Going Organic

A place to get your questions answered from McDougall staff dietitian, Jeff Novick, MS, RDN.

Moderators: JeffN, Heather McDougall, carolve

Going Organic

Postby Gwen » Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:35 pm

Hey Jeff,
Do you think it's worth it to buy organic foods?
Gwen
User avatar
Gwen
 
Posts: 530
Joined: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:55 pm
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Re: Going Organic

Postby JeffN » Sat Mar 29, 2008 1:24 pm

Gwen wrote:Hey Jeff,
Do you think it's worth it to buy organic foods?
Gwen


Hi Gwen

In general, for most people, I do not think this is the first, or primary thing they have to worry about.

The organic industry has changed dramatically as have the definitions, regulations and guidelines surrounding it. And, the food industry has filled the shelves of stores and health food stores with products that are organic and promoted as such, but are nothing more than highly processed, highly refined junk foods. They are still junk, regardless of whether they are organic or not.

We hear a lot of the "growth" of the organic industry and organic foods, however, the categories that have experienced the highest growth in the organic industry are the areas of meat/fish/poultry first, sauces/condiments second, dairy third and then, packaged/prepared foods and snack foods. Fruits and vegetables have experienced the smallest growth.

For most people, the most important thing they can do is to increase their intake of unrefined unprocessed plant foods, and eliminate all the processed refined junk foods regardless of whether these foods are organic or not.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 8887
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby Quiet Heather » Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:01 pm

Gwen (that's my sister's name, too, love it :) ),
We buy mostly organic food, and it hasn't really cost us more than what we were spending when we were eating meat and dairy and lots of packaged processed foods. We get most of our produce from Door to Door Organics (they deliver here in NY and in some other states and are reasonably priced) and our beans and grains in bulk at the local healthfood store, as well as Ezekiel bread, organic pasta, spices, etc. We do it for our health, but we also do it because it's better for the environment, and we believe in supporting farmers who aren't polluting the earth with all these chemicals. I think if you can afford to buy organic, why not? It can't hurt. :)
[url=http://www.TickerFactory.com/weight-loss/w1MwQ22/]
[img]http://tickers.TickerFactory.com/ezt/t/w1MwQ22/weight.png[/img]
[/url]
User avatar
Quiet Heather
 
Posts: 246
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:01 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Cost of organic

Postby Burgess » Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:16 pm

Quiet Heather wrote:I think if you can afford to buy organic, why not?

I agree, but it is a fact that organic fruit, vegetables, and starches are much more expensive than "conventional." I shop at the least expensive store in my area. It is a Kroeger chain store (Fred Meyer), and it has a "natural foods" section where I can buy some things (like dried fruit) from bins, in bulk. That cuts my costs somewhat.

In the adjacent produce section, the store is gradually switching from conventional to organic. For instance, the only greens now available are organic. So instead of 99 cents per bunch, I am paying $1.80 for a bunch of collards--nearly double the price. A 10 lbs bag of russet potatoes (culls) is $1.80 at my store and $5 at Wholefoods (where they are organic).

So, in general, I would expect to pay 50% to 100% more for organic. For low income people, that is a lot.
Burgess Laughlin, Star McDougaller
My books: http://www.reasonversusmysticism.com
My health weblog: http://anti-itisdiet.blogspot.com
User avatar
Burgess
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Sat Nov 18, 2006 11:20 am
Location: Shelton, Washington

Postby JeffN » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:33 pm

Some "food for thought" on the topic.

1) the original idea and concept 40 years ago, was honorable and run locally by small farmers with high ideals.

2) big business got involved because they saw the growing market amongst aging baby boomers and the potential profits

3) The concept was eventually taken over by the food industry & big business about 5-7 years ago when the national standard was issued and watered down the original ideals.

4) no one in the original movement ever intended it to grow into a movement that had organic twinkies and organic junk food. It was originally only about whole, natural, unprocessed unrefined foods and making healthy food healthier. Not making junk foods appear healthy.

