Meta-study finds organic food not healthier

A new study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine surveyed 162 scientific papers from the last 50 years and found no systematic evidence that organic food is healthier than ordinary food.
"A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance," said Alan Dangour, one of the report's authors.

"Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority."
This will likely produce a fair amount of noise back and forth - views on either side of the organic food debate are seldom lightly held - and I suspect it will not be the last word. Nutrition aside, though, it is worth remembering that organic food production is generally better for the environment (although not always; I've heard for example that using copper as a "natural" pesticide in Switzerland has led to heavy-metal contamination of the soil). So even if organic food is no healthier, it may be "cheaper" than ordinary food if the long-run negative externalities of industrial agricultural production were priced in. Michael Pollan certainly thinks so.

Update: The critical responses begin to roll in... here's Parke Wilde at U.S. Food Policy:
It seems to me the new UK literature review was not sufficiently powered to detect the small advantages of organic that one might realistically expect. For example, unless there is an error (in tabulation or in my reading), it shows a 10% advantage of organic over conventional in zinc, but the result was not statistically significant (for example, because the sample size was not large enough). The authors say this shows organic is no better than conventional. But, nobody ever expected a greater than 10% advantage for organic anyway. Really, the new results are essentially consistent with the older research.
Nevertheless, he agrees that the environmental differences are larger than the nutritional ones, and concludes:
I leave this fuss in the same place I started. There are probably modest nutrient advantages from organic production.

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