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In Session

What makes organic different: 3 experts share the science

Thinkstock woman looking at organic label
Consumers are drowning in news and information about their diets, their nutritional needs, farming practices and the environment. In this panel discussion, three experts look at the latest research regarding organic practices and break it down to make it easy for consumers to understand.

"The goals of organic are to preserve environmental and human health, and they were built in a way that they are dynamic, so they can change, and they do change as our understanding expands."

—Jessica Shade, director of science programs at The Organic Center

Moderator Kate Geagan, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant leads the discussion with Jessica Shade, PhD, director of science programs at The Organic Center; Tracy Misiewicz, PhD, associate director of science programs at The Organic Center; and Asa Bradman, PhD, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, who studies the effects of exposure to pesticides and toxic substances on humans.

Part 1: Is organic food better than conventional food? 


  • Studies show positive effects of organic practices on species diversity, soil health and water quality. 
  • The next frontier of research is to determine how organic food affects human health.


Part 2: Organic food carries little to no risk of exposing humans to pesticides and toxic substances


  • Fetuses, babies and young children are more at risk to exposure than adults.
  • An ongoing study is following 300 children to see how pesticide exposure affects them.


Part 3: Conventional agriculture practices increase the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria


  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found at conventional farms, surrounding areas and even grocery stores.
  • Each year, 23,000 people die after exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • USDA-backed organic standards ensure that organic livestock aren’t given antibiotics.


Part 4: Helping consumers understand organic's benefits


  • Organic foods reduce exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistance bacteria.
  • Don’t assume customers know what organic certification covers.
  • Organic standards evolve as scientific research makes new discoveries.



Part 5: Organic practices can help the environment and health


  • Organic farming reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, as more carbon stays in the soil.
  • Choosing an organic diet can help protect from the dangers we don’t yet understand.


Part 6: Audience members share concerns about costs, standards


  • Concerns about low-income residents’ access to organic foods are widespread.
  • Standards need to be established for household goods and personal products.


This session—Sharing the Organic Story—was recorded at Natural Products Expo West 2018.

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