5) the small farmers are basically out because they cant meet the demand of the big distributors like whole foods and wild oats who need consistent product. So, the big farmers are now doing it all. Also, the small organic companies were all bought out by the big food companies (ie kellogs owns kashi)

6) there is no clear cut evidence that it is any healthier for you or more nutritious or safer.. Organic only refers to a growing method. Even the industry itself will admit this. Only the marketers make these questionable claims.

7) if there is any benefit, it is probably an environmental one, but that is not clear yet either.

8 ) the standards have been so watered down that organic doesnt even mean organic anymore.

9) the higher cost "could" be justified if the products were coming from small local farms and/or if there was a proven significant difference benefit. However, since neither one is true, the industry can not really justify its significant higher pricing other than to say it is just capitalizing on a current trend.

10 ) people are spending lots of extra money thinking they are buying health, when in reality, for many people and the products they buy, they are just buying another illusion.

Some articles and studies supporting these points....

The Organic Myth: Pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food
goes mass market
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/co ... han=search

Organic no longer means what it mean years and decades ago. Many chemicals are allowed to be used. You can read the list of "allowable" products right here
http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOP/NOP/standards/ListReg.html

Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex
Michael Pollan / New York Times 13 may 01
http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0603-03.htm

Organic food exposed
Issue 16 of Cosmos, August 2007
by Elizabeth Finkel
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1567


Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2003 Sep;54(5):357-71.
Organic food: nutritious food or food for thought? A
review of the evidence.

Apparently, one of the primary reasons for purchasing organic food is the perception that it is more nutritious than conventional food. Given the increasing interest towards organic food products, it is imperative to review the existing literature concerning the nutritional value of the produce, and to determine to what extent are consumer expectations met. There are only few well-controlled studies that are capable of making a valid comparison and, therefore, compilation of the results is difficult and generalisation of the conclusions should be made with caution. In spite of these limitations, however, some differences can be identified. Although there is little evidence that organic and conventional foods differ in respect to the concentrations of the various micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements), there seems to be a slight trend towards higher ascorbic acid content in organically grown leafy vegetables and potatoes. There is also a trend towards lower protein concentration but of higher quality in some organic vegetables and cereal crops. With respect to the rest of the nutrients and the other food groups, existing evidence is inadequate to allow for valid conclusions. Finally, animal feeding experiments indicate that animal health and reproductive performance are slightly improved when they are organically fed. A similar finding has not yet been identified in humans. Several important directions can be highlighted for future research; it seems, however, that despite any differences, a well-balanced diet can equally improve health regardless of its organic or conventional origin.

PMID: 12907407


Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 Feb;61(1):19-24. Nutritional quality of organic food: shades of grey or shades of green?

Consumer concern regarding possible adverse health effects of foods produced using intensive farming methods has led to considerable interest in the health benefits of organically-produced crops and animal products. There appears to be widespread perception amongst consumers that such methods result in foods of higher nutritional quality. The present review concludes that evidence that can support or refute such perception is not available in the scientific literature. A limited number of studies have compared the nutrient compositions of organically- and conventionally-produced crops, with a very small number of studies that have compared animal products (meat, milk and dairy products) produced under the two agricultural systems. Very few compositional differences have been reported, although there are reasonably consistent findings for higher nitrate and lower vitamin C contents of conventionally-produced
vegetables, particularly leafy vegetables. Data concerning possible impacts on animal and human health of diets comprising organic or conventional produce are extremely sparse. Data from controlled studies in animal models, particularly within single species, are limited or poorly designed, and findings from these studies provide conflicting conclusions. There are no reports in the literature of controlled intervention studies in human subjects. Comparison of health outcomes in populations that habitually consume organically- or conventionally-produced foods are flawed by the large number of confounding factors that might contribute to any differences reported. If consumer perceptions regarding potential health benefits of organic foods are to be supported, more research of better quality is needed than that which is currently available.

PMID: 12002790

Food Addit Contam. 2005 Jun;22(6):514-34. Quality of organically and conventionally grown potatoes: four-year study of micronutrients, metals,
secondary metabolites, enzymic browning and organoleptic properties.

