An international team of researchers, including the renowned Charles Benbrook at Washington State University, reviewed 343 peer-reviewed studies comparing organic with conventional produce. Their conclusions?
- Organic food is more nutritious, especially in antioxidant polyphenols that have been linked to lowering the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancer.
- Organic produce is safer. Conventionally grown crops were 4 times more likely to contain pesticide residues and, in addition,they had significantly higher concentrations of the toxic heavy metal cadmium.
When interviewed, Benbrook noted that the quality and reliability of comparison studies has greatly improved in recent years leading to the discovery of significant nutritional and food safety differences not detected in earlier studies.
In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported finding pesticides in every one of the 9,000+ Americans they tested. The average person had 13 pesticides in their bodies often in amounts dramatically exceeding “acceptable” levels.
Many pesticides are endocrine disruptors, associated with problems with fertility and fetal development, thyroid disease, and hormone-related cancers. Other pesticides are carcinogens and have been linked with weakened immunity and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.
Phosphate fertilizers and sewage sludge used in conventional agriculture are highly contaminated with cadmium. This toxic heavy metal then gets absorbed into the foods we eat and makes its way into our water system. Tobacco plants absorb lots of cadmium; tobacco and tobacco smoke is another major source of environmental cadmium pollution.
Cadmium bioaccumulates in our bodies over time, and studies have found that, in amounts found in the average person, cadmium is an endocrine disruptor which has estrogenic effects. In women, this can lead to premature puberty, weight gain, and breast abnormalities and cancer; in men, prostate cancer. Cadmium, again at levels commonly found, has also been linked to decreased bone density and kidney damage.
To be healthy, we need to maximize nutrition and minimize exposure to toxins; choosing organic food helps with both. Although food accounts for 90% of human exposure to cadmium, both pesticides and cadmium get into public water, so a good home water treatment system is also advisable. Vitamin C and zinc help to flush cadmium from your body; and taking regular saunas helps to eliminate both stored pesticides and bioaccumulated cadmium.
- Baranski M. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown copes: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition. September 2014;112(5):794-811.
- Sorensen E. Major study documents benefits of organic farming. Washington State University Press Release, July 11, 2014
- Schafer KS. Executive Summary, Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in our bodies and corporate accountability. Pesticide Action Network of North American, May 2004.
- Johnson MD. Cadmium mimics the in vivo effects of estrogen in the uterus and mammary gland. Nature Medicine. July 2003;9:1081-1074.
- Jarup L. Low level exposure to cadmium and early kidney damage: the OSCAR Study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. October 2000;57(10):668-672.
- Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program. The Facts on Cadmium. Updated November 18, 2010.