Is There a Nutritional Difference between Organic and Conventional Produce?
Claims of superiority are not unique to the organic and conventional farming industries, and the marketing strategy of both perspectives often stem from the same research.
In the interest of differentiating themselves to consumers, the claim to have additional nutritional benefits has been one that particular produce commodity groups, growing regions, and/or method practitioners have all been eager to make.
As a consumer it is important to be wary of these claims from both camps.
Let’s take a closer look at the findings of these three meta-analyses.
Unlike the 2009 and 2012 studies that were independently funded, this study received financial support from a non-profit organization that funds organic and sustainable farming research, causing even organic production advocates to question its objectivity. One such advocate, Dr. Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics said this about the study, “It’s an amazing coincidence how the results of sponsored studies almost invariably favor the sponsor’s interests. And that’s true of results I like just as it is of results that I don’t like.”
So where does this review of the science leave us in relation to our question – Is organic produce more nutritious than conventionally grown produce?
The Bottom Line:
When viewed in summary, quality scientific research has revealed no meaningful nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce. In order to stay healthy, it is important to eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day— whether you choose to buy conventional or organic produce.
Dangour AD, Dodhia SK, Hayter A, Allen E, Lock K, Uauy R. 2009. Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Medicine, 90(3):680-685.
SmithSpangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, Sundaram V, Liu H, Schirmer P, Stave C Olkin I, Bravata DM. 2012. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives? A systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 157(5):348-366.
Baranski M, Srednicka-Tober D, Volakakis N, Seal C, Sanderson R, Steward GB, Benbrook C, Biavati B, Markellou E, Giotis C, Gromadzka-Ostrowska J, Rembialkowska E, Skwarlo-Sonta K, Tahvonen R, Janovska D, Niggli U, Nicot P, Leifert C. 2014. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition, 112(5):794-811.