Organic vs. Conventionally-Produced Food: What’s the Difference?
You have probably seen the USDA Organic seal on foods at the grocery store. In recent years, the organic market has been one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture in the US, with double-digit growth and around 22,000 certified organic operations. People choose organic foods for a variety of reasons–one of which is health. There is debate about whether organic foods are healthier or not, so let’s take a closer look.
What is organically-produced food?
‘Organic‘ is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. The organic standards describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled USDA organic. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.
Is organic food healthier?
At this time, there is not a clear answer to the question of whether ‘organic’ food is healthier than ‘conventional’ food–
- A couple of large review studies have concluded that the evidence does not show that organic foods are more nutritious:
- It may be that other factors, such as freshness, play a larger role in nutrient content.
- The studies noted that consuming organic foods could reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Some studies show that there is a nutritional difference:
- A study published in 2014 found a slightly higher antioxidant content in organically-grown fruits and vegetables than in conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.
- Another study found that organic milk had more healthy omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA than did conventional milk.
To sum it up, many experts advise that eating an overall healthy diet is more important than whether or not you choose organically-produced foods. Most Americans fall short on fruit and vegetable intake, so increasing the amount and variety of produce eaten is likely more important than whether they are organically-produced or not.