There is no evidence to prove that organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown foods, says a Harvard University professor.
Organic foods have long been touted as superior to conventionally grown foods, with some studies claiming they have health-promoting properties and could prevent disease.
More than two-thirds of Americans think these foods, which claim to be grown with fewer pesticides and often cost much more than regular foods, are healthier.
However, Dr. Robert Paalberg, a professor in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University, said that evidence suggesting that organic foods are more nutritious is unreliable and that consuming fewer pesticides may not have an impact on health.
“There is no reliable evidence that organically grown foods are more nutritious or safer to consume,” he said.
“If we follow the science, organic foods lose their apparent advantage.”
To be considered organic by the USDA, food must have been grown on soil free of any of its banned substances for at least three years before harvest.
Dr. Robert Paalberg, a professor in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University, said evidence suggesting organic foods are more nutritious is unreliable and consuming fewer pesticides may not have an impact on health .
Dr. Paalberg highlighted a 2012 study by Stanford University, which reviewed 237 studies on organic foods. Researchers found no convincing differences in nutrients or health benefits between organic and conventional foods.
The main difference was that organic foods contained fewer pesticides.
Dr Dena M Bravata, lead author of the study, said at the time of publication: “There is not much difference between organic and conventional foods if you are an adult and making a decision based solely on on your health.”
Organic foods still use pesticides, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they are mostly limited to natural sources, like copper and sulfur, while conventional products may use synthetic pesticides.
However, organic farmers still have limited access to 25 synthetic pesticides, while conventional agriculture can use more than 900.
Dr Paalberg said banning synthetic pesticides in organic foods had no health benefits.
“The organic ban on synthetic chemicals also fails to improve food safety in the United States, since pesticide use is now significantly regulated in conventional agriculture (insecticide use today is 82 percent lower than in 1972), and because produce in supermarkets has been washed to remove almost any chemical residue that might remain,” he said.
What is organic food?
The term “organic” refers to the way certain foods are produced.
In order to be labeled “organic”, foods have been grown and grown without the use of:
- Artificial chemicals
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Organic foods range from fresh produce, dairy, and meats.
But it also includes processed foods such as crackers, drinks and frozen meals.
The organic food market has grown significantly since the late 20th century and has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
He pointed at a USDA Analysis 2021 of pesticide residues on more than 10,000 samples of conventional foods. More than 99 percent of samples were found to contain residues below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tolerance levels, which account for one in 100 exposures.
“Scientists at the University of California, Davis, conclude from these investigations that ‘the marginal benefits of reducing human exposure to pesticides in the diet through increased consumption of organic produce appear insignificant,'” said Dr. Paalberg.
To be considered organic by the USDA, these foods must have been grown on soil free of these banned substances for at least three years before harvest.
Organic meat regulations require that animals be raised in conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors, such as grazing on 100 percent organically fed pasture, and that they receive no antibiotics or hormones.
Yet about 40 percent of Americans think at least some of the food they eat is organic, according to Pew Research data. And 68 percent think organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown foods.
This could be due to the higher price of organic foods, as well as some studies suggesting they may be healthier.
For example, in 2018, a French study from JAMA Internal Medicine showed that among 70,000 adults, those who ate organic foods had 25% fewer cancers than those who never ate them.
Two years earlier, a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organic meat and milk provided 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, essential for brain and heart health, than organic produce. non-organic.
Dr. Paalberg suggested that Americans might be more attracted to organic food because they think it supports small farmers, but that is not the case.
“Many consumers still think organic food comes from small, local farms, but most now comes from distant factory farms. According to a 2014 estimate, only 8 percent of organic sales in the United States were still made by small farmers through farmers’ markets or through community supported agriculture,” he said.