Is organic food really more nutritious?

Contact: Susan Nitzke, 608-262-1692, or Barbara Ingham, 608-263-7383,

Studies published in scientific journals from the past 50 years were recently reviewed to learn whether there was evidence showing that organic foods were more nutritious. The review showed that “there are no important differences in nutrient content between organically and conventionally produced foods.” All differences that were found were either inconsistent or easily explained based on the different fertilizers used to grow the crops.

What does the term “organic” mean? Organic foods are grown without synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, chemical fertilizers or sewage sludge. To qualify as organic, foods must come from farms that have been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA inspectors verify that the foods were raised, processed and distributed to meet official organic standards.

Though organic food may not be more nutritious than other food, consumers may choose it for reasons besides nutrition. Buying organic foods is a personal choice, often based on individual beliefs and taste preferences.

“Keep in mind that organic foods are not always locally grown or produced on small family farms,” says Susan Nitzke a nutrition specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Consumers who are buying organic foods in the hopes of supporting local farms using more traditional farming practices should be aware of the fact that locally grown produce and organic produce are not necessarily the same.

“You may be able to get conventionally grown produce from a local farmer, while some organic products are now actually brought in from other countries” says Mallory Koenings, a graduate student in nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “In Wisconsin, though, there are many both local and organic farmers, giving consumers a wide variety of options.”

For more information on the USDA’s organic food determination, see

For more information about eating a healthy diet that contributes to good health, contact your local county Extension office.

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