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Confused about organic food?

October 4, 2012

Early last month, researchers from Stanford University published a study that concluded organic fruits and vegetables have no significant nutritional advantage over conventionally grown food. News headlines ranged from USA Today’s “Study sees no nutritional edge in organic food” all the way to one online blogger’s “Study: Organic Food is Just a Crock” from the Daily Caller. Right away, people took sides, rejecting or applauding the study’s conclusion.

So where does this study leave the 76 percent of organic eaters who say they buy organic because they believe it’s healthier? Will they give up eating organic food? Not likely and here’s why. While an organic label does not promise fresher food and perhaps not even more nutritious food (something people will continue to argue about), it does promise organic eaters reduced traces of chemicals in their food and fewer toxins to end up in their bodies.

Very simply, organic is a certification process that allows farmers, who follow specific agricultural practices, to label and sell their products as organic. Established by the USDA and regulated by accrediting agencies, these standards are all about avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMO). Basically, an organic label is a seal-of-approval consumers rely on.

By eschewing poisons that kill both unwanted pests and beneficial organisms alike—from microscopic creatures to earthworms—the organic farmer depends on compost and other natural materials to enrich the soil and feed his or her crops. Organic practices build and help conserve soil that’s alive and full of nutrients for growing healthy and nutritious plants in a process that’s friendlier to both people and the environment. (It is worth noting that there are many farmers—particularly those operating small-scale, family farms—who grow their produce following organic principles but for various reasons do not take the extra step of seeking organic certification.)