Why The Organic vs. Conventional Argument is Moot for Most People

USDA National Organic Program official seal

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The blogosphere is in a frenzy. A new, comprehensive study from the UK, has proclaimed that there is no nutritional benefit to organic food, nor is there any health benefit. Organic supporters are tearing apart at the conclusions, while many conventionalists are reveling in the news.

The study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is summarized by one of the researchers: “Our review indicates there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organic over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

Surveying 50,000 studies conducted over 50 years, the authors focused on 55 that met their standards of scientific rigor. The studies that led to the group’s controversial conclusions covered a wide range of crops and livestock that are raised and marketed under organic standards. For 10 out of 13 food crops studied, the researchers found no significant differences. Where they did find differences, those were attributed to differences in fertilizer use (say, the use of nitrogen vs. phosphorus) and the ripeness level at which the crops were harvested. The authors judged the differences observed “unlikely” to “provide any health benefit” to consumers.

read more [LA Times Blog]…

Not wanting to take sides on whether the finding are legit or not, we’d like to present the case that, from a personal nutritional perspective, most people have more immediate issues to take care of.

What you need to know:

Most people are not eating the right kind of food. Too much meat and fatty dairy, too little plants. Too many processed snacks, too little real foods. Refined sugars and flours instead of whole grains.

All these factors have a much more profound effect on a person’s health than a decision whether to buy an organic TV dinner or not.

For the majority of the US population, the organic / conventional argument is a high school level exam, while they are still struggling with their ABCs in grade school.

Don’t get us wrong, the organic movement is not just about personal nutrition. Sustainability, animal welfare, reduction of pesticide and hormone use are all important on a global, national, and personal level.

It’s just that organic issue sometimes blinds people as to what they can do to improve their diets starting with conventional foods.

There. That’s our $0.02.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some organic vine ripened cherry tomatoes to harvest in our community vegetable garden…

What to do at the supermarket:

If you can afford organic produce, enjoy. But if not, don’t use that as an excuse not to buy conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. If $10 can get you only 2 lbs. of organic produce, but 6 lbs. of conventional, you know what we recommend. Just don’t buy $3 worth of conventional produce and then spend the rest on silly snacks or liquid candy.

Help us test our new food comparison tool: alpha.fooducate.com

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  • Quinadal

    You have it wrong. Too many grains and not enough meat.

  • Holly

    I buy organic, but not because I think organic broccoli will make me live longer. I am fairly certain however that by buying organic broccoli, I can help farm workers live longer.
    It’s selfish to give up on organics just because some say it has no personal benefit.

  • http://www.anniesorensen.com Annie Sorensen

    Thanks for this article, Fooducate, I completely agree. It’s frustrating that so many people are caught up in the “organic” or “natural” labels when if they would just go back to basics and focus on eating more whole foods, they’d be doing themselves a much larger service. It’s not as complicated as everyone makes it out to be!

    P.S. I linked to this article from my website this morning! http://tinyurl.com/mowvkc

  • Brad

    @Holly Fantastic comment!!! Even if there is no nutritional benefits there is the fact that organic food reduces the ammount of chemicals and pesticides, etc that go into your body, helps the environment enormously and is very beneficial for the farmers working on the crops.

    I do also think it depends on what non-organic foods you use in a study. I live in Tokyo and all the “regular” fruits and vegetables taste so watered down (sometimes flavourless!) it’s crazy. But when I eat organic Japanese fruits and veg I find they taste the same as non-organic Australian fruit and veg. Does that make sense?