Are organic bananas really necessary?

Date:7 November 2016 Tags:, ,

From a health perspective? No, organic bananas not necessarily necessary. It may surprise you to learn that, despite the impression fostered by the world’s inveterate granola gobblers, tofu touters and alfalfa advocates, there’s no solid science demonstrating that organic produce is any healthier than the regular stuff. “There’s never been enough evidence to point either way,” says Cathy Deimeke, a dietitian and nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “It’s just not clear.” A 2012 Stanford meta-analysis (a kind of study of studies) found no benefit whatsoever, though one British survey did conclude that consuming organic foods could extend one’s life – by about three weeks.

In order to be deemed organic by agriculture authorities, produce must be grown in soil that has been free of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides for at least three years. Organic farmers may use only natural fertilisers and must abstain from the use of nasty-type pesticides. Proof aside, that sounds healthier, certainly, so if you’re fine with spending the extra money the organic label commands, by all means dig in – to your wallet. It can’t hurt anything but your bank balance.

We sense you may be asking whether the banana peel itself would sufficiently armour the fruit within against a chemical onslaught unleashed by traditional spray-happy growers. The answer may surprise you – no, and here’s why: many modern pesticides are what are called “systemic pesticides”, says Kirsten Brandt of the Food Quality and Health Research Group at the UK’s Newcastle University. “When you spray these pesticides, they move around inside the plant. They will be on the inside of the banana as much as on the outside.” According to Brandt, the chemicals sprayed on the peel are absorbed through the skin, and those sprayed on the ground would be taken up by the plant’s roots. Mere rinsing or peeling of fruit, in other words, won’t protect you assuming there is, in fact, anything against which you actually require or desire protection.

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.

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