A new review of previous research on organic food is getting a lot of media attention for concluding that the published literature “lacks strong evidence” that organic food is significantly more nutritious than conventionally grown food. But news reports covering the findings may be oversimplifying or distorting what the study really found, according to our in-house experts, and consumers shouldn’t be misled into believing that there isn’t a benefit to paying more for organics, particularly for certain populations.
The review, conducted by researchers at Stanford University, was a meta-analysis of data from 240 studies comparing organically grown versus conventionally grown food. Seventeen of the studies were done in humans; the rest looked just at the foods themselves. The researchers looked at three main variables: health outcomes, nutrient levels, and levels of contaminants, including pesticide residues. They concluded that “the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” though consuming them “may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
But the study has serious limitations, several of which the authors acknowledge. Among them: