08/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Science Fails to State the Obvious: Organic is Healthier

Portions of the Web were abuzz with Alan Dangour and his team's review of 50 years of studies regarding nutrient content of organic foods versus conventionally-produced foods, funded by the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

"We have concluded that there's no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health based on the nutrient content," says Dangour in a Guardian article.

Okay. The researchers were looking to review the studies out there to determine whether certain nutrients were higher in organic or non-organic food. They found that, for example, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium weren't significantly higher in organic foods. They found that flavanoids and the minerals zinc and magnesium were significantly higher in organic crops (nitrogen was higher in conventional crops).

So Dangour et al. are saying regarding nutrient content, there isn't a vast difference.

But come on -- the review did not at all address contaminant content (pesticide, herbicide, fungicide) in organic versus conventional, nor did it address environmental impacts of organic versus conventional.

A four-year E.U. wide study from 2007, involving 31 research and university institutes, came to a different conclusion: levels of nutritionally desirable compounds, such as antioxidants and vitamins, are higher in organic crops, it said, while levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as toxic chemicals, mycotoxins and metals such as cadmium and nickel, are lower in organic crops.

The FSA report must be taken into account, of course, and analyzed further.

Yet as consumers, we also have to use our common sense. Seeking out organic is part of a process of bringing mindfulness to what you eat. Beginning to look for the organic label is really just the beginning.

Most people who begin to eat organic tend also to seek out alternative shopping venues -- not only health food stores and co-ops, but also farm stores and community supported agriculture, as ways to discover the freshest, most high-quality and likely healthiest produce and foods.

And once we are on that quest, we usually tend to becoming more interested in cooking meals at home -- because after all, if you've paid more for the organic alternative, you have a vested interest in making it into something delicious before it goes bad. If you have a box of red beets and yellow chard show up in your box from a CSA, you better know what to do with it.

Being an organic shopper tends to make you a more selective, smarter shopper overall. And the next step? Well, if you balk at paying $4.99 for a bag of baby lettuces, the logical, common sense alternative is to join Michelle Obama and grow your own.

Scientific research is of course important. But let's not let it blindside us from the glaringly obvious fact that eating and buying organic is healthier in many common-sense ways.

Read more about organic food at TreeHugger and Planet Green
::Why Bother With Organic Food When You Can't Even Know What it Means?
::Organic is Healthier Once More
::TreeHugger Picks: Organic Food is Better

For more articles by Graham Hill click here.