Food Safety: Organic vs. Conventional Foods

“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.”

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“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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9 Replies to “Food Safety: Organic vs. Conventional Foods”

  1. Love the article. We are all about organic,we grow everything,have our chickens,turkeys, and I deer hunt. I do big composts every year. I’m into recycling heavy. Love your articles

    Dusty

  2. well, I suspect many pathogens are introduced after harvest in both types, and then there is the matter of whether pasteurization is considered “organic” or not. Remember the Odwalla cider debacle, due to the presence of ecoli from deer droppings in unpasturized juice

  3. I am a grass farmer and this is why I raise my livestock and garden without synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Nothing that would lower the natural activity. We use no herbicides, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics in the production of our lambs and poultry. We believe the same principles stated in this article not only apply to our food but apply to the food that our livestock consume. The natural system has devised means for survival and surthrival. Deborah Mattix, BaaLiss Grass Farm

  4. Thank you for describing the benefits of eating organic that I did not know before. It’s not just about keeping the chemicals out of our bodies, it is also about enabling the plants to keep down pathogens and reduce our risk of food poisoning.

  5. There is really no good reason not to go organic, especially in the personal garden realm. We support permaculture so no tilling of the soil that also disrupts the natural composition. Heavy mulch so weeds are controlled and water saved.

  6. Benbrook makes the statement: “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.” In a scientific newsletter, I would have expected 2-3 references, maybe even to a review article. Where are these “studies” ?!

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