Is the organic produce more nutritious?
By Paz Etcheverry, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

I don’t know about you, but when I go to my local supermarket I am always faced with an inscrutable dilemma: should I buy the conventional avocados or the organic ones? This is quite troublesome, especially when I am out there purchasing the ingredients for my weekly taco nights.

According to The New York Times, about 30 percent of Americans (i.e., over 90 million people) buy organic fruits and vegetables.1 In the United States and Europe, consumption of organic products has grown at an annual rate of 20–30% and 30–50%, respectively.2 In general, consumer demand stems from a growing concern about eating foods with the fewest possible additives that are produced in an environmentally friendly way with ethical and political considerations for the welfare of animals. In the United States, organic foods are perceived to be safer, healthier, and of greater nutritional and sensory qualities than conventional foods.2 The question that I ask myself is the following: is the nutritional quality of organic food higher than that of conventional foods? Should I just get the conventional avocados or pay a little bit more for the organically grown ones?

What are the differences between organic and conventional type farming?

“Organic” is a labeling term that designates products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The OFPA was established in 1990 by U.S. Congress to come up with uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.”3 According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, organic food is that grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.4 However, pesticides derived from natural sources (such as biological pesticides or biopesticides) are allowed4; in fact, over 195 biopesticides exist.5 Organic farming is thus considered “eco-friendly.” Certain methods that are practiced during organic farming and not during conventional farming include crop rotation, protection of crops to protect against soil erosion, the use of special crops known as “green manures” to enrich the soil, and the addition of aged animal manures and plant wastes, also known as compost, to the soil.4 On the other hand, during conventional farming chemical fertilizers, which contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, are used. These differences result in variations in soil fertility, affecting soil dynamics and plant metabolism, and possibly plant composition and nutritional quality...6

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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