Is organic food healthier? In terms of promoting organic agriculture as environmentally sustainable agriculture, it is. But there is no conclusive evidence that organically grown foods are more nutritious or concentrated in nutrients than conventionally grown foods, except perhaps vitamin C, zinc and iron which may be higher in organically grown leafy vegetables and potatoes. One study comparing organically grown vs. conventionally grown berries and corn showed statistically greater amounts of polyphenols (phytonutrients with antioxidant capabilities, that help prevent cardiovascular disease) in the organically grown produce compared to that conventionally grown. With organic methods, the nitrogen present in composted soil is released slowly and therefore plants grow at a normal rate, with their nutrients in balance. Vegetables fertilized with conventional fertilizers grow very rapidly and allocate less energy to develop nutrients. Nutrient values in produce peak at prime ripeness, just after harvest. As a general rule, the less produce has to travel, the fresher and more nutrient-rich it remains. Buy local whenever possible. Local food only has to travel a few miles—rather than hundreds—which means it will be fresher, have more flavor, and have less of a carbon footprint.
Fruits and vegetables are grown without conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. The land on which organic crops are grown is required to be pesticide and herbicide free for 3 years before a crop is harvested. In addition, bioengineering or genetic modification or ionizing radiation cannot be used in the production of the food. But organic standards allow for the use of organic pesticides, some of which may be just as dangerous as synthetic ones.
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