Genetically Engineered Plants and Foods: A Scientist's Analysis of the Issues (Part I) Annual Review of Plant Biology Vol. 59: 771-812 (Volume publication date June 2008) First published online as a Review in Advance on February 19, 2008 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.58.032806.103840 Peggy G. Lemaux Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720; email: email@example.com
3.16. Are Organic Foods Healthier or Safer? Organic farming is a method of agricultural production that does not allow the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or growth enhancers. Foods grown under organic certification differ from conventionally produced food by the manner in which they are grown, handled, and processed, but an “organic” label does not guarantee the nature of the product, the food, or ingredient, only its production method. The important factors for many people who consume organic foods relate to the perceptions that they are healthier, taste better, are better for the environment, have lower pesticide levels and fewer food additives, and are better for animal welfare (214). However, organic certification does not imply that foods produced using organic methods are more nutritious or safer than those produced without organic methods (195). A 2007 review by the British Nutrition Foundation stated, “There appears to be a perception among many consumers that organic foods are more nutritious and therefore healthier than conventionally produced foods. HOWEVER, TO DATE THERE ARE LIMITED DATA TO SUPPORT THIS VIEW (emphasis added)(248). This perception has led in part to increases in the world market for certified organic foods to $34 billion in 2005 (111).
...A 2007 poll showed that 57% of polled consumers strongly believed that science had proven that organic food was healthier than conventional (182, figure 17). Because of the paucity of scientific data, the UK Food Standards Agency decided in October 2007 to seek a contractor who will evaluate relevant studies and compare the nutrient and non-nutrient content of organic and conventional foods to determine if any compositional differences have nutritional or other health effects in the context of the complete diet (86). In general, only a small number of peer-reviewed studies exist that analyze nutritional differences between foods produced conventionally and organically. Although statistically significant differences have been observed for a limited number of metabolites for a few foods grown under differing environmental conditions using conventional and organic production systems, more research is required to determine if any of these differences have actual health-promoting effects. Some examples of such studies follow.