Organic crops are no better

Mary Mertz

By A Contributor

Some people use their emotions to argue a point. That’s fine… I’ve done it before. But in matters of science, I see little benefit in trying to weigh in with feelings against facts.

There are issues of significance that continue to be debated because one’s heart won’t allow truth to touch its core. Such is the case with organic versus conventional crop production.

It’s a touchy subject. Maybe I should stop right here, but I can’t. I’ve just finished reading yet another study that confirms that there is no nutritional difference or health related reason to choose organically grown produce over produce that is not organic.

I assumed there probably was a difference. The propaganda and naturally-grown movement tell us there is. But research proves time and time again that there simply is no cause for one method to be considered better than the other in terms of our nutritional well-being.

Farmers markets thrive in our communities. I try to support mine every Saturday morning. There is nothing like fresh produce. But whether it was grown free of the minuscule amount of pesticide use allowed or grown conventionally should not factor into anyone’s decision. I know it does for some and will continue to, no matter how much proof there is out there that food is safe. Convictions are mighty influencers when it comes to what we put into our bodies. Health matters to all of us.

While reading a column by Henry Miller, a contributing writer for Forbes who is a physician, molecular biologist and Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, I noted a reference to an extensive research study conducted by Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy.

Over the course of four years, a team led by Dr. Dena Brava, a senior affiliate at the center, analyzed data from 237 of the most relevant studies available to determine whether organic foods are safer or healthier than non-organic foods. Researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for “organic” were on average no more nutritious than their far cheaper conventional counterparts, nor were those foods less likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria like E.coli or salmonella.

“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler, M.D, a member of the research team who is also an instructor of medicine at Stanford’s School of Medicine. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”

The point is this. Farmers produce food. They all strive to grow the best possible crops for us as consumers. They eat the food as well. Saying one type of growth method is better than the other is just not factual and is irksome to those who must counter unwarranted concerns expressed by family and friends. We all want to sell our produce, but we should do it based on truth and not on baseless claims of health or nutritional benefits.

Buying organic is fine. I do it. When I come across pleasant farmers in a booth at the market on Saturday and their produce is fresh and delicious, I buy from them regardless of what type of conviction they hold.

I trust this country’s food supply and I’m constantly grateful for that.

Mary Mertz is married to a fourth-generation farmer and is proud to be part of the Kansas agricultural community that produces food and fiber for all.

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