Organic no more nutritious?

You may have heard about the Dutch study announced last week which prompted bold headlines such as "Study: Organic food not more nutritional." Well, that may be true—if you're a rat eating a diet of dried fruits and vegetables and the only nutrients you're concerned with are trace minerals. Here's what Steve Hoffman, director of the Organic Center, had to say.

The Danish research team compared the retention of nutrients in rats fed a diet composed of organic and conventional dried fruits and vegetables. Only trace mineral levels were compared; no results were reported on vitamins, polyphenols, and antioxidants (nutrients that routinely are present at higher concentrations in organic food). No differences were found in nutrient levels, leading the authors to suggest that such findings might dampen consumer demand for organic food...

The team grew the fruits and vegetables in both the "conventional" and organic plots on soils that were previously managed organically. Accordingly, the conventional crops enjoyed all the nutrient-enhancing and plant-health benefits of heightened soil quality from prior organic soil management. Given the series of studies published in the U.S. in the last three years pointing to soil quality enhancement in organic systems as the major cause, or explanation of observed differences in nutritional quality, it is not surprising that this Danish study found no statistically significant difference in mineral levels in the organic and "conventional" crops that were harvested and fed to the rats.

Perhaps the real message is that pesticide-intensive farming doesn't produce fruits and vegetables any more superior—and all at the cost of ecosystems and our health.

Source: Mette Kristensen, Lars Ostengaard, Ulrich Halekoh, Henry Jorgensen, Charlotte Lauridsen, Kirsten Brandt, and Suzanne Bugel. "Effect of plant cultivation methods on content of major and trace elements in foodstuffs and retention in rats," Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2008.

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