“Both organic and conventional foods can be a source of food poisoning outbreaks,” explains Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources in Pullman. “However, in an organic system, there’s a much higher level of microbial biodiversity, so there are more naturally beneficial microbes in the system and soil.”
“Studies show that when you introduce pathogens into an organic system, they often don’t survive very long because the biologically rich community of organisms that’s naturally there either competes effectively with them or uses them for lunch,” says Benbrook.
“Pesticide use in conventional agriculture tends to reduce microbial biodiversity, both in the soil and on the surfaces of the plant. So when a pathogen does take hold, there’s more of an ecological vacuum there, and the pathogen populations can grow.”
“Most bacteria need nitrogen, and a ready source of nitrogen can fuel spikes in their levels. So in conventional systems that have an excess of nitrogen, there’s extra “gas” that can drive up pathogen levels,” explains Benbrook.
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