The quality of potatoes from organic and conventional farming was investigated in this study. Tubers of eight potato varieties, organically and conventionally produced at one or two geographical sites in controlled field trials, were collected in four consecutive harvests from 1996-1999. The parameters analysed included nitrate, trace elements (As, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Se, Zn), vitamin C, potato glycoalkaloids, as well as chlorogenic acid, polyphenol oxidase and rate of tuber enzymic browning. The results indicated lower nitrate content and higher vitamin C and chlorogenic acid content to be the parameters most consistently differentiating organically from conventionally produced potatoes. Elevated concentrations of glycoalkaloids were also observed throughout the experiments in some potato varieties grown in organic farming systems. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the analytical and other data using three PCs confirmed a good separation between the organically and conventionally produced potatoes when studied in single crop years. However, score-plots (objects) and loading-plots (variables) of pooled results from the consecutive harvests showed that between the years' changes and also variety as well as geographical variations are equally or more important factors determining the quality of potatoes than the farming system. Further studies of various marker compounds of potato quality related to the organic or conventional farming systems should be performed before unbiased information can be given to the consumers.

PMID: 16019825

J. Agric. Food Chem., 54 (21), 8301 -8306, 2006. Metabolite Profiling of Wheat Grains (Triticumaestivum L.) from Organic and Conventional Agriculture

Abstract
In some European community countries up to 8% of the agricultural area is managed organically. The aim was to obtain a metabolite profile for wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grains grown under comparable organic and conventional conditions. These conditions cannot be found in plant material originating from different farms or from products purchased in supermarkets. Wheat grains from a long-term biodynamic, bioorganic, and conventional farming system from the harvest 2003 from Switzerland were analyzed. The presented data show that using a high throughput GC-MS technique, it was possible to determine relative levels of a set of 52 different metabolites including amino acids, organic acids, sugars, sugar alcohols, sugar phosphates, and nucleotides from wheat grains. Within the metabolites from all field trials, there was at the most a 50% reduction comparing highest and lowest mean values. The statistical analysis of the data shows that the metabolite status of the wheat grain from organic and mineralic farming did not differ in concentrations of 44 metabolites. This result indicates no impact or a small impact of the different farming systems. In consequence, we did not detect extreme differences in metabolite composition and quality of wheat grains.

Scientific Status Summary
Organic Foods
Journal of Food Science
Volume 71 Issue 9 Page R117 -
November/December 2006

Free, full-text access online at:
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/fu ... ookieSet=1

While many studies demonstrate these qualitative differences between organic and conventional foods, it is premature to conclude that either food system is superior to the other with respect to safety or nutritional composition. Pesticide residues, naturally occurring toxins, nitrates, and polyphenolic compounds exert their health risks or benefits on a dose-related basis, and data do not yet exist to ascertain whether the differences in the levels of such chemicals between organic foods and conventional foods are of biological significance.


Commun Agric Appl Biol Sci. 2005;70(3):351-63. Comparison of health status between organic and conventional products.

This paper reports the results of two trials carried out to estimate the hygienic-sanitary status of samples obtained from organic farming in comparison with products obtained from conventional agriculture. In three years of activity were carried out analyses on samples of common or durum wheat and on processing products like. flour, bran, macaroni and bread obtained from biological and conventional method. Also samples of vegetables and fruits were analyzed. The laboratory analysis have been focalized on qualitative and quantitative evaluation of fungal contamination and surveying of pesticide residues level. [b[The great size of collected data has not highlighted substantial differences between the two analyzed typologies. [/b]About pesticide residues levels, generally they proved to be contained under the Italian legal limit, so both these products can be considered healthy under a hygienic-sanitary profile. The trials should be extended also to other cultivations like herbs, fruit-trees and vegetables to improve our knowledge's about qualitative and hygienic differences beyond the two methods of production and defense.

PMID: 16637200
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 8887
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby serenity » Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:10 pm

JeffN wrote:1) the original idea and concept 40 years ago, was honorable and run locally by small farmers with high ideals.

2) big business got involved because they saw the growing market amongst aging baby boomers and the potential profits

3) The concept was eventually taken over by the food industry & big business about 5-7 years ago when the national standard was issued and watered down the original ideals.

