Conventional or Organic?

19 Sep

8099419727_c31c7bbe2cTwo weeks ago, Stanford University published their controversial study in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluding that organic produce has no added nutritional health benefits over their conventionally grown counterparts.

However, one of the few distinguishable advantages of organic fruits and vegetables is that there is a lower risk of pesticide exposure. Despite this, the conventionally grown produce that was reviewed contained pesticide levels within the safety limits set by the EPA.

It was noted in the study that children are especially vulnerable when it comes to pesticide exposure, since they are maturing and their immune systems are more sensitive. Because childhood is a critical period in human development, exposure to pesticides during that time may cause adverse effects.

According to the FDA, foods labeled “organic” must be certified under the National Organic Program. They must also be grown and processed using organic farming methods that promote biodiversity and recycling. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, bioengineered genes, antibiotics, hormones, and radiation cannot be used. For more information on organic food labels, click here. To read about the challenges small farmers face should they chose to become certified organic, click here.

In the study it was found that organic produce has a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the twelve foods containing the highest levels of pesticides, calling them the Dirty Dozen (with apples, celery, and bell peppers at the head of list). The Clean 15 on the other hand are the foods lowest in pesticides, with onions, sweet corn, and pineapple as the top three least contaminated. Here is their methodology.

What this study did not focus on, was the nutritional, environmental and community value of locally grown produce. Eating local produce offers various health benefits for our bodies, and our planet. According to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, the top five reasons to eat locally are:

  1. taste
  2. environmental concern
  3. community
  4. variety
  5. health

Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates.

At Butter Beans, we have created close relationships with local food purveyors, purchasing as much of our produce as possible from nearby farmers to provide the freshest and most nutritious food to our students. A list of our suppliers can be found here.

Despite the emphatic reactions to this food study, it’s a step in the right direction for the quality and safety of the food we eat daily. This sort of dialogue shows that our communities are taking more interest in different methods of food production, which trickles down to how we feed our families. It is of utmost importance that we nourish ourselves everyday with fresh fruits and vegetables.

First Lady, Michelle Obama sums it up pretty well: “We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture — imagine this — where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.”

Photo courtesy of ePsos.de

One Response to “Conventional or Organic?”

  1. HealthyTummyInitiative September 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    This is SO important — plus, I love Michelle Obama’s quote — she is fantastic!

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