Starving Dietitian

Devils Advocate: Organic v. Conventional


I don’t intend to argue one side over the other, change your viewpoint on God, or have you question your lifestyle choices.

What I do want, in the never ending search for rationality, is to provide a few of the lesser known arguments.

I am going to be upfront and state that most of these statements were paraphrased from here, a 2003 research review titled “Putting the Safety of Organic Food in Perspective

The term “Devils Advocate” was originally coined by the Catholic Church for an attorney to represent the accused. Literally, to be an advocate for the sinner.  In this case, the “devil” will represent conventionally grown crops. Fitting since people seem to believe that food as “God intended” is inherently healthier. We will see.

1. Pesticides

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Supporters of Organic will immediately reference the danger of pesticides in Conventional crops. And for good reason, “without proper control, some residues can create potential health risks“. Some evidence even suggests that years of exposure could raise cancer risk.

Organic foods grown and processed properly, however, are not necessarily free from pesticides and synthetic chemicals of conventional farming.

Why you ask? Well it turns out that when you start growing crops on soil that spent years being sprayed, it tends to pick up the same residues, albeit in lower concentrations. Farms are required to wait 2-3 years before planting Organic on Conventional fields, but this is likely too little time. “…no difference (in pesticide residue) could be identified in some studies“.

2. Pollutants

Soil polluted by hazardous waste is a serious concern and may in fact pose serious health risks. Think Organic can save us? Think again, “Most studies indicate similar levels of these pollutants in both organic and conventional foods.

Well, shucks. There’s a lot of back and forth in this topic due to so many factors. Just know it’s a mixed bag.

3. Natural Toxins

Not to insult the Raw Food Movement, but when did plants ask to get eaten?


That sounds strange I realize, but aside from a handful of fruits, it’s generally not advantageous for plants to have their leaves, roots, and stems gnawed to bits. For those unaware this kills the plant. It is this very reason plants have chemical defenses called phytotoxins. Nicotine itself, known for its carcinogenic effects, is a natural neurotoxin created by the Tobacco plant to deter insects and other herbivores. It is “natural” though, and so remains approved as an organic pesticide until 2014.

You might want to sit down for this.

Of those (phytotoxins) studied, almost half have shown carcinogenic action in rodents.

Take a breath.

…the daily average consumption of natural pesticides exceeds that of synthetic by almost 10,000 times.

Although studies have yet to compare Organic vs. Conventional phytotoxins, there is data showing that increased predation by bugs, rodents, etc. increases levels. Assuming conventional is more equipped to deter these stressors we can guess that conventional crops also have lower levels of natural toxins.

Now relax. 

This is far from the complete picture and the article  is much more detailed than I’ve just given. Next week I’ll explain what this predicament means and what we should do about it.

Until then, question everything, stay educated, and be good to each other.

-J. Iufer

One comment

  1. Pingback: Angels Response: Organic v. Conventional | The Starving Dietitian

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