Oh boy. Aren't the cynics laughing now? This week, USA Today reported on a new study, noting that organic produce may not be more nutritious than conventionally grown vegetables. But just a second.
As I've often mentioned on Foodlets, my blog about cooking for kids (including recipes, strategies, stories about food on the floor...), I believe in buying organic. And in my opinion, the story around this four-year study is misguided but more on this in a moment. First, the two findings that have hit the news everywhere:
- There were no significant differences in the vitamin content of organic and conventional fruits and vegetables. The studies looked specifically at vitamins A, C and E.
- Detectable pesticide residue was found in 7% of organic produce and 38% of conventional produce. However, only three studies found pesticide residue that exceeded maximum allowed limits in the European Union on organic or conventional produce.
That means organic produce is more expensive, often harder to find, yet not notably more nutritious. So, what's the point?
As mentioned by the study's own author, who says she'll keep supporting organic produce, there are big differences between organically raised crops and their conventionally commercial counterparts.
The benefits of organic farming still include:
- Fewer pesticides and in some cases none, which is better for the environment
- The benefits of buying locally: not only a boon for every local economy, but another eco-boost because food doesn't have to be shipped
- Typically speaking, better animal treatment on organic farms, which tend to be smaller with open air in a more natural setting
- And there's a bonus reason that hasn't been mentioned so far: taste. Fresh vegetables, picked straight from the earth -- and eaten soon -- cannot be topped. If a green tomato from California ripens in the truck on its way to a dinner table in Wisconsin, the cardboard-like result isn't so surprising. (No wonder some kids are reluctant to try new things, if this is the only option.)
For these reasons, I still plan to support organic farming. Yes, the whole term "organic" is still vague and sometimes misleading. Yes, more and more packaged goods have an "organic!" label slapped on them, regardless of their true origins. Yes, yes. But even so, buying real food from real farmers matters to me, so that's what I'm going to do.
And anyway, who ever said organic food was more nutritious in terms of vitamins? The whole point is avoiding pesticides (7% is still less than 38%), buying locally (for freshness and flavor) and supporting small, environmentally-friendly business instead of giant food conglomerates who seem to specialize in GMOs. This argument about organic food not having more nutrition is like going to a Kmart, grabbing a blue sweater and saying, "Look! It's just as blue as everything from the Oscar de la Renta fall line!" No one's arguing that. Blue is blue. What you might say, though, is the material is of lesser quality and the style isn't nearly as elegant.
Which, for my money, leads to the much, much bigger question looming over the entire food supply in America. What about genetically modified foods? What effects do GMOs have on our health? Our kids' growing bodies? Now that's one study I'd like to see...
Cynics, you're on.