While many of us have forked over a little extra money to buy organic when summer cherries looked extra succulent, and others of us are devoted to farmers markets, where pesticide-free, field-fresh fruits and veggies abound, the jury has been out on whether organic foods are more nutritious than run-of-the-mill produce.
Scientists have long sparred over the differences between organic produce and conventionally grown crops, resulting in numerous studies on the topic. On Monday, the British Journal of Nutrition published research that reviewed 343 studies on the topic and found that "organic crops and organic-crop-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants on average than conventionally grown foods," the Los Angeles Times reports.
The hypothesis for why that is can be summed up thus: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, when it comes to growing food. Scientists think organic plants may be producing more antioxidants and natural toxins to fight insects and other environmental threats that pesticides are usually used to abate.
For crops to be labeled "organic" in the U.S., farmers can't use synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, or chemical fertilizers.
The scientists who published the journal study went beyond comparing what's in the produce to noting what's on it. Researchers found that non-organic fruits and vegetables also had more pesticide residues, and the toxic metal cadmium was present on foods. That doesn't mean organic fruits and vegetables are always pesticide-free—about 25 percent of those crops have pesticide residues because of drifting soil, tainted irrigation waters, or contamination during packaging.
Of course, such discussion doesn't matter much if Americans aren't eating enough produce.
"Buying organic is the surest way of limiting exposure if you have health issues, but by all means, people need to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables whether it's organic or conventional," study coauthor Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University, told the Times.
In other news...
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- Gaza Strikes: An Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian authorities has failed, resulting in continued air strikes and missile strikes by both parties. Israelis say they accepted the cease-fire but resumed attacks after being attacked, but Palestinians say they never agreed to the truce. (via The New York Times)
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- Iran Nuke Talks: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says there are "very real gaps" between American goals and Tehran's stance on its atomic program, ahead of a July 20 target date for a deal. (via The Associated Press)
- Pope Prays for U.S.-Mexico Border: Pope Francis is calling for better treatment of tens of thousands of Central Americans who have crossed the border, particularly vulnerable children caught in the political controversy. (via Mic)
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