Does Organic Really Make a Difference?

On the left, bright orange Napa carrots are bundled together by their leafy green stems. Grown organi­cally, picked right from a farm in Howell, New Jersey and brought to the local grocery store to be sold.

On the right, carrots are trimmed and cleaned before they reach the buyer. These carrots were sprayed with sulfur dioxide to keep bugs away. They are neatly packaged in a plastic bag and ready to be con­sumed.

Megan Gray, an Ocean Grove resident and health enthusiast, is un­sure of which carrots to buy.

According to the USDA Consum­er Brochure, “Organic food is pro­duced without using most conven­tional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”

There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not buying organic food makes a difference when it comes to health. Researchers have conducted studies claiming that conventional foods are detrimental to health and vise versa.

Chemistry professor Merrily Er­vin believes Gray should go with the carrots on the right. She said, “From the studies I have seen, there might be slightly less pesticide residue on organic than there is on regular (produce). But both of them are well below the established limits set by the FDA, so as far as I know, with respect to safety, there is no differ­ence with organic and conventional foods.”

Ervin has her doctorate in food science and teaches chemistry, med­ical technology, and physics here at the University.

A recent study conducted by faculty at Stanford University con­cluded that there is little to no evi­dence in the thought that organic food is healthier than conventional food. The studies were carried out on subjects between two days and two years, no long-term effects were measured.

The researchers did find, how­ever, that there was lower pesticide residue in the urine of children who consumed organic foods. Also, that organic chicken and pork reduced exposure to antibiotic-resistance bacteria, but they listed the clinical significance to both situations as “unclear.”

An article published in Environ­mental Health Magazine, states that pesticides in foods threaten to give women cancer and make men ster­ile. David Steinman, author of the article “Gender-Bending Foods,” makes the claim that the consump­tion of pesticide-ridden food has a great risk of lowering male sperm count while increasing the risk of breast cancer in women. Steinman is an environmentalist and health advocate who has published many books on both topics.

Steinman believes Gray should pick the organic carrots. He said that pesticides contain many chemicals that are nicknamed “gender bend­ers” because they function like es­trogen when they are ingested in the body. He explains that studies have shown that when male animals are exposed to unnatural amounts of estrogen, their biological traits are distorted.

The article by Steinman cites a timeline of examples which support the notion that pesticides alter hor­mone levels in both humans and ani­mals. The researchers of the studies concluded that the high levels of pesticides correlated with a higher risk of cancer in the patient.

Junior Laina DiMento said that she believes buying organic is better than buying conventional food.

“It is better to know where your food is coming from and to know nothing mysterious is in it,” said Di­Mento. “It’s like that pink slime fias­co that happened last year. You don’t know what’s in food these days so it’s probably better to go natural.”

Gray purchases the organic car­rots. “Organic is important be­cause it isn’t just a certification and shouldn’t be treated just as that. Or­ganic is how produce and animals have been grown and raised since the beginning. Altering food with chemicals and hormones is new and not the way to help us be healthy now or in the future.”