Commentary-Organic foods may not have higher nutritional value after all

Do organically produced foods have higher nutritional value?

Let?s take a look.

Colorado State University researchers compared vitamin content of organically and conventionally grown vegetables?carrots and broccoli. They found no statistically significant differences.

Other research from CSU focused on growing potatoes using four different farming techniques under the same growing conditions: an intensive high-chemical system; a moderate conventional system; customary organic farming (hog manure and crop rotation on land used for organic production for 10 years); and virgin organic production, using cow manure on land cleared from brush. Nine minerals and seven vitamins were analyzed and no clear differences were discovered.

Another U.S. study found more soluble iron in conventionally grown spinach. The proportion of the soluble iron available to consumer?s system was somewhat higher for both spinach and peppers grown with compost and manure.

In other studies, a Norwegian study found conventionally grown carrots contained more beta-carotene, magnesium and manganese. The ecologically grown carrots had more aluminum. When carrots of the same variety were compared, the only difference was a higher level of carotenoids in the conventionally grown carrots.

A German study discovered lower levels of nitrate in carrots, beets and potatoes grown with manure but the differences were minute under good storage conditions. Stressful storage conditions enhanced the difference.

Consumers can conclude from such findings that people who do not buy organically grown fruits and vegetables, usually at higher prices, can find equally good products with equal nutrition at supermarkets and roadside stands. It also means people who wish to eat organically grown fruits and vegetables should do so.

Bottom line?differing farming systems produce virtually no difference in the nutritional value of the crops. The variety, or strain, of the carrots and potatoes grown appears to have a bigger impact on their nutrient value than production methods.

For a healthy diet eat plenty of fruit and vegetables each day, regardless of how they were grown. Doing so will probably mean a person eats more fiber which is healthy. It also means less room for fatty foods that are one of the major contributions to poor health.

Protein in the form of beef, chicken, pork and fish should also be part of your daily diet. Dairy foods and whole-grain breads, along with other carbohydrates round out a balanced day of eating.

So much of this research on conventional versus organically grown food has demonstrated little nutritional differences. In our society consumers have a choice. It is an individual decision.

Organic-food enthusiasts may choose products grown the way they prefer. Those with a more traditional bent can enjoy fruits, vegetables and grains grown conventionally. Remember that scientific research and studies indicate conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains have the same nutritional value and are equally healthy.

The choice is yours.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience.

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