It doesn’t appear that most organic grower-shippers plan to play up the nutrition value of their product despite the release this summer of a study that says organically grown food is more healthful that conventional.
A news release from the Organic Trade Association says the study from the United Kingdom shows that “organic crops, and the food made from them, are nutritionally superior to their conventional counterparts.”
The study “should put to rest any doubts about the benefits of organic,” the association said in the release.
As part of the study, experts led by Newcastle University researchers analyzed 343 studies and found organic crops and organic crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops.
The report also showed that pesticide residues are found more frequently in conventional foods, and there were lower levels of a toxic heavy metal in organic crops.
The report was published in the July 15 issue of the “British Journal of Nutrition.”
The study reevaluates nutritional differences between organic and conventional crops and “strongly shows that organic fruits and vegetables have definite health benefits to conventionally grown products,” Jessica Shade, director of science programs for Washington, D.C.-based The Organic Center, said in the release.
But grower-shippers aren’t jumping on the bandwagon to sing the nutritional praises of their organic fruits and vegetables.
Firstfruits Marketing of Washington LLC, Yakima, which grows and sells organic and conventional fruit, wants consumers to make their own decision, said Matt Miles, organic program director.
“It’s a personal choice. Consumers have to do the research and understand why they want to buy organic, and we support that,” he said. “But others don’t choose to buy organic or learn about organic practices, and we support them, as well.”
“We value both those customers,” he said. “There’s no wrong decision when it comes to choosing fresh fruits or vegetables.”
Scott Boyajian, director of marketing for Sunview Marketing International, Delano, Calif., doesn’t think growers are qualified to make statements about nutrition value.
“We would default to the scientific community and let them make those determinations,” he said.
Nutrition content isn’t what attracts most people to organic produce anyway, said Addie Pobst, organic integrity and logistics coordinator for Viva Tierra Organic Inc., Sedro-Woolley, Wash.
“That’s not what we see as the value in organic,” she said.
“We look at it more in terms of ecological health of the planet, preventing the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture getting into the environment, into workers, into consumers.”
Viva Tierra never has claimed that organic products are more nutritious than conventionally grown equivalent vegetables or fruit, she said, and the company doesn’t plan to start now.
Samantha Cabaluna, vice president of marketing and communications for Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., agreed.
“While we’ll make note of that study, it wouldn’t be a focus of our conversations with consumers because it’s not the primary reason people choose organic,” she said.
“They choose organic to reduce their exposure to conventional agricultural chemicals, GMOs, and irradiation,” she said.
Conditions under which organic produce is grown can vary greatly, depending on climate, soil type, farming methods and other factors, said Scott Mabs, CEO at Homegrown Organic Farms, Strathmore, Calif.
“It is very hard to paint a broad brush stroke on the whole deal,” he said.
“We believe in the methods of organic farming and how we’re doing it and believe that we’re producing a wonderful piece of fruit that has great flavor and great nutritional content,” he said.
Beyond that, he said, “We’ll let the scientists continue to argue about that.”
Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., “definitely won’t” be using claims about the nutrition content of organic produce as a marketing tool, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.
“We think our country needs to have more people eating fresh produce — both conventional and organic,” he said. “We don’t want to be a negative influence on either.”