The Ongoing Nutrition Debate About Organics

Are organic fruits and vegetables more nutritious than industrial produce? For many years this has been Nectarines
(and continues to be) a heated debate. Earlier this week the American Council on
Science and Health
(ACSH) published a report Claims of Organic Food’s Nutritional Superiority: A Critical Review, which refuted claims from the Organic Trade Association‘s Organic Center that organic produce is 25% more nutritious than industrially grown produce. You can read the details about the debate here

I appreciate the need for well-designed research studies, robust data and consistent methodology. However, I find this debate interesting because it’s mainly focusing on one aspect of organic food: phytochemicals. Yes, I think it’s important that we get as much "nutrition bang for our buck" (officially called nutrient density) from the food we eat. However, I’ve experienced  difficulty increasing people’s awareness about calories and fat grams and encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables; I’m not convinced that they’re going to make their food choices based on which type of fruit has more flavonoids and polyphenols.

I think that people who choose organic foods do so for bigger reasons than just nutrition (proven or not). Soil preservation, biodiversity, and flavor are just a few other qualities that come along with organic farming practices. And I’m not solely referring to Certified Organic produce, but fruits and vegetables grown using true organic (with a small "o") agricultural practices. These could be from small local farmers who can’t afford to pay for the official "USDA Certified Organic" label; they may indeed grow the most organic produce of all.

I’m interested to see where this debate goes (and for how long) but in the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my local seasonal fruits and vegetables knowing that I’m getting at least some quercetin in my diet!

On a side note, I came across this website from Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture that lists peer-reviewed scientific studies about organic agriculture. Check it out.

-Katherine Kwon, MS, RD, Communications Project Manager