Most shoppers believe organic produce is healthier than conventional, according to recent Boston University studies. Does that notion match the facts? Here is what experts say about key issues.
Is Organic Produce Safer?
Conventional: Stringent federal regulations make it unlikely that conventional produce, such as apples, harbor harmful pesticide levels by the time they reach consumers. The untreated manure used in organic agriculture contains harmful bacteria (E. coli, for example) that could pose more of a safety threat than conventional produce.
Organic: Pesticide levels may not be high on conventional produce but their use damages the environment. Most pesticides miss their targets and are dispersed throughout the environment. Conventional farmers actually use more manure than organic farmers.
Conclusion: At this time, there is no research available to make a clear case that an organic peach or pear or apple is safer than a conventional one. And the USDA says its organic seal is simply confirmation of a method of production, not a safety endorsement.
Does Organic Produce Taste Better?
Conventional: If you did a blind taste test, people would not be able to tell the difference between an organic apple and a conventional one. Taste is due to chemicals. And the chemical composition of an organic apple and a conventionally grown apple are identical.
Organic: Most reports of a flavor advantage for organic are anecdotal. Some insist flavor is enhanced in organic produce.
Conclusion: Taste is subjective. But there is a distinct flavor advantage when produce -- conventional or organic -- is freshly picked.
Is Organic Produce More Nutritious?
Conventional: Plants have genetic codes that determine much of their nutrient profile. If you analyzed the two in a lab, you most likely would not be able to tell the difference.
Organic: A handful of controversial studies suggests organic produce may contain more of certain nutrients. But even organic experts admit there are too many factors that influence plant growth to make a case for added nutrition.
Conclusion: Many organic advocates feel that trying to identify a nutritional difference between the two types of produce is fruitless.
View an Organic Produce Pesticide Chart. This chart tells you what fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides and which one's have 2 or more pesticides.
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