Research Shows Little Evidence That Organic Foods Are Healthier

STANFORD, Calif.—Doctors at Stanford University revisited previous research comparing organic and conventionally raised foods and concluded that there is little evidence that organic is healthier.

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, but the amounts measured in conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, researchers reported. And organic foods did not prove more nutritious either.

“I was absolutely surprised,” said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior research affiliate at Stanford and longtime internist who began the analysis because many of her patients asked if it would be healthier to eat organic foods.

Bravata and her team sifted through thousands of studies and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. They include 17 studies of populations consuming organic and conventional diets and 223 that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide content of various products grown organically and conventionally.

Individuals might choose organic over conventional because of taste preferences or environmental concerns, Bravata said, but when it comes to the healthfulness of foods “there isn’t much difference.”

People often mistakenly think organic foods are healthier for them because they are free of pesticides and bacterial contamination, or have greater nutritional value, said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “It is very important that consumers have accurate information about their food choices, regardless of whether they prefer organic or conventionally grown foods.

“This Stanford study is the latest of many to dispel myths about organic and conventional foods,” Banks said. “We’ve known all along that farmers produce healthy food for American consumers, whether it is grown conventionally or organically.”

Organic foods account for 4.2 percent of retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA certifies products as organic if they meet specific requirements, including being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics or hormones.

Consumers can spend more for some organic products, but demand is rising. The sale of organic products grew by 9.5 percent in 2011 and reached $31.5 billion in sales, according to findings from an Organic Trade Association survey.


  1. I buy organic vegetables when I can (or when I can’t grow it on my own)–not because I assume it to be more nutritional, but for environmental concerns. We also prefer the taste of organic meats. Most of the meats I buy are Clarke County raised! Yummy! And then there are all the dove we culled last weekend on the farm. Double yummy!

  2. Roger Pelizzari says:

    That Stanford study that everyone’s quoting was totally fraudulent.

    The study’s co-author, Dr. Ingram Olkin, has a deep history as an “anti-science” propagandist working for Big Tobacco. Stanford University has also been found to have deep financial ties to Cargill, a powerful proponent of genetically engineered foods and an enemy of GMO labeling Proposition 37.

    The following document shows financial ties between Philip Morris and Ingram Olkin

    Olkin worked with Stanford University to develop a “multivariate” statistical algorithm, which is essentially a way to lie with statistics. This research was a key component in Big Tobacco’s use of anti-science to attack whistleblowers and attempt to claim cigarettes are perfectly safe.

  3. ElinorDashwood says:

    Thank you, Roger. I thought as much and planned to do some research and you have done it for me. You can always count on big business to twist things to suit their bank accounts. I buy local produce and meat whether they have the ‘organic’ label or not, I then know that it hasn’t sat in a warehouse or truck for weeks before getting to me. Mainly, I object to big businesses like Cargill and Monsanto monopolizing farming and their attempts to rule over even the small growers.