Organic or conventional?

The rising popularity of organic food has been fueled by the perception that it is healthier, and that it has greater nutritional value and fewer toxic chemicals than  conventionally grown food. Raising controversy by refuting this widespread notion, a highly publicized Stanford University study has recently stated that organic food is not actually more nutritious, but many supporters still stand by the growing organic industry.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic products “have been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

The Stanford study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, was a systematic review of 237 studies of organic produce compared with conventionally grown food.

Although the study concluded that organic food is not considerably more nutritious than regular food, the study did show that organic produce has a lower level of pesticide residue than conventional produce.

The abstract states that the study was “heterogeneous,” “limited in number,” and that “publication bias may be present.”

Consequently, the limitations of the study have led organic food supporters to question the results.

“Personally, I do believe that there are benefits from eating food that is not treated with pesticides or herbicides,” said Westwood nutritionist Martha Pájaro.

According to Pájaro, the results of the study were inconclusive.

“The body of evidence is small; it only shows seventeen studies with humans, and the longest one lasted two years,” said Pájaro. “It is irresponsible to insinuate that there are not benefits from eating organic food after reading the study. It will require years of study and observation to really understand the properties of organic products.”

For Zhenia Kechina, president of Club Grow at Santa Monica College, the decision of buying organic is a matter of being healthy.

“People need to pick their food very carefully; food for less does not work,” said Kechina. “If more individuals will stop to think where the food they are eating comes from—how the cows have been slaughtered or the greens have been grown—they will stop chasing cheap food.”

Kechina said that people should plan their budgets carefully so that they may be able to include healthier options in their diets.

For other students, like SMC business major Roman Klein, the price tag makes a difference.

“The price difference is too big,” said Klein. “Why should I spend more for the same product?”

Beyond the economic and health issues, organic food represents a better choice for the environment for students like SMC dance major Megan Wood.

“The amount of chemicals released into the atmosphere is a factor that should be considered when individuals purchase food,” said Wood. “Everything is connected, and we keep sending this trash back to the soil and destroying the planet.”

Juan Garcia, a farmer who sells his organic products each week at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, assures that the quality and the taste of organic food makes the difference.

“The hormones and the chemicals will never be as good as the food that grows naturally,” said Garcia.