Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Organic Produce Reduces Exposure to Pesticides, Research Confirms

Environmental Working Group

Consumers can markedly reduce their intake of pesticide residues and their exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria by choosing organic produce and meat, according to researchers at Stanford University who reviewed a massive body of scientific studies on the much-debated issue.

The Stanford team analyzed more than 230 field studies and 17 human studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe to compare pesticide residues, antibiotic resistance and vitamin and nutrient levels in organic and conventionally produced foods. The study, published Sept. 3, is available online at the website of The Annals of Internal Medicine.

“The study confirms the message that Environmental Working Group (EWG) and scores of public health experts have been sending for years, that consumers who eat organic fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce pesticide concentrations in their bodies,” said Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at EWG. “This is a particularly important finding for expectant mothers and kids, because the risks of dietary exposures to synthetic pesticides, especially organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides, are greatest during pregnancy and childhood, when the brain and nervous system are most vulnerable. These are two groups that should really avoid eating foods with high levels of pesticide residues.”

Based on its review of the available research, the Stanford team also concluded that conventionally raised meat harbors more antibiotic resistant bacteria. It found that consumers of non-organic chicken or pork are 33 percent more likely to ingest three or more strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those who eat organic meat.

“What jumped out at us in this study is that conventionally-raised meat treated heavily with antibiotics is much more likely to carry drug-resistant bacteria than meat produced on organic farms,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior analyst at EWG, who focuses on organic and conventional agriculture. “Antibiotics, which are banned in organic production, promote the development of resistant super-bugs that are a serious risk to human health.”

The researchers did not find “significant” or “robust” differences in nutritional content between organic and conventional foods. But Charles Benbrook, a professor of agriculture at Washington State University and former chief scientist at The Organic Center who reviewed the Stanford study and most of the underlying literature, had this to say in response:

This study draws a markedly different conclusion than I do about the nutritional benefits of organic crops. Several well-designed U.S. studies show that organic crops have higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins than conventional crops. For crops like apples, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, milk, carrots and grains organic produce has 10 to 30 percent higher levels of several nutrients, including vitamin C, antioxidants and phenolic acids in most studies.

The Stanford study also contradicts the findings of what many consider the most definitive analysis in the scientific literature of the nutrient content of organic versus conventional food.

In that 2011 study, a team led by Dr. Kirsten Brandt of the Human Nutrition Research Center of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom analyzed most of the same research and concluded that organic crops had approximately 12 to 16 percent more nutrients than conventional crops.

EWG noted that the Stanford study also did not directly address the important environmental and public health benefits that result from reduced pesticide and antibiotic use. Synthetic pesticides can kill insect pollinators, harm wildlife and farmworkers and often end up in the air and water. Tests conducted in 2011 by the U.S. Geological Survey found that glyphosate (commonly sold as Roundup), one of the most widely used herbicides, was a ubiquitous contaminant in air, water and rainfall in two Midwest states.

“Organic produce and meat products live up to their promise,” said Ken Cook, EWG president. “Consumers selecting organic produce ingest fewer pesticides. They also eat meats that harbor fewer deadly bacteria. While you still need to take responsibility for eating a varied and healthy diet, you can rest assured that organic food provides a healthier choice for people and the planet.”

While the Stanford study briefly mentioned previous research on the effects of organic foods on children’s health, it did not focus on the growing body of studies published in the last decade that have demonstrated children’s higher sensitivity to the effects of neurotoxic pesticides. Last year, Cook, along with several of the world’s most respected authorities in environmental health, sent a letter to the Obama Administration requesting that the federal government expand the testing it conducts on crop chemical residues in foods “to give Americans a full accounting of risks faced by children who consume pesticides on produce.”

“Studies that have come out in the last two years have linked exposures to organophosphate pesticides with increased risks of ADHD and lower IQ in children and to low birth weight and early gestation among newborns,” said Cook. “The authors of this study, for whatever reason, decided not to focus on this new and troubling research showing that a diet of food high in certain pesticides could pose such serious and lasting health impacts in children. That’s a glaring omission, in my opinion.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Dominion Resources' coal-fired power plant located in central Virginia beside the James River. Edbrown05 / CC BY-SA 2.5

Corporations that flouted environmental regulations and spewed pollutants into the air and dumped them into waterways will not be required to pay the fines they agreed to during the pandemic, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
The Ministry of Trade issued a regulation revoking its decision from February to no longer require Indonesian timber companies to obtain export licenses that certify the wood comes from legal sources. BAY ISMOYO / AFP / Getty Images

By Hans Nicholas Jong

The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.

Read More Show Less

Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.

Read More Show Less
Harmful algal blooms, seen here at Ferril Lake in Denver, Colorado on June 30, 2016, are increasing in lakes and rivers across the U.S. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.

But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.

Read More Show Less
A group of doctors prepared to treat coronavirus patients in Brazil. SILVIO AVILA / AFP via Getty Images

More than 40 million doctors and nurses are in, and they are prescribing a green recovery from the economic devastation caused by the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake hands during an event to launch the United Nations' Climate Change conference, COP26, in central London on February 4, 2020. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE / POOL / AFP / Getty Images

The U.K. government has proposed delaying the annual international climate negotiations for a full year after its original date to November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that "use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment." Minerva Studio / Getty Images

By Jared Kaufman

Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.

Read More Show Less