The belief that organically grown crops are more nutritious than their conventional counterparts seems to be a given fact, but there seems to be little scientific evidence to back this statement. In 2009, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a report (“Nutritional Quality of Organic Foods: a Systematic Review”) that was prepared by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the University of London. The research team reviewed 162 published studies on the topic from 1958 to 2008 and concluded that organically produced food was nutritionally indistinguishable from conventionally grown counterparts. This is not surprising when nutrition depends on many variables including the variety, maturity at harvest, length of time in storage, handling conditions, weather and climate during the growing season, soil type, and farming practices. Of these seven variables, only the last one involves the organic movement.
Then, there is the subjective issue of flavor, which again, seems to favor organic foods. I recently held a double-blind taste test of organic and conventional delicious apples, bananas, and baby carrots. I, along with about 60 percent of the 15 participants voted for the organic apple. All chose the conventionally grown carrot, which was not surprising because the “best by” date for the organic sample was close at hand while the regular product had been freshly stocked. For the bananas, the unanimous decision was that there was no difference in taste. These results were not surprising given that the same variables that determine nutritional value also apply to flavor.
My suggestion is that the organic grower gets together with his conventional farming neighbor and works out a “best practices regime” to come up with a more agnostic approach to food production that combines high yields with sustainable and safe farming practices.