Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New study claiming no organic benefit is simply wrong

A report commissioned by the British government's Food Standards Agency (FSA) and based on a review of 162 scientific papers by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine concluded that organic food has no nutritional benefits over conventionally produced food.

The conclusion does not follow from the findings. Although the most recent and relevant scientific papers were systematically excluded from the study, the papers they did include showed massive nutritional benefits in organic foods. One of the report's authors wrote:
"A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance."
Here are some of the "irrelevant" nutritional differences they found in organic foods:

* Protein: 12.7% higher
* Beta-carotene: 53.6% higher
* Flavonoids: 38.4% higher
* Phenolic compounds: 13.2% higher
* Copper: 8.3% higher
* Magnesium: 7.1% higher
* Phosphorous: 6% higher
* Potassium: 2.5% higher
* Sodium: 8.7% higher
* Sulphur: 10.5% higher
* Zinc: 11.3% higher

In other words, they found massive differences in nutritional content, then dismissed their own findings as either flawed or statistically irrelevant.

The FSA study excluded EU-funded studies conducted at Newcastle University, which found very large nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce, grains and milk.

A study conducted in 2007 at the University of California, Davis, found that organic berries and corn contain up to 58 percent more polyphenolics than conventionally grown.

Another study conducted at UC Davis found that levels of the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol were found to be on average 79% and 97% higher in organic tomatoes than conventionally grown. These antioxidants have been found to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and dimentia.

It's easy to go on and on citing studies proving the nutritional superiority of organic foods. But these studies don't even contradict the FSA study, which found the same pattern of nutritional benefit.

The FSA study also looked exclusively at differences in nutrient levels and completely ignored the cumulative effect of the toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers used in conventionally grown produce -- the avoidance of which is the main reason people choose organic foods in the first place.

The media take-away from the FSA study was "organic foods aren't healthier than conventional." That message, however, is utterly and provably false. Organic foods are better for you -- MUCH better for you -- as they contain significantly higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and photochemicals, and have significantly lower amounts of toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer chemicals.