The merit of organic food comes under question in a recent study out of Stanford University—resulting in a flurry of media attention. Subsequent headlines have claimed “Organic Food Hardly Healthier” and “No Nutritional Edge to Organic Food.” Given all that’s being said, we at PHS wanted to weigh in on the issue.
Before diving too deep, let’s revisit the study that sparked the controversy. Its intent was to compare the health effects of organic and conventional foods, and its findings indicate no strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious. In short: an organic tomato isn’t “healthier” than its conventionally grown counterpart.
Does this mean there is no benefit to growing or buying organic produce? Not so fast. Even if there were no significant nutritional distinction, other factors must be considered.
Garnering less attention is the study’s second finding, which is that organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As there is a suggested link between ingested pesticides and certain diseases, organic alternatives may still be worthwhile.
Another factor is ecological. Farmland that isn’t doused in chemical fertilizers and pesticides is healthier for the soil, surrounding water sources, and air quality. Growing vegetables and fruits the organic way may be more costly and time-consuming, but for many people, the environmental outcome is worth spending a few dollars more at the grocery store.
At PHS we have whole-heartedly gone organic. The PHS City Harvest program trains and supports urban gardeners who maintain their plots in earth-friendly ways. In May 2011, PHS converted to strictly organic practices in regards to the maintenance of its 16 public landscapes (such as Logan Square and the Azalea Garden).
As word of this Stanford study spreads, many more opinions will be aired, and they are bound to run the gamut. What is clear, however, is that fruits and vegetables should be a staple in all diets, regardless of how and where they are grown. When you visit a grocery store, shop the perimeter and purchase food that is fresh, not packaged. Also seek out farmers markets and community-supported agriculture when possible.
And we at PHS want to know, what’s your take on this interesting and important issue? We encourage you to express yourself in the comments section below.