Chemical Companies Say Organic Not More Nutritious

The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) has concluded that organic fruits and vegetables do NOT contain more nutrients cheaper non-organic produce. Wow, no conflict of interest there! The study appears in SCI’s Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Here’s report, No Evidence to Support Organic is Best, via SCI’s press office:

The first cultivation method consisted of growing the vegetables on soil which had a low input of nutrients using animal manure and no pesticides except for one organically approved product on kale only.

The second method involved applying a low input of nutrients using animal manure, combined with use of pesticides, as much as allowed by regulation.

Finally, the third method comprised a combination of a high input of nutrients through mineral fertilizers and pesticides as legally allowed.

The crops were grown on the same or similar soil on adjacent fields at the same time and so experienced the same weather conditions. All were harvested and treated at the same time. In the case of the organically grown vegetables, all were grown on established organic soil.

After harvest, results showed that there were no differences in the levels of major and trace contents in the fruit and vegetables grown using the three different methods.

Produce from the organically and conventionally grown crops were then fed to animals over a two year period and intake and excretion of various minerals and trace elements were measured. Once again, the results showed there was no difference in retention of the elements regardless of how the crops were grown.

This is awkward. Clearly, the CHEMICAL SOCIETY has some vested interests here—fogging the credibility of this work. Especially since previous studies have shown the opposite, that organic fruits and vegetables DO contain more nutrients.

Now, Dr. Fuhrman prefers organic—reduces pesticide exposure and tastes better—but other experts cite climate change as a GREAT reason to go organic. Here’s what the Soil Association had to say. Jessica Daly of CNN reports:

In 2006 the UK's Manchester Business School assessed the environmental impacts of food production and consumption and concluded that there isn't a clear cut answer to whether the environmental impact is greater on a trolley full of organic food compared to a trolley full of non-organic food.

Not so, was the response from the Soil Association. Do you believe organic food is more nutritional?

It countered that: "Overall, organic farming is better for tackling climate change than industrial agricultural methods. As well as lower average energy use, organic farming also avoids the very large nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer manufacture."

"Additionally, organic farming builds up soil carbon, removing it from the atmosphere. Organic farming also supports more local food marketing, reducing food miles."

While the jury might still be out about whether organic farming is, on the whole, better for the environment, there is little doubt that it's a booming industry which is starting to catch on in other parts of the world.

Take this research by The Society of Chemical Industry with a grain of salt, I’d put more stock in it if were conducted by a third party—although nowadays that’s getting harder and harder to find.

Even still, local organic farming is catching on, like these folks from Los Angeles and some Londoners too! Personally, I do my best to stay organic. I belong to a CSA, grow my own tomatoes and buy organic bananas. So, how organic are you?

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Joel Furhman, MD - August 26, 2008 12:46 PM

Applying pesticides to the plant does not reduce nutrients in the food or plant. The reason most organic foods are higher in nutrients is because many organic farmers are more careful to apply organic matter and assure that the soil is of a better quality. It is not the pesticide use that controls nutrients, rather the soil cultivation methods used.

So of course studies can show whatever we want them to show based on the quality of the soil. And, we eat organically to be gentler to the farm workers, the environment, and to expose ourselves and our children to less toxins.

James M Sleighter - August 26, 2008 5:25 PM

Credibility.....Who funds these studies ? Today's studies are closely monitored and funded by those who want their desired results...The thought of an apple with up to 43 detectable pesticide residues is just not appealing...I will stick with organic....

Joe Fitzpatrick, PAg - August 27, 2008 3:11 AM

Fertilizers and soil amendments, whether organic-legal or not, can have a big impact on plant nutrition, which in turn influences the nutrition of creatures that eat the plants. They can make up for nutrient deficiencies (probably good), or they can create nutrient imbalances (probably bad).

I can think of two chemicals that may affect nutrition. Fixed copper is used as a fungicide, but who knows, the plant may take up some of the copper. Ammonium thiosulfate is used on apple trees as a blossom thinner, but the ions might also be taken up in the leaves and contribute to plant nutrition.

The study at observes higher nitrate levels (probably not useful for the crop or who eats it) in conventional crops. That is likely the effect of excess application of nitrogen fertilizer, possibly indicting conventional farming for only one errant practice.

The organic vs conventional comparisons may be useful for helping with shopping decisions. However, they are not useful for advancing science because they do not go straight to the cause of nutritional differences. There can be many reasons for differences between one lot and another - different geography, different soils, direct or indirect sunlight, morning sun vs eventing sun, plant spacing, harvest methods, cultivar choices, pruning techniques... I could go on.

Palm Springs Savant - September 1, 2008 12:02 PM

I am an advocate for organic produce and foods, but regardless of what the study says, do we really need to be ingesting such high levels of chemicals, pesticides and anti-biotics from our food supply?

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