More antioxidants and less pesticides in organic crops

ORGANIC ONIONS

Organic farming aims to preserve soil and ecosystem health by forgoing the heavy use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides [4], so far so good but what does this bring to consumers? Why would consumers pay more for organic food if there was no difference between that one and non-organic food?

Consumers believe that organic food is healthier and more nutritious, presumably due to the absence of pesticides and artificial hormones [4], however, there is not much information regarding these potential health benefits of organically grown food, or, at least, it wasn't much until now.

In a study performed by an international team of experts led by Newcastle University, it has been found that organic crops contain much higher quantities of antioxidants and much lower incidence of pesticide residues [1].

 

THE STUDY


In the study of reference, researchers peer-reviewed 343 publications scrutinizing them for statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops, with the following results:

 

ANTIOXIDANTS


NOTE: The percentages below express difference in the amount of compounds found in organic crops:

ACTIVE CONSTITUENT

PERCENTAGE COMPARE TO NON-ORGANICAL%

Phenolic acids 19%
Flavanones 69%
Stilbenes 28%
Flavones 26%
Flavonols 50%
Anthocyanins 51%

As you can see the amounts and percentages are substantial enough to be taken into consideration.

 

PESTICIDE RESIDUES

If the amounts of beneficial active constituents found in organic crops were quite important, not less important are the high concentrations of not-so-beneficial toxic metals and pesticides found in non-organic crops.

Up to 4 times higher concentrations of toxic metals as Cadmium where found in conventional crops compared to the amounts of those ones found in organic crops[1]. Organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of Cadmium and a lower incidence of pesticide residues [1].

Cadmium is a heavy metal of considerable toxicity with destructive impact on most organ systems, being the main sources of contamination cigarette smoke, welding, and contaminated food and beverages [7].

It is one of the only three metal contaminants along with lead and mercury for which the European Commission has set maximum permitted contamination levels in food, having established in 2001 the maximum levels in a range of foodstuffs as cereals, vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, offals and food supplements.

Not without reason EU Member States have encouraged all EU members to ensure that available mitigation measures for reduction of cadmium levels in food, in particular in cereals, vegetables and potatoes, are progressively implemented by farmers and food business operators.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Barański M1, Srednicka-Tober D1, Volakakis N1, Seal C2, Sanderson R3, Stewart GB1, Benbrook C4, Biavati B5, Markellou E6, Giotis C7, Gromadzka-Ostrowska J8, Rembiałkowska E8, Skwarło-Sońta K9, Tahvonen R10, Janovská D11, Niggli U12, Nicot P13, Leifert C1.
[2] Newcastle University Press Release 
[3] Marcin Barański, Dominika Średnicka-Tober, Nikolaos Volakakis, Chris Seal, Roy Sanderson, Gavin B. Stewart, Charles Benbrook, Bruno Biavati, Emilia Markellou, Charilaos Giotis, Joanna Gromadzka-Ostrowska, Ewa Rembiałkowska, Krystyna Skwarło-Sońta, Raija Tahvonen, Dagmar Janovská, Urs Niggli, Philippe Nicot and Carlo Leifert. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses . British Journal of Nutrition, available on CJO2014. doi:10.1017/S0007114514001366.
[4] Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster Ria Chhabra,1 Santharam Kolli,2,3 and Johannes H. Bauer2,3,* [5] Shepherd R (2011) Societal attitudes to different food production models: biotechnology, GM, organic and extensification. Foresight, Government Office for Science SR12: 1–25
[5] Pixabay image under Public Domain License CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).
[6] Shepherd R (2011) Societal attitudes to different food production models: biotechnology, GM, organic and extensification. Foresight, Government Office for Science SR12: 1–25
[7] Cadmium Toxicity and Treatment Robin A. Bernhoft*