Organic Debate

Jeannie Williams in her organic garden in Hanford

HANFORD — The consumer debate over organic vs. conventionally grown produce just acquired another talking point that is causing quite a stir in the San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural community.

A newly released Stanford University study found similar nutrient content in conventionally grown food compared to certified organic food. The research tosses new fuel on a hot topic in Kings County, where most crops are grown with some pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

“There’s really no differences in nutritional value,” said Michele Costa, executive of the Kings County Farm Bureau, which represents mostly conventional growers.

Buying food locally is more important than whether it is certified organic or not, Costa said.

“Either way, whether you choose to buy organic or conventional, it’s really important to support your local farms,” said Costa.

Jeannie Williams, the landowner of Good Seed Organic Farm in Hanford, agreed that “[certified] organic doesn’t guarantee better nutrition.”

“It only guarantees that they didn’t use pesticides,” Williams said, pointing out that a whole range of natural fertilizers and natural pesticides can be used by both types of growers.

Higher nutritional value produce isn’t always achieved by getting the certified organic label, which measures what farmers don’t use — pesticides and synthetic fertilizers — rather than what they do use such as extra nutrients and minerals, she said.

However, Williams remains convinced of the value of organic food, noting it has less pesticides.

According to the Stanford study, there’s a 30 percent greater chance of having detectable pesticide levels in conventional vs. organically grown food. However, Bravata cautioned that both groups harbored very small amounts — both within safety limits.

“I don’t want to eat pesticides,” Williams said. “Even a 30 percent drop is better.”

Williams said the lesson the average consumer should get from the Stanford study is that “you have to know your source.” Ripeness and speed — the time from harvest to your mouth — are the most important things to look for, she said.

Large-scale agriculture often means longer shipping distances and times, which can make it more challenging for produce to ripen naturally, she said.

“That alone drops the nutritional value,” she said, suggesting that buying produce at the Thursday Night Market Place is a good idea. “That means buying local.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story. The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 orsnidever@HanfordSentinel.com

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