Misconception Number 2: There is no consistent evidence of a nutritional difference between organic and non-organic food.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
|- Organic produce has been demonstrated to have lower levels of pesticides, veterinary drug residues, and nitrate content.|
- Organic plant-based food products generally contain higher amounts of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial substances.
- Organically processed products do not contain hydrogenated fats and other additives whose negative health impacts are widely acknowledged.
Details of Counter-Arguments:
Recent studies, as well as a
large body of literature, clearly show a positive effect of organic
production on the nutritional value of food products.  Existing studies show that organic foods generally contain lower levels of
nitrates, antibiotics (for animal products), and pesticide residues (for
crop products) and contain more minerals and vitamins and a more balanced
protein profile. Organic foods have also been found to be as safe as
conventional products when it comes to heavy metals and pathogenic microorganism.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
recognized that “it has been
demonstrated that organically produced foods have lower levels of
pesticides and veterinary drug residues and, in many cases, lower nitrate
is also consistent evidence that in
general organic plant-based
foods contain a higher amount of beneficial, health-promoting secondary
plant compounds than non organic plant-based foods. These are
phytochemicals produced by the plants, such as vitamins. For example,
phenolic compounds are anti-oxidants for the plant, but also for the human
body. Carotenoids (found in yellow, orange, and red plants) are another
example of anti-oxidants that are associated with reduced risk of
cardiovascular disease and of certain cancers. Studies that have compared
phytochemical levels of organic and conventional foods  have shown a higher content of phytochemicals in organic than in
non-organic food. A recently completed, European Union-funded, four-year
study found that organic fruits and vegetables contained as much as 40
percent more antioxidants and had higher levels of beneficial minerals,
such as iron and zinc. Levels of antioxidants in milk from organic herds
were up to 90 percent higher than in milk from conventional herds.
Professor Carlo Leifert, the project coordinator, said the differences
were so marked that organic produce would help to increase the nutrient
intake of people not eating the recommended five portions a day of fruits
and vegetables.  Concerning the protein content, according to available studies, organic
grains seem to have slightly lower protein content, but do contain a more
balanced profile in terms of essential amino acids. 
The nutritional differences discussed above can be attributed to
several factors. First, crops under
organic production are less “pushed” or “forced” than in conventional
agriculture, which means that their growth is generally slower, resulting
in higher quality since the organisms have enough time to synthesize
their vital components. A recently completed, long term study  provided evidence of the nutrient “dilution effect” triggered by high
levels of nitrogen and rapid plant growth, especially in the absence of
pest pressure. Tomatoes grown on fields that have been organically managed
for several years exhibit much higher flavonoid concentrations than their
conventional counterparts. This also applies for animal products. In
certain countries (such as US) animals’ growth under conventional farming
can be hastened through inclusion of hormones in animal feed. The effect
of these hormones is known to increase the weight of meat produced per
calorie of food ingested, primarily through the retention of water in the flesh;
therefore, the producer can earn more money because price is based on weight,
not calories. For example, if the farmer produces meat that weighs 15
percent more (as a result of water retention due to hormone use) then the
farmer can earn 15 percent more for that meat, even though it is water
weight. The consumer ends up paying for water, rather than nutrients! The
nutritional differences are also linked to the fact that plants under
organic management more fully engage their innate defense mechanisms due
to higher levels of pest pressure and, in doing so, they produce a vast
array of secondary plant compounds. Another possible reason why organic
food products tend to have a higher nutritional content could be that many
organic farmers select crop varieties or animal breeds not only based on
their yield attributes, but also according to their resistance to disease
and pests and adaptation to the local conditions. These ancient or local
varieties may have a higher nutrient content than high yielding, modern
In summary, there are
many factors, other than the organic status, that affect nutritional quality,
including crop variety, time of harvest, post-harvest handling, and even soil
type and climate, but overall, organic
food is of better nutritional quality and healthier than conventional food.
In addition to the nutritional benefits of organic food, studies have shown
that the sensory quality or “enjoyment” of organic food products is higher than
for conventional products. This applies to “raw materials” such as fruits and
vegetables, but not necessarily to processed products in which many more
factors affect the taste than the original composition of the products.
When it comes to processed food,
organic products also have clear health advantages. Conventional processed
foods contain a range of artificial additives, for which negative health
impacts have been clearly demonstrated. Some of the commonly used
additives would even be legally banned by several states by now if it were
not for the successful lobbying efforts of the food industry. Hydrogenated
fats (also known as trans-fats) are the most striking example. These fats
are created artificially by a hydrogenation process and are included in
many conventional processed foods to make the products more solid and
shelf-stable. Consumption of trans-fats has been directly linked to
substantially increased rates of heart disease, cancer, and skin disease.
Monosodium glutamate, which is added to thousands of food products and
referred to by dozen different innocent-sounding ingredient names,
disturbs the endocrine system function and is thought to be responsible
for the 'Chinese restaurant syndrome' which can involve dizziness,
headaches, and perspiration and may also cause asthma attacks. Aspartame,
the most widely-used, artificial sweetener in the world has been strongly
linked to migraines, seizures, blurred vision, and many other nervous
system problems. These and other harmful additives are forbidden in
organic foods. Therefore, choosing organic products helps consumers avoid
a wide range and large quantity of harmful additives. Organic food is not
a luxury; it is how food is supposed to be.
 See for instance K Woese, D Lange, C Boess, KW Bogl, A comparison of organically and conventionally grown foods: results of a review of the relevant literature, Journal of Science, Food and Agriculture, 74, 281-293, 1997. This study reviewed 150 research projects comparing organic and non-organic food, and concludes that organic foods have a trend towards fewer undesirable components or contaminants and higher desirable components (such as vitamins) compared to non-organic foods.
 United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, Food Safety and Quality as Affected by Organic Farming, Report of the 22nd regional conference for Europe, Portugal, 24-28 July 2000.
 See, for example, Magkos, F (2003), Caronaro, M et al. (2001 and 2002), Tinttunen, S and Lehtonen, P (2001), Tarozzi, A (2006), Young, JE (2005), Veberic et al (2005), Asami et al. (2003) and Caris Veyrat, C et al. (2004).
for Afssa (Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments) (2003): Evaluation nutritionnelle et sanitaire des aliments issus de l’agriculture biologique, http://www.afssa.fr
 “Ten-Year Comparison of the Influences of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes”; Alyson E. Mitchell et al, published in the Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry, June 2007.