4 Reasons Organic Foods are Healthier
You're at the supermarket, and it's time to choose: organic tomatoes or conventional ones? The organics are double the price, but they're supposed to be more nutritious, right? Well, a study published this month by Stanford University found that organic produce, across many different studies, is as equally nutritious as produce grown with synthetic chemicals. However, buying organic is still healthier. Why? Let's look at four reasons.1) Pesticide Residue
Would you like some permethrin with your spinach? The Stanford study found that organic produce had 30 percent less pesticide residue than conventional produce (organic food can still have pesticides due to the wind blowing chemicals from adjacent fields), and the USDA has found almost zero pesticide residue on organic produce. And while most pesticides found on food are at levels considered "safe" by the EPA, long-term, low-dose studies on human health are difficult to carry out. In addition, the EPA doesn't look at the effects of consuming many pesticides at once. And with evidence mounting that pesticides can contribute to everything from asthma to dementia, it might be better to leave the stuff out of your diet.
2) Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Antibiotic-resistant infections are not fun. In fact, they're deadly. But the widespread use of antibiotics on livestock has made them more and more common, not just on the farm but everywhere. And the Stanford study found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria were found a third more often on conventional chicken and pork than on their organic counterparts. Organic farmers don't over-apply antibiotics, which means that the germs don't evolve resistance. So if they get a human sick, the doctor's medicine should still work.
3) Groundwater Contamination
Tap water is better for the environment than bottled, right? But in some rural communities, the tap water is literally undrinkable, and chemical fertilizers are to blame. The extra nitrogen from the plant food seeps down into the groundwater, where it becomes nitrate, a toxic chemical that can not only contribute to thyroid cancer, but can also be deadly to infants. Organic farmers don't use the chemical fertilizers that overload the soil, instead depending on manure and compost. These organic fertilizers release their nitrogen more slowly, letting the plants drink it up without waste.
4) Farmworker Health
No one is more impacted by pesticides than the farm workers who apply them. They get it on their skin and in their lungs. They bring it home on their clothes, exposing family members to potentially dangerous levels of toxins. Farming communities are exposed to pesticides blown on the wind into their homes, and drink it when it gets into their well, all at levels much higher than the average consumer. Organic farmworkers are not exposed to these risks.
So even if the conventional tomato has just as much beta carotene as the organic one, we'd go with the organic. After all, there's more to heath than vitamins.
--Rachael Monosson is an editorial intern for Sierra and a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she studied Earth Systems. She lives in San Mateo.