Doctor's Note

This is the first of a five-part video series summarizing the best available science comparing the nutritional content, pesticide risk, heavy metal toxicity, and food poisoning risk of organic versus conventionally raised foods, including a video on practical tips for making your own DIY fruit and veggie wash. Here’s a list of the next four queued up:

I imagine that the reaction to this series will be similar to that for the one I did on GMO foods, riling up critics on both sides of the debate:

More on the nutritional implications of stressed-out plants here:

The wild video about the reversal of esophageal cancer progression with strawberries can be found here: Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer. Production method aside, in vitro, Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

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  • Zira

    anytime you ingest a pesticide, your body will have to fight it off, thus organic is better. You don’t need a study to know this.

    • Astrofyziky

      I’m interested in seeing Friday’s video. Organic foods are still allowed to use pesticides, and so I’m curious as to whether they’re biologically safer – defined here as being less toxic – than their conventionally grown counter parts.

      According to the USDA, pesticides are allowed to be used with organic crops:

      Federal Regulations surrounding organic foods: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=dda3cec9a105441a66eae8f130201d60&mc=true&n=pt7.3.205&r=PART&ty=HTML#se7.3.205_1206

      List of synthetic substances allowed: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5068682

      • Joe Caner

        http://www.organic.org/home/faq
        Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

        If the USDA wishes to redefine the meaning of the word “organic,” that would be in keeping with venerable Orwellian notion of Newspeak and Double think and the political and economic realities of a revolving door between its leadership and the agribusiness executive ranks.

        • Astrofyziky

          I’m glad you shared the website link, Joe. I think that website does a disservice as it misleads consumers, which bothers me. Allow me to explain my issues with the website you provided:

          The first paragraph you quote from the website seems to contradict the actual federal regulations, and federal regulations are the only thing that matter because that is for what companies are held accountable.

          My largest gripe with the site is their lie about how the USDA defines organic: “The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows: Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”

          The federal regulations do not quote that definition anywhere; or at least not anywhere I could find. Instead, organic is defined as “[a] labeling term that refers to an agricultural product produced in accordance with the Act and the regulations in this part.”

          Within the above quote, the website states that “[o]rganic food is produced without USING MOST (emphasis added) conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.” The key takeaway here is that while it doesn’t use most of the conventional measures, it can, by law and without repercussion, use some of them.

          Moreover, according to §205.603(4) of the federal regulations, vaccines can be used in organic meat, whereas the website states that they cannot.

          I can list more if needed, but I hope these few are good enough.

          I remember reading a Bloomberg article a while back stating that products which are labeled with the phrase “All Natural” are 13 times more likely to sell than products which don’t have that phrase adhered to them. What I find amusing about that is that there is no legal definition for the phrase “All Natural.” Any company wishing to make a profit will therefore be stupid not to claim that their product is made from all natural ingredients or that it’s all natural; there are no consequences of doing so, other than making more money. There are plenty of websites out there, though, which claim that foods labeled as all natural are better than those which aren’t.

          The same logic goes for organic foods and the website you provided. While there are actual legal guidelines which food manufacturers need to adhere by in order to label their product as organic – or else they’ll be sued – there is wiggle room which most people don’t know about, and which that website blatantly ignores; it seems to put organic foods on a pedestal and misleads consumers into thinking that organic food is more than what it really is.

          When you stated, “[i]f the USDA wishes to redefine the meaning of the word ‘organic’ […]” keep in mind that they didn’t redefine anything. It’s that website which makes you believe that organic is more that what it really is.

        • Smarter

          That is false. Organic is grown with pesticides approved for organic growing. There is no scientific evidence that your body builds up with “toxins” (not a real thing and can’t be defined). They are not in any way more nutritious except by volume. Want to know the truth? Head to your local University and ask a PhD in Biochemistry to take two pieces of fruit and break them down for caloric and nutritional content. That will give you the answer, not joke Natural News websites.

          • Kartoffelmao

            Some toxins do build up, because they have a large half-life. There are people that still have som substances in their body that was banned in the 70s (Dr. Greger mentioned this in another video).

            When it comes to nutrients organic may not have more, but they certainly have more non-essential nutrients antioxidants, as you can see from the video.

