In recent years, organic foods grown without use of pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or growth hormones have gained in popularity. Many believe buying organic is the healthier alternative, and so people are willing to pay a premium. Surprisingly, according to new findings from Stanford University, this may not be the case.
In an effort to determine whether organic foods are really healthier, a team from Stanford compiled findings from many different studies which investigated the comparable qualities of organic versus conventional foods. Researchers scanned through thousands of papers and identified 237 studies as being most relevant to their investigation.
Most papers selected compared the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide levels of various organic foods to their conventional counterparts. Other studies investigated the health outcomes of populations consuming organic vs. conventional diets (ranging from just two months to two years).
In Stanford’s comprehensive investigation, it was found that there was not much difference in the nutritional content of the various organic versus conventional foods. It was also discovered that conventional foods do not pose much of a health risk, since pesticides and other contaminants are usually at acceptable levels. It was therefore determined in the Stanford study that there is little evidence supporting the claim that organic foods are healthier. However, it was found that organic foods generally have 30 per cent lower risk of pesticide contamination and contain less antibiotic-resistant bacteria.