Health researchers at Stanford University released a study this week casting doubt on the advantages of organic meats and produce. While they concluded that most fruits and vegetables labeled organic were not more nutritious than the conventional versions, the jury is still out on whether or not spending extra for organic products is worth it.
Conventional varieties tested did have more pesticide residue on them, but the levels fall within the allowable limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The question lies in whether or not these levels are in fact safe for humans long term.
Many of the key motivators for buying organic foods are the stringent rules governing the farming of these items.
Organic chicken and pork were found to less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The study also found that organic milk contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the heart. Organic produce also had higher levels of phosphorous, and phenols, believed to help prevent cancer.
Organic foods also have less environmental impact than large-scale conventional farming techniques.
More specific studies have found some added benefits to going organic. A Washington State University study done in 2010 found organic strawberries contained higher levels of vitamin C than their conventionally counterparts.
Three other studies published last year, from Columbia University, The University of California Berkley and Mount Sinai Hospital, showed that children whose mothers ate organically during pregnancy had a higher I.Q. than those whose mother was exposed to higher levels of pesticides.
While this news is likely to spark controversy among farmers and nutrition experts alike, the facts are still somewhat inconclusive.
For children, pregnant women and those with impaired immune systems, the benefits may still out weigh the expense of purchasing organically grown food.
The choice, as always, belongs to the consumer.