Is organic food healthier?


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21 comments

  1. Pat Vanderkooy

    Your forum in Healthy Debate is perfect for exploring issues like this – organic vs non-organic foods. This was a great discussion and you raised lots of important factors to consider about the food we eat. I wonder if you’ve written about agricultural/ecological sustainability – the other part of food debates – is there a difference in soil, air and water as a result of of these different methods for growing food? are there long-term implications that should be considered – and are they in any way related to the organic vs non-organic discussions? I suspect soil and crop scientists and ecologists could have another ‘healthy debate’ about that!

  2. Mat Rose

    Good article that puts things in perspective. I’ve also noticed that a lot of the organic produce comes packaged in extra plastic, and from further away. I choose local produce when I can, whether organic or not.

  3. Raymond Walker

    The bias of the authors is evident from the opening sentences of this article. But even so, a careful reading shows there is more to worry about in eating foods doused in pesticide than in eating those organically produced. “. . . the pesticides farm workers are exposed to through their work have been known to cause miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, respiratory problems and memory disorders, among other things,” report the authors. But, hey we shouldn’t worry because “a few short European observational studies” on the diet of some children didn’t spot any problems. The fact is, the best science has not reached any conclusions on the safety of pesticide use. Although we have learned, too late, the potential for disaster. This article is content to mention a few observational studies discounting the healthiness of organic foods but conveniently fails to mention documented instances where pesticides use actually made people sick. Remember Aldicarb, the insecticide used to kill pests on cotton and several food crops? Its use on citrus and potatoes was finally prohibited in 2015, 25 years after an outbreak of Aldicarb poisoning sickened more than 2,000 people who had eaten California watermelons. EPA documents showed that babies and children under five could have ingested levels of the insecticide through food and water that exceeded levels the agency considered safe, reported Scientific American. In fact, for infants, consumption of Aldicarb residue – mostly in potatoes, citrus and water could have reached 800 percent higher than the EPA’s level of concern for health effects, while children between the ages of one and fivefold could have ingested 300 percent more than the level of concern, according to an EPA memo, reported the magazine. And let’s not forget the impact the now banned DDT had on the environment and our bodies. What about 2,4-D? In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it a possible human carcinogen, based on evidence that it damages human cells and, in a number of studies, caused cancer in laboratory animals. Could pesticides be playing a role in autoimmune disorders that the National Institute of Environment Health Sciences says “are becoming increasingly prevalent, for reasons unknown”? Certainly, there is no question that pesticide use has had a devastating impact on the environment. Colony Collapse Disorder in bees has been directly linked to Neonicotinoids. It is disingenuous of the authors to manufacture an argument against organics using a few scattered and suspect studies while ignoring the growing volumes of peer-reviewed research out there that shows the danger of pesticides. I would not presume to say that science has proven that organic food is safer, more nutritious and tastier, although that is my suspicion because there have been few independent studies and the issue is so complex. I would say, however, that with your health and the health of your loved ones on the line, it is simply smarter to avoid consuming something that has a very good chance of having a devastating impact on your health.

  4. Rob Murray

    The main reason for choosing organic is that it is better for the environment. Plant root systems have membranes and essentially only take up nutrients the plant needs. Testing on Market Place revealed that imported vegetables had next to zero residual chemicals on their leaves or surfaces. The chemicals used are generally to kill insects and probably do harm to other animal life (and us) downstream. It is unlikely that organic vegetables are any healthier for us but they certainly are for the environment.

  5. Flora Knight

    I belong to the 1% of individuals who is extremely sensitive to pesticide residues and rely on buying only organic fruit and vegetables. My first experience with psticide residue was from eating Florida oranges where within 15mins of consuming and orange I delveloped nurelogical symtoms. On searching the internet I discovered the symptoms were exactly the same that workers in Orchards in California and Florida have experienced. When shoping I take the time to read the labels which list the origin of the fruits or vegetables and avoid any that originate from these two states.

  6. Lois Ferguson

    This article’s messages are based on fact and my take is: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, wash them and know that they are safe for you to enjoy.

  7. Polly Humphreys

    Wondering what is the best receipe that I can make to wash my vegetables and fruits without using a “kind” dishwashing liquid? Please send it to the below address if you have that receipe; or others.

  8. leeann simons

    Can I get the link to this calculator Ms Benson refers to? I am giving a talk in September on this topic & would love to have this resource

    Thank you

  9. Jen Bowman

    Great topic, but I started to wonder about your agenda when you said that it’s not clear if synthetic pesticides are harmful to humans…really? When I read: “we’re not sure how well our bodies absorb antioxidants from those foods, if antioxidants actually improve our health” you lost all credibility with me.

