Back in 2011 a study conducted at Newcastle University in England reviewed decades of research and found that organic produce, farmed without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides had both more vitamin C, and the compounds known as phenols, believed to help prevent cancer. A year later, a team of researchers from Stanford University conducted a similar review and came to the conclusion that organic produce was no more “nutritious” than conventionally grown foods.
Despite the fact that the Stanford study explicitly concluded that “consumption of organic foods may “reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” the media still presented the Stanford study as evidence that no demonstrable health distinctions between organic and non-organic foods.
The problem here is the confusion between nutrition and health. Obviously food that reduces your exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are more healthful than food that doesn’t, despite its comparable level of nutritional value. It is not enough to simply ask if non-organic foods contain the same levels of certain key nutrients as organic foods. We must be asking if they are equally nourishing and sustaining to the planet. In other words, to truly understand the benefits of organic agriculture we need to measure the value of our food not not just by the smallest scale, but also by the broadest metric.