4) no one in the original movement ever intended it to grow into a movement that had organic twinkies and organic junk food. It was originally only about whole, natural, unprocessed unrefined foods and making healthy food healthier. Not making junk foods appear healthy.

5) the small farmers are basically out because they cant meet the demand of the big distributors like whole foods and wild oats who need consistent product. So, the big farmers are now doing it all. Also, the small organic companies were all bought out by the big food companies (ie kellogs owns kashi)

6) there is no clear cut evidence that it is any healthier for you or more nutritious or safer.. Organic only refers to a growing method. Even the industry itself will admit this. Only the marketers make these questionable claims.

7) if there is any benefit, it is probably an environmental one, but that is not clear yet either.

8 ) the standards have been so watered down that organic doesnt even mean organic anymore.

9) the higher cost "could" be justified if the products were coming from small local farms and/or if there was a proven significant difference benefit. However, since neither one is true, the industry can not really justify its significant higher pricing other than to say it is just capitalizing on a current trend.

10 ) people are spending lots of extra money thinking they are buying health, when in reality, for many people and the products they buy, they are just buying another illusion.



There is an interesting book called Organic, Inc. that addresses these points. It really opened my eyes. I was glad that I shop at farmers markets, and it convinced me to buy even non-organic produce at farmers markets in preference to some of the organic items offered at places like Whole Foods.
More info for anyone interested:

http://fromartz.com/main.php?sn=sn4&pc=oi8
User avatar
serenity
 
Posts: 1596
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 9:23 pm
Location: So. Calif

Postby JeffN » Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:19 pm

serenity wrote: I was glad that I shop at farmers markets, and it convinced me to buy even non-organic produce at farmers markets in preference to some of the organic items offered at places like Whole Foods.
More info for anyone interested:

http://fromartz.com/main.php?sn=sn4&pc=oi8


Thank you.

I would include that in my points.

11) Buying locally grown produce at local farmers markets (or growing it yourself) is probably the best option available in all regards. Even cities like NY have year round open air markets that feature locally grown produce.

Thanks Again
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 8887
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby slugmom » Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:19 pm

Gwen, thank you for posting this, and Jeff, thank you for your well researched reply.

I sometimes wonder, especially with eating so many more fruits and vegetables now, and with friends on the organic bandwagon, whether or not I am making a mistake to not worry about organic produce. I am saddened (but not surprised) to hear of the changes in the organic industry, but I am relieved to hear that, for most of us, it need not be one of the most important criteria.

:) Thanks!
- Kim

Image
User avatar
slugmom
 
Posts: 1401
Joined: Sun Nov 26, 2006 8:47 pm

"The Omnivore's Dilemna"

Postby yvie » Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:01 am

Michael Pollan has researched the organic market fully in his book, "The Omnivore's dilemna."

I too, would rather buy non-organic food from a local farmer than organic lettuce, for example, from California, and have it trucked in.

Everything is so complicated though, when you try to do the right thing.
I want to spend the last half of my life as healthy and vibrant as possible. Eating well and exercising are instrumental to having a good life. Thanks for the inspiration!
yvie
 
Posts: 381
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2006 4:13 pm
Location: Canada

Re: "The Omnivore's Dilemna"

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:31 am

yvie wrote:Michael Pollan has researched the organic market fully in his book, "The Omnivore's dilemna."


Agreed.

This article was his "expose" in the NY Times before the book came out.

Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex
Michael Pollan / New York Times 13 may 01
http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0603-03.htm

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 8887
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby Gwen » Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:40 am

I'm more concerned with the chemical residues than the nutritional quality.
How much harm can those due?
User avatar
Gwen
 
Posts: 530
Joined: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:55 pm
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:11 am

Gwen wrote:I'm more concerned with the chemical residues than the nutritional quality.
How much harm can those due?


Hi Gwen,

Me too.

The above comments/studies looked at those issues also. Their conclusions were also about "safety."

Remember, in those 7000 studies over many decades of time that were reviewed on diet & cancer, they concluded that eating more fruits & vegetables, (& legumes, intact whole grains) reduced your risk of getting cancer. And all these studies were done on people consuming conventional non organic foods. And the more they consumed, the better. There was no increased risk from eating all that "conventional" produce & the more the better.

