JEFF COX: Sorry, But Organic Food Really IS More Nutritious…


(October, 2010)
Organic Food Guy
Sonoma County

The conventional food companies still claim that there’s no difference between organic and conventional food regarding nutritional content. The way they put it is: organic food is no better for you than conventional and in fact, could make you sick. They claim that there are absolutely no scientific studies that show organic food to be nutritionally superior.

All of this is, of course, lies. (Yes, lies. It’s one thing to get your facts wrong by mistake, and it’s quite another to get them wrong on purpose. The latter is called lying, and Big Ag has been doing it for decades.) The evidence for organic superiority has been shown over and over again for many years. But now new studies are making it more and more obvious that the old canards against organic food are baseless. To wit:

A multi-disciplinary research team from Washington State University conducted a two-year study that made side-by-side comparisons of 13 conventional and 13 organic strawberry farms in California. The study analyzed 31 chemical and biological soil properties and the taste, nutrition, and quality of berries from each farm. Researchers in the fields of agroecology, soil science, microbial ecology, genetics, pomology, food science, sensory science, and statistics comprised the study team. The findings included:

  • Organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity.
  • Organic strawberries had significantly more vitamin C.
  • Organic strawberries had significantly higher phenolic levels.
  • Organic strawberries showed longer shelf life.
  • Organic strawberries contained more dry matter.
  • Organic soils excelled in carbon sequestration.
  • Organic soils contained more nitrogen in their carbon cycles.
  • Organic soils contained more microbial biomass.
  • Organic soils showed more enzyme activity.
  • Organic soils contained more micronutrients.

The results were published September 1, 2010, in the peer-reviewed online journal, PLoS One. (

Scientists from the USDA’s Beltsville, MD, facility and Rutgers University in New Jersey studied conventional and organic high-bush blueberries. They found that compared with conventional blueberries:

  • Organic blueberries contained significantly higher sugar levels.
  • Organic blueberries had significantly more malic acid.
  • Organic blueberries contained more phenolic compounds.
  • Organic blueberries had significantly more total anthocyanins.
  • Organic blueberries had significantly more antioxidant activity.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 56, pp. 5788-5794 (2008).

Scientists from the University of Florida Department of Horticulture and Washington State University compared 236 organically and conventionally grown foods. They concluded that “organic foods contain, on average, 25 percent higher concentrations of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts. Source:

Scientists at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland analyzed 11 brands of organic soup and compared their levels of salicylic acid—known to help prevent hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer—to brands of conventional soup. They found the average level of salicylic acid in organic vegetable soups was 117 nanograms per gram, compared with 20 nanograms per gram in 24 conventional soups. The highest level (1,040 nanograms per gram) was found in an organic carrot and coriander soup. Four of the conventional soups had no detectable levels of salicylic acid. Source: European Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 40, p. 289.

A professor of chemistry and an undergraduate student team at Truman State University in Missouri found that organic oranges contained 30 percent more vitamin C than conventionally grown oranges, even though the conventional oranges were twice as large as the organic ones. They combined nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and chemical isolation to measure the vitamin C content. Source: Science Daily Magazine, June 2, 2002.

It’s not only what you get in organic food that’s good for you, it’s also what you don’t get:

Researchers at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, tested the urine of two groups of children for the presence of organophosphorus pesticide metabolites. One group ate primarily organic food, the other ate conventional food. The group who ate conventional food had six times the amount of pesticide metabolites as the children who ate primarily organic foods. In an earlier study, one child who ate only organic food had no measurable amount of pesticide metabolite in his urine at all. Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 109, No. 3, pp. 299-303.

To sum up a few other studies:

Reviewing 41 published studies comparing organic and conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains, certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington concluded that organic produce contained, on average, 27 percent more vitamin C, 21.1 percent more iron, 29.3 percent more magnesium, and 13.6 percent more phosphorus.

Swiss researchers found that organic apples are of higher quality than conventional apples in regards to taste scores, sugar-acidity-firmness index, nutritional fiber content, phenolic compounds content (antioxidants), and something they called vitality index than a glass of its conventional counterpart, according to a recent study at Washington State University.

Research at the University of California at Davis showed that beneficial flavonoid content of tomatoes increased over time as farm fields were kept under organic cultivation, compared to conventional fields where flavonoid concentrations stayed the same from year to year. And the amounts of two flavonoids were 79 percent and 97 percent greater in the organic tomatoes.

Another research team at UC Davis found that organic kiwifruit had much higher levels of total polyphenol content (antioxidants) and vitamin C than their conventional counterparts.

A researcher at Newcastle University in England reported higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of fungal toxins in organic milk compared to conventional milk. A three-year study in the United Kingdom found that organic milk contained 68 percent more omega-3 essential fatty acid than conventional milk. A Swiss scientists found that lactating mothers who ate organic had 50 percent more beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in their breast milk than mothers who ate conventional food. An Italian study found that organic pears, peaches, and oranges contain more antioxidants.

The list of studies goes on and on.


One Comment

I’m willing to bet that, for most readers of this column, this is an old, settled issue. The commercial, vested interests have long tarnished any credibility they may once have had through spastic, profit motivated defensive “attacks” on the whole organic modus vivendi (latin “modus vivendi” = life style + economic support of same)