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Wednesday, Sep 05 2012 11:00 PM

Organic foods or non? Which are healthier?

By The Bakersfield Californian

A new study by Stanford University researchers presents a misleading view of organic produce that deserves some pushback. The study concluded that organically grown produce and meat are no safer or healthier than their conventionally farmed counterparts. Researchers based this conclusion on the fact that organic products had roughly the same level of nutrients as "regular" fruits and vegetables.

With that as its main findings, the study's conclusions seem to employ a very narrow definition of "healthier." It's a safe bet that most people who buy organic foods weren't under the impression they were the superfoods loaded up with higher levels of vitamins and nutrients. Studies have found that a main lure of organics is the lack of pesticides used in their production and the impacts that has on the environment.

Indeed, the Stanford study did find that 38 percent of conventional produce contained detectable residues, compared with 7 percent for organic produce. But it conveniently dodged the question as to whether that was healthier or not, stating only that in almost all cases the pesticide residues found on produce were below levels allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The authors failed to mention that EPA limits are the subject of much debate. They are based on data supplied by chemical companies. Many scientists agree that long-term studies are needed to truly understand the impact of synthetic chemicals on our bodies.

The study also noted that organic pork and chicken are less likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but that was largely downplayed. What about those health and safety benefits?

What the study really amounts to is a simplistic declaration that organic foods aren't any richer in nutrients than conventional foods. But declaring they aren't healthier overall is a bit of a stretch. We'll need more detailed studies than this if we're to make meaningful conclusions.

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