Will there ever be a definitive answer — one backed by indisputable science — to the question of whether organic produce is nutritionally better than conventional produce?

Organic foundation kicks off research

Chris Koger
Food for Thought

It’s a question natural and organic foodies have wanted to say “yes” to.

A new study from the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark, published in the “Journal of Food and Chemistry,” says there’s not much difference — at least not in the carrot, onion and potato crops researchers analyzed.

This follows a 2009 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Food Standard Agency), in which researchers reviewed more than 150 studies on the subject. That review also found little to no difference between conventional and organic crops.

There’s been research to the contrary as well, but in the end, does it truly matter? If there were significant nutritional benefits to eating organic produce, studies would have uncovered that by now.

(These studies do not address the presence of pesticide residues, and I’m not either. The Packer has covered this controversy in recent weeks, and the bottom line is that pesticide residue levels on fresh produce reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are well below levels that would have ill effects.)

Obviously, there are other reasons people buy organic produce, and recent interests in green/sustainable/natural products have fueled continued growth in organic sales.

Now the Organic Farming Research Foundation is ramping up the conventional versus organic debate, also with a review of previously published research and studies.

Carolyn Dimitri, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture senior economist, is overseeing the review. Loni Kemp, described in a news release on the initiative as a conservation policy analyst, will recommend how new policies can “recognize and reward benefits provided to society by organic farms.”

The foundation’s deputy director, Maureen Wilmot, said the obvious advantages of organic production include soil quality and reduction of “toxins entering our food supply.”

The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based foundation plans to announce its findings in the spring.

Here’s hoping the results will help the group with its mission of advancing organic agriculture, without mudslinging on conventionally grown produce.

E-mail ckoger@thepacker.com

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