Is Organic Really Healthier? - WTNZ FOX 43 Knoxville, TN

Is Organic Really Healthier?

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If it says organic, then it must be better for you, right?

Liliya Uga and Jessica Shelby believe so. 

"It's more nutritious, it has less chemicals, it doesn't have GMO, I feel better when I eat it," said Uga.

"I think you probably have more nutritional value in organic veggies than if you opt to get the veggies that are grown differently," Shelby added.

However, a new study from Stanford University questions the health advantages of organic products over their counterparts. They evaluated 5,000 articles and more than 200 studies. They found no specific foods or fruits that had any significant difference between organic and conventional.

We asked the University of Georgia cooperative extension about the study.

"There really is no scientific evidence today that buying organic is better for you," said JoAnne Cavis, county extension coordinator and family and consumer sciences agent for Muscogee County, Ga.

That doesn't mean you should jump off the organic bandwagon, though.

The study did find organic produce is 30 percent less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than conventional fruits and vegetables, but found both to be safe for consumption.

Lyndee Daffin is a regular at the market in downtown Columbus, where farmers from the area bring their organic fruits and vegetables to sell. She buys organic because there are fewer chemicals.

"When you spray them on the fields, the plants and water it goes to the roots of the plants and it is there," said Daffin.

Chris Jackson is one of those farmers at the market. His farm in Harris County, Ga. uses organic methods like natural fertilizers, rotating crops and using their hands to plant, weed and harvest. For him, the study's scope was too limited.

"It was showing a range of two days to two years and some of these chemical exposures don't show up for decades," Jackson said.

Researchers acknowledge no study that looks at the health benefits of organic food has exceeded two years, too short a time to gauge the impact they could make over a lifetime.

Another positive for eating organic: The same study found organic milk and chicken have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids associated with better health.

Beth Bussey, a registered dietician, says better health is key, and the best way is to eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or not.

"The message is not to let concerns about organics get in the way of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables," Bussey said. "You're going to have more disease prevention overall."

The organic food business has grown tremendously over the last 20 years and is worth nearly $30 billion. The research organization the Organic Center criticized the findings, saying the study does not define empirically what it means by a food being "significantly more nutritious." It was also pointed out by the study's own admission organic foods "may reduce exposure to pesticides and resistance to antibiotics."

"To me, it's just common sense if you have the option of ingesting food that was grown with pesticides or without, it's probably a better bet to go without," Jackson said.

While the jury may still be out on whether organic is better for you, what everyone seems to agree on is more research is needed to fully understand the health and safety differences between organic and conventional foods.

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