      • Susan

        According to the law, the National Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the synthetics are governed by the National Organic Standards Board and chemicals are regularly sunsetted. This is not what USDA Secretary Tom Vilack chooses to acknowledge. He replaced the NOSB with an industry board and listens to the chemical industry instead of the organic producers, farmers, consumers. This is against the law.

        There is a lawsuit occurring right now between organic stakeholders, the Cornucopia Institute and even the original signers of the law have chimed in. The USDA is disobeying the letter of the law and hopefully it will not stand. In the mean time, buy from local organic farmers markets or grow your own.

    • eddie

      excellent point,,,its logic !!

      • Marko Karbevski

        Sometimes reality is counter-intuitive, never forget that.

    • UCBAlum

      Air travel is faster than bus, so air travel is better.

      On a scale with ‘meaningful’ on one side and ‘meaningless’ on the other, how would you rate my statement?

    • Julot Julott

      Most labelled organic product have “natural pesticides” added which are not always safer, sometimes more toxic~

  • elsie blanche

    I’m wondering how taxing it is for the liver to deal with the chemicals in conventional produce. Is it significant work for the liver that the it is actually not able to do over a lifetime, or is ok? Hopefully future video/s address this. Thank you.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Many times the mechanisms involved are described in the studies themselves. Check-out the “sources cited” for more information, but I am not certain any studies discuss liver detoxification from pesticides? I do think the benefit of eating conventional vegetables outweighs the risks.

  • b00mer

    This is a perfect example of why I love this site. There is a lot of absolutist anti-conventional, anti-gmo, etc rhetoric in the vegan/plant based webosphere and sometimes I worry that people coming from the SAD will become overwhelmed with the message that unless they’re eating a diet of 100% organic, then they are killing themselves and poisoning their children, and may end up giving up before they even try. A very wise man once said in a nutrition video I found on the internet that “the best vegetable [or fruit,bean,etc] is the one you eat”.

    In addition I just have to mention after eating WFPB for so long now, hearing the 5 a day recommendation was jarring. What?? That’s the goal??? Pretty sure I hit that halfway through lunch if not earlier. And how many people aren’t even hitting that measly number? Eeek.

    • Joe Caner

      I’m with you there. I hit my 5 a day fruit and vegetable number somewhere halfway though my morning green smoothie, and while educating people off of the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a laudable goal, and I certainly would not want to do anything to scare anyone off of that trajectory, just asking some people to substitute WPBF’s for their meat and industrial manufactured pre-package pablum is frightening enough for many.

      Where I take exception is the characterization of those promoting a vegan organic diet as absolutist. I submit that the reason that you love this site is because it presents actionable research based information. Rhetoric notwithstanding, there are very good researched based reasons to take an anti-conventional, anti-gmo position. The first and most obvious being the impact of chemical residues found from conventionally produced and GMO crops on those consuming them. This impact is amplified for omnivores due to the bio-accumulation of these compounds in the tissues of animals raised for meat. The second is the the impact of these chemical agents have on the environment and water resources due to run off. The third is sustainability issue. Conventional and GMO crops are orders of magnitudes more energy intensive to produce than organically produced foods, but the number one sustainability issue is soil erosion. Soil is a finite resource. Conventional and GMO farming practices deplete the soil while organic farming practices enhance and amend the soil while preserving biodiversity.

      Conventional farming practices are a Faustian bargain which have increased food production in the short run, but have lead to severe environmental impacts while jeopardizing our ability to feed ourselves in the future. I would think that for these reasons alone, it’s worth kicking up a bit of a fuss.

      • b00mer

        Hi Joe, I think the characterization I intended got lost in translation. I didn’t mean that the promotion of vegan+organic/non-gmo is in itself absolutist. There is a lot of absolutist rhetoric out there, often coupled with outright misinformation and an unnecessary level of fear-mongering, and then there is also well-reasoned and evidence-based discussion. I certainly don’t have a problem with the latter!

        anti-gmo/conventional positions that are absolutist = an invalid statement
        anti-gmo/conventional positions which are absolutist = what I was referring to

    • dewdroppings

      I found glyckosphate in my cupboard. it;s banned in Bangladesh but was bought by me the informed European!

