Health Talk: Organic foods
Pricey organic foods may not be ‘healthier’
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 15:09
Typically the word “organic” elicits thoughts about eating healthier, but this could actually be a misconception, according to new research. A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System found that conventionally grown foods are generally not less healthy than their organic counterparts.
In order for a food product to be classified as “organic,” certain requirements have to be met during the growing process. Defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program, organic refers to “food [that] is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.”
The USDA regulates its standards on organic food by sending certified inspectors to farms where it is grown or raised to check that most pesticides, synthetic or contaminated fertilizers, growth hormones and antibiotics are not being used.
The handling companies and grocery stores that then receive the food from the farms are inspected as well and are required to possess certification stating that they are not affecting the natural and unprocessed state of said organic products.
Health is not the only factor taken into consideration; the cost of organic food is often an issue that many consumers use as reason not to purchase products with an “organic” label.
Eric Sideman, director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, states that the organic production of food is ultimately cheaper than producing food conventionally. Although the individual grocery store prices of organic products are higher than conventional equivalents, several factors contribute to the long-term financial strains placed on the environment by conventionally produced foods.
Conventional farms deplete more non-renewable natural resources, use more artificial biological activities during production and create more environmental damages than organic farms.
Pesticide residues are slightly higher among conventionally grown produce, but thus far no research to support any health demoting affects that those pesticides have on the body.
Organic foods, in turn, may have slightly higher levels of certain vitamins but not an amount significant enough to deem “organic” as the ultimate health-promoting food type.
In the end, the new studies conclude that there is currently no solid evidence to back the claims that organic food is healthier than non-organic food. But helping to better the environment -- if it fits into your budget -- is a definite advantage of purchasing organic products.