Organic or Conventional?

What is the difference between organic and conventional and should you care?

According to Wikipedia, “Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials.

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972.  IFOAM defines the overarching goal of organic farming as:

‘Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people.  It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved…’  —International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

Organic farming (of many particular kinds) was the original type of agriculture, and has been practiced for thousands of years.”

OK, but is organic better?  We think most people would probably agree that avoiding the use of “manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials,” sure sounds better for us and our health.  But, is the nutritional content of organically produced food superior to conventional products?

A new study from the University of Barcelona in Spain took an in depth look at tomatoes and found that the organic variety contained higher levels of phenolic compounds than conventional tomatoes.  Great, but does that make them better?  Phenolic compounds or polyphenols are organic molecules found in many vegetables with proven human health benefits.  Polyphenols are natural antioxidants of plant origin and are of particular nutritional interest because consumption is associated with reduced risk of several diseases and some forms of cancer.

The researchers analyzed a variety of tomato to determine its polyphenol content using several sophisticated methods and were able to identify 34 different phenolic compounds. According to the UB’s Natural Antioxidant Group, headed by lecturer Rosa M. Lamuela, “the benefit of taking polyphenols through foods is that they contain a wide variety of such molecules, which are increased.”  They contain many beneficial compounds.

This observation supports our position that consuming whole foods would be more beneficial to health than the intake of supplements because of both known and as yet unknown compounds that most likely act synergistically. Tomatoes also contain lycopene other carotenoids, and vitamin C and are just one example.

The more of these compounds we get from natural food sources and the less we get of pesticides and hormones the better.  Due to the differences in organic farming, plants seem to respond by activating mechanisms which increase the levels of all antioxidants.  So if organic can deliver more nutrition per serving and less toxins, a small price premium may well be worth it.  Once again, health is about all about quality, not quantity.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120703120630.htm

 

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