Thanks Stanford, But I’ll Continue to Buy Organic

This week Stanford University released it’s findings on a meta-study in which they concluded that there isn’t a nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce.  Stanford did not conduct new research to reach its conclusions — it merely grouped past studies to make its determination and then caused the next sound-bite sensation in the media.

Two years ago, I made the decision for my family to buy organic.  I did it for two main reasons.  First, I wanted my family to be exposed to the least amount of pesticides and chemicals as possible.  But more importantly, I felt that organic farming was better for our Earth. It’s environmentally sustainable.  Just like my vegetarian friend in college who gave up meat as a political stance against animal cruelty, I (mostly) gave up conventional produce as a political stance to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact.

When I can’t buy organic, I tend towards buying local.  Much of the local produce available at Farmer’s Markets throughout the Bay Area tends to be grown organically, even if it’s not certified. Local food means I’m getting the freshest of produce; food that has often been picked the same day, most likely increasing the nutrition. My new favorite place to make organic food purchases is SV Local Market – an online Farmer’s Market. At SV Local Market, I’m not burdened with getting to our local Farmer’s Market on Sundays.  Instead, I can order online and pick it up from a neighborhood location on Wednesdays.  It’s convenient, organic, local, and always cheaper than what’s in the organic section of my grocery store. That’s a home-run in my book.

The new Stanford results disputes any significant differences in antioxidant and nutrient levels between organic and conventional food. For me, and organic crusader Michael Pollan, that’s not central to the organic versus conventional debate. Organic farming has a lot more to do with the soil health and the exposure to pesticides for both the consumer of the produce and the farm-worker picking it.  While the study concluded that the pesticide residues in conventional produce are permissible under EPA rules, there’s been many questions of how adequate those rules are – especially for children and pregnant women.

But as Michael Pollan asked, “Did they [Stanford] define significant?” (emphasis mine)

I’m going to continue to buy organic and local foods.  The values that come with local, organic, sustainable farming haven’t faltered with this study.  I’ll continue to support local and environmentally sustainable farms by buying foods at a farmer’s market.  And I’ll continue to know that, despite what Stanford might say, there’s many more benefits to organic foods than merely vitamin content.

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