The ‘benefits’ of ‘organic’: Not much
The take-away from Stanford University’s new, four-year “meta-analysis” of 237 previous studies comparing organic and conventional foods is as old as antiquity: caveat emptor — buyer beware.
The study concludes that organic fruits and vegetables, on average, are no more nutritious — and no less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria — than less expensive conventional fruits and vegetables. It also says organic meats have “no obvious health advantages.”
Organic produce does have less pesticide residue. But the amount on conventional produce is “almost always under” Environmental Protection Agency safety limits. Cooking kills bacteria on meat. And organic milk does have more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
But when it comes to organic vs. conventional overall, the study’s senior author tells The New York Times, “I would say there is not robust evidence to choose one or the other.”
American businesses long have charged premiums for products with fancy labels. Last year, produce labeled “organic” was a $12.4 billion market — up 12 percent from 2010 — and Americans spent $538 million on organic meat, the Organic Trade Association says.
Factors besides nutrition — such as perceived environmental impact — also motivate organic food buyers. But by giving Americans a better idea of what they’re paying for, the Stanford study should help everyone shop smarter.