Eating organic has long been touted as the way to avoid pesticide consumption — but one Harvard professor is saying those claims are bogus.
Robert Paarlberg, an associate professor in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Sustainability Science Program, has said that eating organic produce isn’t necessarily better.
Paarlberg told the Harvard Gazette that “there is no reliable evidence showing that organically grown foods are more nutritious or safer to eat,” citing studies that showed negligible differences between pesticide-sprayed food and organic produce.
He referenced a 2012 Stanford University study that found “no convincing differences between organic and conventional foods in nutrient content or health benefit.”
“Organic” refers to the way farmers grow or process food, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains, and must meet the US Department of Agriculture’s organic guidelines, according to Mayo Clinic.
While pesticides are used to ward off harvest-hungry vermin and insects, there have been concerns raised over the chemicals’ toxicity to humans and the effects on hormones or the nervous system.
Foods like strawberries have topped the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, alongside spinach, grapes, apples, peaches and celery, according to the 2022 round-up.
While some studies have claimed organic foods could yield health benefits, the Environmental Protection Agency assures consumers that the amount of pesticides ingested is “too small to pose a risk.”
Paarlberg pointed to the USDA’s 2021 annual summary of data regarding pesticides, which reported that, out of more than 10,000 samples tested, over 99% contained pesticide residues that fell below the EPA’s standards.
Although it may seem “better” for public health and the environment to eat organic — especially due to the increased cost of organic food — Paarlberg said such “intuitive thinking” could lead consumers astray.
“If we follow the science, organic food loses its apparent advantage,” he said.
And Paarlberg isn’t the only expert who has apparently debunked “organic” labeling.
Dr. Donald Hensrud, an associate professor of medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic, echoed Paarlberg’s sentiments.
“It’s a good idea to wash fruits, vegetables [of pesticides] before eating, obviously, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of adverse health effects [if pesticides are consumed],” he previously told The Post, noting that non-organic produce presents a larger threat to the Earth than to our health.
“The bottom line is that people should eat more plant products, fruits, vegetables — whether it’s organic or not.”