    • Joe

      I would agree that it is easy to get absolutist when it comes to GMOs, organic etc. But I’d point out that these videos look more at the science and less at the economic and environmental impact of these products. That is, of course, what a site based on health should do – but the global impact of these products on our economy – the monopolization of the food supply etc – are also very important issues.

      The companies that produce these products – chemicals, GMOs etc – are contributing to not only the degradation of the food supply but of the global eco system we rely on. When Dr Greger does videos on PCBs and dioxins etc, we should remember that those were manufactured by a company – who were funded by the products they sell. Consumers bought the produce. Farmers bought the chemicals. Chemical companies got money to invest in new chemicals, which consumers (and every living creature on planet earth) cannot now avoid. They also got the money to lobby governments, remove safety standards and stop labelling efforts. So we see that the direct health effects of consuming industrial produce actually account for only a part of their impact on our lives.

  • Normand

    There is a farm in California called SingingFrogsFarm.com that is not Organic but certtified bee friendly because they do not use pesticides

    and is no tilling needed in their gardens. They grow the best produce with no fertilizer leakage from their compost and using very little water.

    That to me the the way we are to grow and eat wonderful vegetables.

    We can learn from people like them (Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser) and grow our own vegetables.

  • Cassandra H

    Non organic fruit and veg has no taste so naturally has no appeal to me.

    • mik

      wow you must live in a sad part of the world to write a statement like that.

      • Cassandra H

        :) I live in the UK and have been fortunate enough that my parents where so poor they brought us up on a wholefood diet. When processed foods and fast foods came to this country it never tasted real so I never touched it and I never gave it to my children. I naturally can tell the difference, which I believe is the case why some fast food companies have trouble setting in up in some countries. I am very sorry if I have offended you it wasn’t my intention. I guess I was trying to say that maybe we are being controlled by our minds and marketing and we seem to have lost the ability or desire to hear what the body is telling us.

        • Thea

          Cassandra: Thanks for the expanded information. I wasn’t personally offended by what you originally wrote, but your clarification is very interesting and helpful. You were indeed lucky growing up with the diet you ate. And you are lucky to have such sensitive taste buds now. It sounds like they are leading you in great directions.

  • I would love to see a similar study comparing fresh vegetables (cut green for shipping) vs frozen vegetables (cut ripe for freezing).

  • Julie

    Awesome interview with Dr. Greger on the Food Revolution Summit today! Catch the replay as well as interviews with Brenda Davis and Ritamarie Loscalzo here http://summit.foodrevolution.org/replays (available for 24 hours).

  • Tim Dooley

    One of the most significant benefits of organic produce has not been mentioned (at least not in the video) and that is the fact that organic farming is better for the soil and more sustainable. Even if no safer or no extra nutritional benefits, organic is important for maintaining and building topsoil. This is so important that the UN has declared 2015 the “International Year of Soils.”

  • World record holders for consecutive marathons, Janette Murray-Wakelin and Alan Wakelin, reported that in the last two months of their record setting year of marathons they ate only organic fruits and vegetables. They showed an increase in energy and their marathon times improved over this period. Organic fruits and veggies don’t always cost more. Buying direct from warehouses, in bulk, or when there are sales, can decrease the price to comparable with nonorganic. The Wakelins also reported they ate less when eating organic than when eating nonorganic. Personally I get similar results especially with organic bananas and tomatoes. Less food with better performance with organic. Stay healthy.

  • Afonso

    I enjoy a lot your videos, very informative but clear and concise. Keep the good work, sir!

  • fineartmarcella

    A while back, at least 25 years ago, Organic Gardening had an article in which they took conventionally grown bell peppers and organic bell peppers and had tests ran to see the average Vitamin K levels in either. The Vitamin K was 40% higher in the Organic bell pepper. I don’t believe that was a peer reviewed journal-ized study, they just did it. The depth in flavor and sweetness of fruit and veggies grown with organic methods compared to a chemically grown fruit or veggie is far superior, I always regret buying conventional that was on sale when it hits my plate. I would like to see someone just do a analysis of the difference, not so much an analysis of several studies, paid for by which ever corporation benefited by making their product look the best in a study.

  • Jason William

    My comment is unrelated to the video, but I suffer from chronic pain and am planning on going on a vegan diet. Does anyone know of any good books/resources that explain the most effective way of going vegan?

