Organic Food Consumption Leads to Dramatically Lower Pesticide Exposure

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)-May 1, 2014.  A recent study, Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet, led by Liza Oates found lower trances of organophosphate metabolites in consumers that ate organic food for a week compared to those who ate a conventional diet. The study adds to the scientific literature that shows consuming organic food minimize consumers’ exposure to pesticides residue. Because organic agriculture is a healthier system for consumers it is important we protect strict organic standards.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Research, found that participants who ate a diet that was at least 80 percent organic had 89 percent lower levels of dialkylphosphates (DAPs), non-selective organophosphate metabolites, in their urine. The study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia with non-smoking participates between the age of 18 and 65. Participants were asked to eat a diet of conventional food for a week than on the morning of day eight participants provided a urine sample to the researchers. This process was repeated with the same participants after they spent a week eating at least 80 percent organic food. The levels of DAPs found in participants during the week in which they ate conventional were comparable to previous studies done on the general population.

The study was expressly concerned with the health impacts that organophosphates can have on consumers. Organophosphate pesticides originally were derived from World War II nerve agents. According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 73 million pounds of organophosphates were used on U.S. crops in 2001. Organophosphates inhibit cholinesterase, a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerves and muscles. Inhibiting cholinesterase can cause poisoning victims to suffocate due to paralysis and cause lungs to fill up with fluid. Children are at an elevated risk for organophosphate pesticide poisoning.

The study adds to the growing literature that eating organic clearly is a healthier option because it allows consumers to reduce their exposures to pesticide residues. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) released a report in 2012 on organic foods that stated organic foods provide health advantages by reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease.”

There were however several limitations with this study such as a small sample size and variation of when participates entered and exited the study. Future large scale studies investigating the relationship between exposure and health outcomes are required to determine if the reduction in organophosphates associated with an organic diet has clinical relevance.

Current Fights over Organic Standards in the U.S.

Strong organic standards are necessary to maintain for consumers to remain confident that organic foods have the health advantages that are expressed in this study. Currently, The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the board which maintains the list of allowable synthetic substances, is meeting in San Antonio Texas.

Yesterday a protest, staged by representatives of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA), disrupted the NOSB meeting.

The activists came to protest the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) changes to the sunset process for removing non-organic ingredients and materials from the NOP’s National List of substances allowed and prohibited in products certified as organic.

You can help these efforts to maintain a strong organic program by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page and taking action with our Save Our Organics page. You can also follow the meeting in real time by following Beyond Pesticides on Twitter and Facebook.

Sources: The Conversation, http://www.beyondpesticides.org

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.