Is organic food better for us? A growing number of scientific studies suggest that it is. The latest evidence to support this claim is a December 2016 report from the European Parliament, written by scientists at universities across Europe, and one Harvard professor. The team reviewed the existing science on both organic food and agriculture and concluded that an organic food system offers clear health benefits. The report takes an unusually comprehensive look at the full range of possible benefits, from nutrition to absence of toxics. It’s also based on hundreds of studies that include food analyses and epidemiological and laboratory studies.
Their findings are clearest when it comes to minimizing exposure to pesticides and the crisis of antibiotic use in food production. Most striking is the findings suggesting that organic food can help protect children from the brain-altering effects of pesticides. Organic production prohibits the use of antibiotics and harmful pesticides, and therefore greatly reduces pesticide exposure. Examples of toxic pesticides in conventional food include organophosphate which causes harm to the developing brains and IQs of children. The insecticide chlorpyrifos affects the nervous system and can cause structural damage to areas of the brain that control behavior, emotion, language and memory. The report also found that organically grown produce tends to contain less of the toxic metal cadmium which is highly detrimental to the brain and body.
The UN Human Rights Council also released a report, titled “Pesticides are ‘Global Human Rights Concern,’ say UN Experts Urging New Treaty.” The report lauded pesticide-free food and was critical of pesticide manufactures, accusing them of the systemic denial of harms, and aggressive, unethical marketing. The report notes an estimate of 200,000 acute poisoning deaths a year (ninety-nine percent in developing countries), and pesticide dangers for children, pregnant women and brain development, while rejecting the argument that the world needs more pesticides to feed more people.
Elizabeth Grossman, “Can Organic Food Prevent a Public Health Crisis?” Civil Eats, March 8, 2017, http://civileats.com/2017/03/08/can-organic-food-prevent-a-public-health-crisis.
Damian Carrington, “UN Experts Denounce ‘Myth’ Pesticides are Necessary to Feed the World” Guardian, March 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/07/un-experts-denounce-myth-pesticides-are-necessary-to-feed-the-world.
Student Researcher: Guru Kaur Khalsa (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)