    • Joe Caner

      You could give the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart a try. It is based upon the theory that if you can change any habit for 21 days, you will be over the hump, and you’ll be able to stick with it.
      http://pcrm.org/kickstartHome/

      There are others, but this one has receipts, motivational messaging and is health and not ethically focused.

      Good luck. Changing to a whole foods plant based diet has made me feel better. I hope that your are able to ameliorate you pain with your change in diet.

    • Julie

      “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda Davis, RD is an awesome book! It’s well referenced and packed with easy-to-understand information on how to better one’s health with a whole food plant based diet. All 13 amazon reviews for the newest edition (2014) are five star.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      I certainly agree with the suggestions below. Dr. Barnard has a book called “Foods that fight pain”, which may also help. Like NutritionFacts, PCRM offers a lot of free literature so see if you can download their material for free. Ginny Messina RD and Jack Norris RD wrote a book called, “Vegan for Life” another great resource, along with “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda Davis RD. Jack’s website is very helpful, too. Best of luck on your journey let us know how it goes!

      Sincerely,
      Joseph

    • Rosemary Guy

      also research salicylates in food and see if you can up these.

  • info and very interesting article , just hope useful shop . thank you

    goo.gl/pzBb3Z

  • Cathy Katin-Grazzini

    Am interested in this topic & would like to examine the sources Dr. Greger cited. In general, actually, it would be great if a bibliography could be listed after an article or video. Helpful for those of use who want to delve deeper. Thank you!

    • Joevegan

      Next to the video window is an icon “Sources Cited”; click on that and all sources will be listed below the video window. Then click on each source; some will only be the Abstract, unless you’re registered for the site.

      • Cathy Katin-Grazzini

        Thanks, will check it out.

  • dewdroppings

    I read that if you go organic in two weeks your body is clear of pesticides.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Feel free to always share links or studies :) I have not heard this, but I think eating organic will reduce pesticide exposure overall.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Thea found the best video on this topic. Please see her link.

  • vegank

    Looking forward to the next video !

  • Jerry LA

    You missed the point. Organic foods have much less toxins, much fewer allergenic chemicals, far less cancer causing compounds. No, I’m full with my produce, eating 40% more won’t fit.

  • berinho7

    when will the new video come out ? I would really like to know how many peticides you find in store on organic products. Here in Europe the problem is that organic labelling protects you only when the crop is grown, what happens during the transport is another story. i suggest that eating local foods is the best option, if u have that option :)

    • Joe Caner

      Nothing matches the texture, flavor and aroma of home garden ripened vegetables especially tomatoes and peppers. It is hard to get more local than that. Our neighbor would use chemical fertilizers, he would get some really big tomatoes, but they would never taste as good as ours, and he would end up growing more bush than tomatoes. Our tomato plants were considerably smaller and produced smaller fruit, but were much more productive and heck of a lot tastier. The only thing we ever used to amend the soil was compost made primarily from lawn clippings. They were the best vegetables I ever ate. Now that’s organic.

  • Alan

    My guess is that the comparison of the Organic verses the Non-Organic that the organic was purchased from the supermarket. Most commercial organic grocers do not build the soil like a home gardener like myself and many others. i personally believe that there would be more vit. and min. in these type veggies than the commercially grown. I know that they taste better !!!!

  • zm4jk0

    Organic farmers are (in most cases) not using soil reastoration technics, where the food nutritional value is higher. We should compare those that return organic material to the soil, use volcanic rock&sea minerals and those who dont.

  • Susan

    I’m a case in point. Since 1986, I’ve eaten nearly 100 percent organic whole foods. That is few if any instant organic meals or junk foods.
    In 2006 and 2007, I had a total hip and total knee replacements, and healed the average time…or at least the doctor made no comment on my ability to heal bone.

    But after fracturing my spine and pelvis in separate injuries in 2014, and having gone healthy vegan in 2012, this time he did comment. He said he would expect to see someone grow bone within 3 months, but never within 3 weeks after the fracture occurred. And when I had my first follow-up in his office one month later, and he compared my x-rays, and said my pelvis was totally healed. He was amazed. What I did was eat certified organic collard greens and beans high in calcium and magnesium every day, along with some seeds or almonds, high in calcium. I took little calcium supplement but was taking vitamin D3.

