The Swedish Cooperative Union, a federation of 41 consumer cooperative societies, commissioned IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute to determine whether eating organic foods can reduce levels of pesticides in the body.
The study was carried out in a family with three children who do not usually eat organic food. The most significant change in pesticide levels was found in the family’s children.
The purpose of the survey was to find out whether a transition from non-organic to organic food had a measurable effect of the concentration of pesticides in the body.
The trial lasted three weeks; an initial week when the family ate as usual was followed by two weeks when the family ate only organic food – fruit and vegetables, meat and fish. During the entire period the family kept a diet diary and left daily urine samples. When the family ate organic food the amount of pesticides was reduced. Especially the three children (12, 10 and 3 years old) had lower concentrations during the period when organic food was consumed.
Traces of eight pesticides were found in the samples; these included insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and growth regulators. However, Jorgen Magner, a researcher at IVL, is careful to point out that levels of pesticides were low even before the test period and significantly below ADI (acceptable daily intake) i.e., the amount of a substance that is considered safe to ingest on a daily basis without causing any adverse health effects.
– The scope of the survey is too small for us to be able to draw any far-reaching conclusions as to how significant a shift to organic food might be when it comes to exposure to chemicals. But the survey is nevertheless interesting as a pilot study, and can serve as a good basis for further investigations. We know too little about the combined effects of eating food that has been sprayed with pesticides. More research is needed in this area. It is encouraging that eating organic food seems to decrease the levels of pesticides in the body fairly quickly, says Jörgen Magner, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
A new study by Newcastle University on organic versus conventional crops confirms that organic farming methods do have a positive impact on health. Results found substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides in organic crops versus conventional crops. Antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases in humans. Plants naturally produce antioxidants to defend themselves against pests and diseases. But when pesticides are applied, plants lose the need to generate antioxidants for their own defenses.
In conclusion, organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and production seasons.