(UPDATED COVERAGE, Sept. 7) Triggering a spirited response from organic food supporters, Stanford University researchers say there is little scientific evidence that organic foods offer fewer health risks or are more nutritious than conventional food.
“There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” Dena Bravata, senior author of a paper study comparing the nutrition of organic and non-organic foods, said in a news release.
The report won’t likely change the dynamics of organic food demand, one retail analyst said.
“My assessment would be the sort of commitment that organic buyers have to their product is going to be more resilient than a single study and a single news article,” said Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Nielsen Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill.
While some consumers might be inclined to purchase less organic produce, he said most who buy organics seem pretty dedicated and are often motivated by more than pesticide residue concerns.
The news of the report was widely covered and Christine Bushway, executive director of the Brattleboro Vt.-based Organic Trade Association, said there were shifts in how the story was covered.
She said media coverage first focused on the equivalency of nutrition between organic and conventional food, which Bushway said has never been a prime motivation for organic consumers.
Bushway said she doesn’t feel the report’s conclusions will dim demand for organic food.
“I had one editor of a print publication say to me that she felt that this would call attention to the pesticide issue, and the fact that organic food has fewer pesticides,” she said.
Bushway said the study’s conclusions about the safety of conventional and organic food were put in the context of government standards, which are not necessarily the sole factor for organic consumers.
“Our committed consumer is very aware of concerns about pesticides and aware of the President’s Cancer Panel which tells people to lower their risk of cancer by avoiding eating foods with pesticides,” she said.
She said Stanford research confirmed that consumers can minimize exposure to pesticide residues in produce by choosing fruits and vegetables with the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic label.
Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming, said the report substantiated the message that both conventional and organic produce is safe.