidants in organic garden crops tend to be higher because they same mechanisms in the plants that require them to fight off pests are also antioxidants to us. Conventionally-produced crops simply do not have to work as hard. There definitely tends to be a difference in pesticide residue. Nutritionally, the big difference comes in dairy products when the organically-raised cows are actually grazing on pasture.
Back in 2009, a study with similar conclusions about the nutritional content of organic food made the press and I created a little video response. I thought it appropriate to resurrect the video. The graphs I present here come from the 2009 video, not from the current Stanford study.
For those who are bandwidth challenged (as are we here on satellite in the Sequoia National Forest), some of the highlights of the video include:
- Conventional produce ought to have as much nutrition as organic because our bodies need it to process the pesticides in it.
- The graph of pesticide residue presented in this post is supplemented with a “pesticide pee study” of children showing that children excrete more pesticide in their urine when they are eating conventionally-produced foods.
- Stepping back from these findings, I also discuss nutrient decline in the food supply with an example of wheat. Modern wheat varieties do not contain the nutrition of their heirloom counterparts. If we really want a more nutritious sandwich, it would be made with an heirloom grain and heirloom tomatoes. The Traditional Foods website has an entire resource area on the topic of nutrient decline in foods.