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This March 16, 2011, file photo shows organic radishes at the Pacifica Farmers Market in Pacifica, California. — Photo by AP

Organic produce and meat typically isn't any better for you than conventional food when it comes to vitamin and nutrient content, although it does generally reduce exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a US study.

“People choose to buy organic foods for many different reasons. One of them is perceived health benefits,” said Crystal Smith-Spangler, who led a team of researchers from Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care.

“Our patients, our families ask about, 'Well, are there health reasons to choose organic food in terms of nutritional content or human health outcomes?'”

She and her colleagues reviewed more than 200 studies that compared either the health of people who ate organic or conventional foods or, more commonly, nutrient and contaminant levels in the foods themselves.

The foods included organic and non-organic fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, poultry eggs and milk.

According to US Department of Agriculture standards, organic farms have to avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, hormones and antibiotics. Organic livestock must also have access to pastures during grazing season.

Many of the studies used, though, didn't specify their standards for what constituted “organic” food, which can cost as much as twice what conventional food costs, the researchers wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Smith-Spangler and her colleagues found there was no difference in the amount of vitamins in plant or animal products produced organically and conventionally – and the only nutrient difference was slightly more phosphorous in the organic products.

Organic milk and chicken may also contain more omega-3 fatty acids, but that was based on only a few studies.

More than one third of conventional produce had detectable pesticide residues, compared with seven per cent of organic produce samples. Organic pork and chicken were 33 per cent less likely to carry bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than conventionally produced meat.

Smith-Spangler told Reuters Health it was uncommon for either organic or conventional foods to exceed the allowable limits for pesticides, so it was not clear whether a difference in residues would have an effect on health.

But others said more research is needed to fully explore the potential health and safety differences between organic and conventional foods, and it was premature to say organic foods aren't any healthier than non-organic versions.

“Right now I think it's all based on anecdotal evidence,” said Chensheng Lu, who studies environmental health and exposure at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Comments (4) Closed

sijt Sep 04, 2012 12:35pm
I do not trust this study period, organic produce far health benificial than GMP or Harmonized product, soon truth about this study will come out
aaa Sep 04, 2012 03:23pm
Whatever is natural is bound to be better than what is unnaturally made. Who knows what we might find out in next 20 years about these pesticides and chemicals which we are using today.
Nimar Sep 04, 2012 11:16am
This is a very good and important news item circulated by Dawn. Conventional produce in Pakistan and generally in Asian countries where health and food standards are very relaxed, means more pesticides, GMs and chemical fertilizers. In meat, poultry and dairy products it means more antibiotic and harmone residues. General public is mostly not bothered or particular about it except a very small more aware percentage of population in addition to some initiatives by Agriculture and Health Ministries. It is very important that these ministries, enhance the implementation of checks and balances while also enhancing public awareness level.
Nazli Siddiqui Sep 04, 2012 02:06pm
Food lobby is like mafia, specially in the US. Don't buy any of this propoganda. Some of it doeasn't even apply to other countries. Each country should look into their own food production practices independently. It's a good thing the topic has come to the surface.