In this segment of a discussion with @gavinmeenan, I talk about whether or not eating organic produce makes a difference for health.

Health benefits are robustly associated with the consumption of fruits and vegetables, period, regardless of whether they are organic or conventional (PMID: 25073782).

Furthermore, even organic produce contains pesticides; these pesticides are simply approved for organic use. Some organic pesticides, especially copper sulfate, are exceptionally toxic (see: https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2021/07/13/for-organic-and-conventional-farmers-coppers-hard-to-beat-for-treating-mildew/). There is no strong evidence that organic pesticides are less toxic than pesticides used for conventional crops.

Although some studies have found higher urinary concentrations of conventional pesticides in people eating conventional produce, these concentrations are trace amounts and consistent with safe use (PMID: 30765100).

In particular, toxicology studies conducted on animals identify a cutoff for the intake at which negative effects are seen, then the regulatory agencies will set the cutoff for maximum consumption in humans at 10,000 lower. This ensures that these compounds are safe for human consumption with a large margin of error. So although pesticide residues are found in the urine, these residues are thousands of times lower than can exert even a modest biological effect.

Correspondingly, no measurable biological effect has ever been shown at the current intakes of conventional pesticides. Although in principle it may be produce a negligible health benefit (one that has never been measured) to eat organic produce over conventional, the cost tradeoff is substantial and large; the benefits almost certainly do not justify the costs.

Importantly, studies have shown that low-income shoppers who hear stories about the dangers of pesticides are more likely to forgo purchasing produce altogether, which almost certainly has a negative effect on health (doi:10.1097/NT.0000000000000176).

For more episodes and health-related information, find me on Youtube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts at THE KEVIN BASS SHOW.



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