There is a "food chain" issue also. The lower you eat on the food chain, the better for you as any potential concern of chemicals is only concentrated as you go up the food chain.

Chemicals are also stored in fat/fat tissues so the lower fat the foods, the better.

Also, we know the incredible benefit of including more produce (fruit, veggies, etc) in reducing the risk/incidence of CVD, DB, HTN, Obesity, Stroke, many Cancers etc, etc.

So, on one hand we know the incredible benefit of including more fruits & veggies. On the other hand we have people who are concerned about the negative effect of these "residues" but this concern does not show up in any of many well done studies.

Clearly, the known proven benefit of eating more fresh fruits & veggies greatly outweighs any potential concern that people have.

Eat more fruits and veggies regardless of whether or not they are organic.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 8887
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby momof4 » Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:12 pm

This has been very informational--thanks to everyone who responded! A friend once noticed that I always had a huge bowl of fresh fruit on my counter, and they seldom ate fruit because organic produce was an hour's drive away--so she wondered if it was better to eat lots of conventionally grown produce, or only eat smaller amounts of organic. I, of course, felt that the conventionally grown was fine.

I really like going to our farmer's market. The only problem is that some of the food isn't local--a friend's son worked hard selling things from their farm, and she said people would bring in produce from the local place that supplied the grocery stores. I got to see cookbook author Deborah Madison, and she also said this is a problem. I think she said it was Chicago that has a farmer's market that requires things to be locally grown, but with other markets, you should check to see where it's actually coming from.

Unfortunately, I think the term "organic" has been one more thing to confuse people. I've heard several people say, when they find out about my diet, that they started "going organic" and didn't notice any changes. They didn't realize that eating a SAD diet of organic foods wasn't any better health-wise than their normal diet, so they were left with the feeling that making dietary changes doesn't matter.
momof4
 

Postby Quiet Heather » Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:28 am

Carroll wrote:If you think what is going on in the corporate food world with organics is bad, what is going on in the corporate food world with not organic is much, much, much worse!!! Sure, it may have issues, it may have problems, it may even be a long way off from the ideal we hope and strive for, however it is a step much, much closer in the direction we NEED to be moving for the sake of all our survival in this world.


I agree. I actually was coming here to post this very sentiment, but I'm glad to see someone beat me to it.

I'm currently reading What to Eat by Marion Nestle (a book that happens to be listed as a good book to read on Jeff's website ;) ) and she agrees that it's still important to buy organic when/if you can. Buying local is good, too. Local and organic is ideal.
[url=http://www.TickerFactory.com/weight-loss/w1MwQ22/]
[img]http://tickers.TickerFactory.com/ezt/t/w1MwQ22/weight.png[/img]
[/url]
User avatar
Quiet Heather
 
Posts: 246
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:01 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Postby JeffN » Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:53 am

Carroll wrote:If you think what is going on in the corporate food world with organics is bad, what is going on in the corporate food world with not organic is much, much, much worse!!! .


It is virtually one and the same. Almost all the organic health food companies are now owned by the major food companies. Kellogs and Kashi are one and the same.

You can see the current status and how this has happened over the last 10 years here.

http://www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicindustry.html

Quiet Heather wrote:I'm currently reading What to Eat by Marion Nestle (a book that happens to be listed as a good book to read on Jeff's website ;) ) and she agrees that it's still important to buy organic when/if you can. Buying local is good, too. Local and organic is ideal.


Thanks for the comments.

I do not dis-agree with them.

My main concern though is

1) not to dissuade anyone from buying organic, but to help them understand what is going on in the industry and do what we can to make pure healthy food availlable, regardless of what it is called. It is the principle that is important. Understand though, that organic food and organic farming is not chemical free. I posted a link to the allowable chemicals.

2) And, to help people understand that the single most important thing they can do is to eat a diet like, the McDougall diet, regardless of whether the food is organic or not. The benefit clearly out weighs any potential concern.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 8887
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Next

Return to Jeff Novick, RD

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests



Welcome!

Sign up to receive our regular articles, recipes, and news about upcoming events.