Hugh Pickens writes writes: "NPR reports that although organic fruits and vegetables, grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizer, is a $29 billion industry and still growing, a new study of 200 peer-reviewed studies that examined differences between organic and conventional food finds scant evidence of health benefits from organic foods. “When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” says Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy and co-author of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “I think we were definitely surprised.” Some previous studies have looked at specific organic foods and found that they contain higher levels of important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. For example researchers found in one study that tomatoes raised in the organic plots contained significantly higher levels of certain antioxidant compounds. But this is one study of one vegetable in one field and when the Stanford researchers looked at their broad array of studies, which included lots of different crops in different situations, they found no such broad pattern. Here's the basic reason: When it comes to their nutritional quality, vegetables vary enormously, and that's true whether they are organic or conventional. One carrot in the grocery store, for instance, may have two or three times more beta carotene than its neighbor but that's due to all kinds of things: differences in the genetic makeup of different varieties, the ripeness of the produce when it was picked, even the weather. Variables, like ripeness, have a greater influence on nutrient content, so a lush peach grown with the use of pesticides could easily contain more vitamins than an unripe organic one. So there really are vegetables that are more nutritious than others, but the dividing line between them isn't whether or not they are organic. "You can't use organic as your sole criteria for judging nutritional quality," says researcher Crystal Smith-Spangler."
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