    I’ve since learned that we need much more than calcium, but since I did not know how much calcium I should be getting in my food, I ate 3 cups chopped and steamed once a day and felt like I was growing roots. Basically I was absorbing over 1500 mg of calcium in organic produce everyday.

    The difference between organic and convention produce is mineral/metal chelators which from what I’ve learned, ALL herbicides contain metal chelators. In fact, Glyphosate (RoundUp) is patented as a metal chelator.

    Read the interview between Thierry Vrain, Ph.D.,

    GMO spokesman turned GMO whistleblower

    (who) followed the science. The interview is by Tsiporah Grignon. http://commonground.ca/2013/10/dr-thierry-vrain-gmo-whistleblower/

    Dr. Vrain also cites Professor emeritus Don Huber and what Huber has found with mineral chelators. Basically they hold onto the minerals and don’t let go so they basically starve the plant (as well as the animals and humans who may eat the plant to repair or heal or for their well being.

    Organic farmers and gardeners do not use chemical herbicides. Instead, they heavily mulch after pulling the weed roots out of the soil. Without the mineral chelators, organic has more nutrition than conventional or Glyphosate Modified crops. If you want numbers, check out studies by Dr. Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. An article in the Washington State University newsletter says: “Organic plants produce more antioxidants”. In general, “organic crops have several nutritional benefits that stem from the
    way the crops are produced. A plant on a conventionally managed field will typically have access to high levels of synthetic nitrogen and will
    marshal the extra resources into producing sugars and starches. As a result, the harvested portion of the plant will often contain lower concentrations of other nutrients, including health-promoting
    antioxidants.”

    “Without the synthetic chemical pesticides applied on conventional crops, organic plants tend to produce more phenols and polyphenols to defend against pest attacks and related injuries. In people, phenols and polyphenols can help prevent diseases triggered or promoted by oxidative damage, like coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

    Overall, organic crops had 18 to 69 percent higher concentrations of antioxidant compounds. The team concludes that consumers who switch to organic fruit, vegetables and cereals would get 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants. That’s the equivalent of about two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with no increase in caloric intake.”
    Additionally, by eating organically, there is “10 to 100 times fewer pesticide residues” in organic food as compared with conventional food.

    Read more at: https://news.wsu.edu/2014/07/11/major-study-documents-benefits-of-organic-farming/#.VUnThZPVDow

    You can also listen to a lecture given by Dr. Vrain entitled

    “Engineered food and your health: the nutritional status of GMOs” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiU3Ndi6itk

    Notice at: 4:04 when Dr. Vrain is discussing Glyphosate as a metal/mineral chelator, he also said that it sticks or binds to calcium, magnesium, cobalt, manganese, etc. All those minerals are needed to grow bone.

    Organic agriculture, unless Monsanto has deliberately contaminated the fields, does not use and laws often forbid toxic chemicals on organic agriculture. Instead of chemistry, biology is used –composting and mulching to protect and add sustainability to the soils to sustain life.

  • mikeysbro

    Its really quite simple, generally organic foods contain more flavonoids than conventional crops which are some of the “active” components that make produce effective in fighting pathogens. These flavonoids work in conjunction with vitamins, ie hesperidin in various citrus fruits which makes vitamins more bioavailable for humans. Therefore the more “flavor” that produce has the more potent the food is. Thus the flavor of organic food is an indication if the produce contains flavonoids including other active components that prevent pathogens from occurring.

    If your organic or conventional garlic is not hot and smelly then it likely contains very little sulfur and or allicin which are two of the active components that make garlic a full spectrum antibiotic, and an; antifungal, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, pathogenic killer. Therefore the potency is determined by flavor and the flavor is directly influenced by the; soil, water, amount of sunshine and so forth that the produce contains.

    It is important to note that some organic produce is not very flavorful which could be due to many reasons and then one should switch to something that is.

    Therefore if your food is not flavorful like is should be then it has little benefit. Garlic that is not hot and smelly is virtually useless to fight pathogens as is elephant garlic and flavorless conventional garlic even organic can be too.

    Plants have a symbiotic relationship to the soil and with humans and the more that relationship is destroyed the sicker humanity will become.