The last time I wrote about a study like this, I posted the British newspaper headlines.
Never mind the media hype. Here’s what the authors conclude:
The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Isn’t reducing exposure to pesticides and antibiotic use precisely what organic production is supposed to do?
Organics is about production methods free of certain chemical pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, GMOs, and sewage sludge in plant crops, and antibiotics and hormones in animals.
This meta-analysis confirms that organic foods have much lower levels of these things. I’d call that doing exactly what it is supposed to.
But what about nutrients? I can’t think of a single reason why organics should have fewer nutrients than conventional crops, and plenty of reasons why they might have a bit more if the soils are rich enough.
Plants make their own vitamins. The vitamin levels should not be expected to differ significantly. The mineral content might.
But even if organics do have higher levels of nutrients, so what? Will people eating them be healthier as a result?
Just as with supplements, additional nutrients do not make healthy people healthier.
The only reason for organics to be about nutrition is marketing. Nutrition turns out to be a better selling point than lower levels of pesticides and antibiotics. It also makes better headlines, apparently.
But aren’t those lower levels—in production and in the body—good reasons to buy organics?
I think so. You?
Marion Nestle is the author of What To Eat and is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. Nestle blogs regularly at Food Politics.