Is the superiority of organic food just a marketing ploy, or is organic really better for you? Scientists at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom recently completed the largest study of its kind, and they have a verdict: Organic food is, in fact, more nutritious than food grown conventionally.
The scientists at Newcastle reviewed 343 studies that compared conventional to organically grown food. They found that organic grains, fruits and vegetables are higher in nutrition, and therefore better for you. The reviewers noted that the quality of studies has improved greatly over the years, resulting in much more reliable conclusions.
In organic farming, crops are not grown with synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organics are not genetically modified. They increase biodiversity, conserve resources, and help support the ecological balance. In the United States, the quality of organic growing is controlled by strict government regulation. In actuality, “organic” is the word that defines food grown the way crops have traditionally been grown, and animals raised, prior to the time corporations took control of the food supply.
Plants grown conventionally have access to high levels of synthetic nitrogen, and convert the extra resources into production of sugars and starches. Consequently, at harvest, the plant will often have lower levels of other nutrients, including vital antioxidants. Plants grown organically cannot rely on pesticides; in order to protect themselves, they develop higher levels of antioxidants.
Among those antioxidants are phytochemicals such as phenols and polyphenols, which work to prevent the diseases associated with oxidative damage, such as cardiovascular disease, strokes and some cancers. The study shows that organics contain 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. In addition, the level of pesticides present in conventionally-grown foods is four times higher than in organic foods, and whatever pesticides have been used in organic growing are natural, not synthetic.
Because synthetic fertilizers are used in conventional farming, those crops also absorb very high levels of cadmium. According to the study, “Cadmium (Cd), a by-product of zinc production, is one of the most toxic elements to which man can be exposed at work or in the environment.”
Currently, organic foods are somewhat more expensive than conventionally-grown foods. The results of this study show that organics provide denser nutrition, meaning we need to consume less volume to receive the same nutrition.
In the United States, with our free market economy, consumer demand drives production and pricing. The more organic food we buy, the more profitable organic farming will become, and the more organic food we will see in our supermarkets.