QUESTION: Is there a nutritional or qualitative difference between organically and conventionally grown foods?
ANSWER per Dr. Ruth MacDonald (Iowa State University's professor and chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition):
- From a nutritional perspective, no. There is very little evidence that organic and conventionally (non-organic) grown foods vary significantly. Both are excellent sources of many nutrients and bioactive compounds. Some studies have shown differences in some compounds when grown using these techniques, but in general, the differences are minor and will not have a significant impact on overall nutrient intake. In meat, milk and eggs, the type of food fed to the animals will impact some nutrients in the foods such as the fatty acids or lipid-soluble compounds (e.g., carotenoids). Much research has been done to increase omega-3 fatty acids in these products by altered feeding practices, for example. In these studies, minor increases can be achieved but the total impact on nutrient intake is minor.
- From a qualitative perspective, no. Controlled research studies of organic and conventionally (non-organic) grown foods using sensory analysis have found no difference in perception of taste. However, many factors influence the quality/taste of foods, including freshness, storage conditions and variety of the crop or product. Personal preferences are also involved.
To read more about organic and conventional foods, visit Getting Down and Dirty with Pesticide Residues and the Dirty Dozen.