    • Michael Mugridge

      https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/antioxidant-hype-and-reality/

      Money quote: ” The science behind the role of oxidative stress in aging and neurodegenerative disorders and the modulation of oxidative stress by nutritional antioxidants is complex and has not yielded many confident therapeutic recommendations. And yet, by contrast, antioxidants are sold to the public with dramatic health claims as if they were well established. It is common for marketing hype to out pace scientific reality, especially when the science is complex and preliminary so that there is as yet no firm scientific consensus.”

      • Kyle Greenway

        Note that the article, and the study therein, are referring to supplementing with antioxidants — not eating foods with them in it. You’re right that there is some debate about antioxidants in general, but practically every study of isolated nutrients fails to find health benefits, except perhaps Vitamin D. There is simply a difference that we don’t fully understand between eating foods rich in nutrients/antioxidants and taking them as supplements.

        It’s very possible that real foods that are higher in antioxidants have health benefits that you don’t see in extracted/synthesized antioxidants.

  10. Nate

    Great article! I agree that for the most part the general public is safe consuming fruits and vegetables grown using pesticides (although I’m not completely convinced about the long term potential I.e. Cancer and Alzheimer’s). Definitely the real risk is posed to the farmers and farming communities. Pesticides can contaminate soil, be dragged off to other areas by wind, and leach into well water. Although studies may suggest that specific levels of pesticides are tolerable for human consumption, I think it is worth pointing out that 1) these studies are done on mice or rats, not humans, and 2) these studies do not take into account pesticide byproducts (I.e. The breakdown of some pesticides into nitrite and nitrate compounds which can occur naturally in the environment (water, soil) or in our bodies during metabolism (liver and intestinal metabolism). A colleague of mine is currently investigating whether these pesticide byproducts and not the pesticides themselves may be posing a risk for PEI farming communities with higher cancer rates. I’ll keep you updated on the results! Bottom line, eating enough fruits and vegetables is definitely a priority, but if we can do it in a safe and responsible way that protects farmers and neighboring communities then I think that should be a sought after goal as well. Thanks for the great article!

  11. Danielle Nelson

    Great discussion! One aspect I would have liked to see included in this commentary is the environmental impact of conventional vs. organic farming and by extension the negative impact on humans. That is not only in the sense of climate change and water pollution, but also the direct impact conventional farms have on their immediate surrounding areas and their inhabitants who I believe are disproportionately low income (for example tailing ponds from livestock and water course destruction).

  12. Aaron Halcovitch

    This is a pretty good discussion within its scope, but I think it’s best to realize that the scope of this article is extremely narrow. And it is a disservice to veer between wider and narrower scope. Don’t title an article with the phrase “organic food” and spend the entire article exclusively discussing fruits and vegetables without mention of meats, especially when, at your own admission, fruits and vegetables make up a minority of the average diet. This article amounts to a discussion of nutritional density and pesticides in fruits and vegetables, which does not comprise “organic food”. Grain? Fungi? Nuts? Processed foods (especially problematic because consumers don’t have control over how well they are cleaned before processing, resulting in maybe higher levels of pesticides, maybe not, who knows, the article on “organic food” has conveniently left this untouched)? So we see how moving between two scopes allows for the entirety of organic food to be disparaged because it stops people buying conventional apples. Look at your headers: “Does eating organic improve…” “Is organic food…” “… Talking about organics?” All beyond scope.

  13. Dave

    I remember going to my grandfather’s farm as a child.Organic food was not known much back then and everything seemed to be natural in the 1950’s and 60’s.At that time there was no GMO’s and high fructose corn syrup was not used in foods.and drinks.My grandparents did not use pesticides because they were very expensive.The chickens,pigs,geese and cattle were all free range,and we drank unpasteurized ,raw milk,and no one ever got sick from drinking the milk.During the hippie era young people where becoming health conscious and growing their own foods free from pesticides that were now entering the market.At this time farming was moving from ma and pa businesses to corporate farming,thus the quality of food was going down badly.The organic industry was formed in response to highly processed foods that cause cancer,obesity and other ailments.Life expectancy is not much better than before.It was found that people in the remote areas of Pakistan called the Hunza’s lived averagely to around 100 years old and women were still having babies well into their 80’s.These people lived a hard life and lived healthily free from all diseases and one of there foods was apricots and apricot seeds.It seems these days organic foods,and /or growing your own foods is the only safe way to live.I believe that proper eating habits from organics is the only way to cure all disease,and obesity.It is obvious that the FDA or governing body designed to protect the public from unscrupulous food manufacturers is not working and GMO’s are put into the public without many decades of study.

  14. geet

    Hey there, mate! i found your post on google and i really liked it. i actually have an online organic food store, named Farmer uncle, and i have been looking for posts regarding organic food and health. I must say that you have written well and i can proudly share this to my team as well. cheers!

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