Organic farming offers some nutritional advantages — but these benefits are limited. Here’s a science review

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Credit: Elena Elisseeva
Credit: Elena Elisseeva

Stimulated by the distribution trade and various favorable promotional messages, the demand for organic food continues to grow steadily, despite a recent downturn for certain products. According to a survey by Agence Bio, this demand is primarily motivated by the alleged better nutritional and health quality of organic foods.

The AB production method (organic farming) does not increase the nutrient content of food, with a few exceptions. Thus, the contents of antioxidants such as polyphenols are sometimes higher in certain organic fruits, but many other factors, in particular the variety and the stage of maturity, are more determining. Certain organic vegetables are sometimes less rich in nitrates in case of weak organic nitrogen fertilization. On the other hand, organic cereals, including wheat, are lower in protein, which can cause breadmaking problems. For animal products, organic milk is sometimes richer in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, but this is also the case for all conventional milk from cows fed on green fodder, on grass or on pasture. 

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The nutritional quality of food therefore depends above all on other factors (variety or breed, stage of maturity or age, season, climate, etc.) and, all being equal, is not better for organic food. 

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published in French and has been translated and edited for clarity.] 

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