Is Organic Healthier?
The BC Perspective Because organic food is grown without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, hormones, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), many people believe it is healthier. In BC, 84% of current or prospective consumers of organic food believe it is healthier than conventionally-farmed food, according to a 2003 opinion survey commissioned from Synovate.
Judge for Yourself: Recent Scientific Findings
A growing number of studies indicate that there are measurable benefits to food grown and processed using organic methods. Take a look at the links below to learn about some of the latest scientific findings about organic food.
Organic and Sustainable Foods Have More Polyphenolics Linked to Health Benefits UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology (2003) www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=6312
A new study at the University of California shows that organically grown berries and corn contain up to 58 percent more polyphenolics, natural antioxidants that are good for our health. This scientific study breaks new ground by suggesting that sustainable growing practices may allow plants to have naturally higher levels of polyphenolics, as they help fight off pests such as insects. When consumed by humans, through a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, polyphenolics are believed to reduce the risks of some cancers and heart disease.
Organic produce may have higher levels of Vitamin C and cancer-fighting flavonoids
UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology (2003)
This study, presented by a food chemist from the University of California at Davis to the Institute of Food Technologists' Annual Meeting, indicates that organic tomatoes had higher levels of secondary plant metabolites and higher levels of vitamin C than conventionally-grown counterparts. It also found that organic broccoli had "significantly higher levels" of cancer-fighting flavonoids. Metabolites are used by plants as a defense mechanism to fend off pests and disease. When consumed by humans, they are thought to lower the risk of heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Flavonoids are metabolites known to act in the body as antioxidants.
Study yields mixed findings about microbes on organic produce Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (2004) www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/fs/food-disease/news/may1904produce.html
This study examines the bacteria levels found on organically and conventionally grown produce in Minnesota and concludes that organic food is less likely to contain pathogenic bacteria. The study also shows that certified organic produce had significantly decreased levels of other kinds of bacteria.
Organic foods in relation to nutrition and health key facts
Medical News Today (2004) & Soil Association (2004)
This fact sheet is a summary of an article published in “Coronary and Diabetic Care in the UK 2004” by the Association of Primary Care Groups and Trusts. The article concluded that a predominantly organic diet:
- reduces the amount of toxic chemicals ingested totally avoids GMOs [genetically modified organisms]
- reduces the amount of food additives and colourings
- increases the amount of beneficial vitamins, minerals, EFAs [essential fatty acids] and antioxidants consumed
Canadian Government report warns against pesticide health risks
Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and the Environment. Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.(May 2000)
This comprehensive report outlines the risks associated with pesticide use on human health and the environment, with a particular focus on the risks to children and infants. It notes: “Pesticides are known to play, or are suspected of playing, a role in a myriad of diseases and developmental abnormalities, including cancer (brain, breast, stomach, prostate and testicles), childhood leukemia, reduced fertility, damage to the thyroid and pituitary glands, lowered immunity, developmental abnormalities and behavioural problems.” The report outlines the science on the known effects of organochlorines, organophosphates, phenoxy herbicides, endocrine disruptors and other substances commonly found in Canadian pesticides. It argues for a precautionary approach to managing pesticides through stronger legislation, stating that we still know too little about the potentially negative human health effects of many pesticides currently on the market in Canada.
Other Health Articles
Health expert argues for organic
Dr. Andrew Weil (2002)
Health expert and medical doctor Dr. Andrew Weil argues that eating organically-grown food is simply good sense for anyone trying to limit their exposure to potentially harmful toxins. And he feels that scientists don’t know enough about the long-term effects, both individually and when ingested in combination, of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used in conventional farming. Read this article here 50 KB
Delivering Good Health through Good Food
Institute of Science in Society (2004)
In this article, Prof. Henry Becker, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, argues that a fundamental focus on disease prevention is needed to avert the national health crisis. The article recommends a return to organic methods of agriculture and animal husbandry to halt the “incidental poisoning of land, water, air, people and most other life forms”, and thus our health. The article is based on his submission to the Romanow Commission(2002) and a forthcoming book.
Other Sites of Interest
The following sites keep up-to-date with the latest in health and science reporting, especially in relation to organic produce and processes. New studies are linked, as well as surveys and news covering emerging issues in organic farming and production.