NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 30, 2009

Organic food has no nutritional or health benefits over ordinary food, according to a major study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Researchers found that consumers were paying higher prices for organic food because of its perceived health benefits, creating a global organic market worth an estimated $48 billion in 2007.  A systematic review of 162 scientific papers published in the scientific literature over the last 50 years, however, found there was no significant difference:

  • Out of 137 crops and 25 livestock products studied, only 55 were found to be of satisfactory quality.
  • Of those satisfactory items, conventionally produced crops had a significantly higher content of nitrogen, and organically produced crops had a significantly higher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity -- such as sulfuric acid.
  • No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining eight of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed.
  • The results further indicate that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organic over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.

Moreover, sales of organic food have fallen in some markets, including Britain, as recession has led consumers to cut back on purchases.  In 2008, sales of organic products slowed to just 1.7 percent, well below the average growth rate of 26 percent over the last decade.

In conclusion, researchers state that on the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.  The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

Source:  Ben Hirschler, "Organic food is no healthier, study finds," Reuters, July 29, 2009; based upon: Alan D. Dangour et al., "Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2009.

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