Study finds organic food not always the healthier choice

By Linda Nguyen
Staff writer

Is that little bit of extra money for organic foods actually worth it in the long run?

Stanford University doesn’t think so.

Stanford recently published a systematic review, which is a review of research in a specific area, detailing what has been found about the benefits and risks of organic foods.

The study has undergone controversy since the publication about the validity of the methods used for the review.

The study, which was published in the Sept. 4 Issue of annals of internal medicine, found there is not strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional foods.

Dr. Suzy Weems, professor and chair in the department of family and consumer sciences, said the findings from Stanford University were consistent with previous findings regarding organic food.

“The findings at Stanford were not at all, in my mind, surprising because we have known for quite awhile that the nutrient content in foods that were properly produced, organically and using the more conventional methods, if those foods were harvested and taken care of carefully, the nutrient content was not significantly different,” Weems said.

Weems said the difference between organic and conventionally-produced food lies in the techniques used when growing the foods.

“Organically produced means they have been grown with little to no synthetic fertilizers and they don’t have insecticides,” Weems said. “They really have to be certified as organic producers.”

The use of pesticides and insecticides was mentioned in the Stanford study. In a sept. 3 Press release by Stanford University, studies involving groups of children on organic versus conventional diets showed slightly lower levels of pesticides appearing in children with organic diets versus conventional diets, but it was unclear what the exact cause was.

“I think the statement they made really needs to be highlighted and that was that perhaps the largest amount of pesticides that children are exposed to is not through the food, but in the environment,” weems said.

The overall agreement among the authors of the study was that people should aim for overall healthier diets.

Weems agreed, saying she never advises people for or against organic food, which is generally more expensive than regular food, but leaves the decision up to them.

“I really stress the idea that it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nutrient-dense foods like lean meats and things,” Weems said. “It’s much more important to have those in the diet every day than to not be able to afford something.”

Some students, like Corpus Christi junior Karla Medina, said they occasionally buy organic food.

“Sometimes I buy organic, but when i’m short on money, I’ll get regular because it has about the same nutritional content,” medina said.

Local organizations, like world hunger relief incorporated, also stress other qualities of food besides whether or not it’s organically produced.

“For us, there is a lot about our growing system that are more important than organic foods,” said the associate director of World Hunger relief Incorporated Matt Hess. “We consider things like grass-pasture-fed, locally produced more important than organic.”

Hess said world hunger relief incorporated use methods similar to organic methods. They say they have also sold some organic products like pecans, but that locally, educating people about other techniques like grass-fed and pasture-fed produce is more necessary.

Weems said there will always be people who prefer organic produce, but that she expects the strong current emphasis on organic products to level out.

“In my opinion, a lot do this because it’s kind of an ‘in thing’ to do not because they’ve done the research to say maybe this is the better thing to do,” weems said.

The press release recommends that people do their own research on the benefits and risks of organic versus conventional and come to their own decision about what they want to consume and what they want to feed their families.