Like politicians, any food that makes promises is bound to face scrutiny. Organics is no exception. This summer the category faced a broadside from several sources stating that organic foodstuffs are no more nutritious than conventionally produced products.
The most recent viewpoints, based on research conducted by the University of Copenhagen, concluded that there were no discernible differences between crops grown organically and those treated with pesticides.
Earlier, the American Council on Science and Health went one step further. The agribusiness-funded group reviewed existing data and found that conventional food is actually 2% more nutritious than organic. That assertion rebutted a study released in March by the Organic Center, a Boulder, Colo.-based organization promoting organic research — which found that organic was, on average, 25% more nutrient dense than the conventional.
What does the ultimate arbiter in U.S. food policy say? Ironically, the government has sounded a consistent theme since national organic standards were first unveiled in March 2000.
“The organic classification is not a judgment about the quality or safety of any product,” intoned then-USDA Secretary Dan Glickman. “Organic is about how it is produced. Just because something is labeled as organic does not mean it is superior, safer or more healthy than conventional food.”
Some experts believe that the battle for nutrition superiority is overshadowing the more immediate issues of sustainability, conservation and ecology — and that’s where more definitive statements can be made about the benefits organics bring to the industry, and in turn, to shoppers. In the Land of the Free, the organic label is about giving consumers a choice.