Organic diet has no effect on cancer

By Leafwarbler VIA Flickr By Leafwarbler VIA Flickr

Sarah MacNeil
Life reporter

Pricey organic food may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

A new study published in the British Journal of Cancer on March 27 out of Oxford University revealed women who stick to an organic diet have the same chance of developing cancer compared to those who do not follow a similar regime.

The study also found a higher risk of breast cancer for those who ate organically, but a lower risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“This could be very important, but needs further research,” author of the study Professor Tim Key told Et Cetera.

Researchers observed about 600,000 women throughout the course of a decade.

The study made note of the fact that organic standards vary from country to country.

In Canada, organic means the product was grown or raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms, said Abby Langer, a registered dietician in Toronto.

“Organic food still has pesticide residue,” said Langer.

She said pesticide drift happens when non-organic crops are grown near the organic ones, so there may actually be a significant amount of synthetic pesticide on organic material as a result.

“Some pesticides may be carcinogenic, the question is whether people consume enough for there to be any material effect,” said Key.

“Washing fruits and vegetables with water is fine. It will get off any outer pesticide residue,” said Nancy Wirtz of the Prevention Team at the Canadian Cancer Society.

Langer recommends organic food when it comes to avoiding genetically modified organisms, not pesticide.

Health Canada defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as foods that have been genetically manipulated or engineered. Sweet corn is a GMO, for example.

“Organic isn’t better nutrition-wise and it is very expensive. If a person cannot afford organic, that is okay. Eating conventional food is not harmful,” said Langer.

The Canadian Cancer Society said there is not enough evidence to prove organic food is not beneficial.

“People should not worry about this study. I wouldn’t recommend against eating organic food based on this alone,” said Wirtz.

Langer agreed with Wirtz and said eating organically has never been proven to prevent disease. She added that it really is a personal choice.