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Apr 12, 2007 06:24 AM

Rice nutrients - Is organic worth it?

I am sticking to avoiding the Toxic 12 fruits and veggies, and eating organic meat, eggs and dairy. But I got to thinking about grains, esp brown rice, quinoa and barley, which are the major grains we eat. There are organic versions, of course. But I haven't been able to find any good info on whether or not it's really worth it to buy them.

Anyone know? Sam, what's your thought on this?

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  1. Given that you're an adult rather than malnourished under-five infant and with the diet you have, the health benefits to you of eating brown rice would be insignificant to nil. I'm assuming your diet to be adequate in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

    The added fossil fuel use implied by greater cooking time and potential for spoilage and waste should be considered in the minus column.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      thanks Sam. I was thinking about it from a nutritional perspective mostly. I eat brown rice because I like the flavour. Going to organic would be only IF there were significant nutritional benefits or pesticide reductions -- neither seem to exist, so I'll stick with my delicious short grain browns.

    2. I'm pretty sure the pesticides only collect in the bran, so if you're eating white rice, there is not much difference between organic and conventional. If you are more concerned about the overall environment, and not your immediate health and pocketbook, organic is always worth it - for overall reduction of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetic engineering or irradiation.

      2 Replies
      1. re: welle

        Pesticide residues on the grain is not an issue. Any contact contamination is removed with the husks. Rice you buy has nothing to do with sewage sludge, genetic engineering, or irradiation. Eating organic is a personal decision.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          sorry for I wasn't clear with my point. I agree with you that grain contamination is miniscule and the consumable part of them causes little to none harm to our bodies, however, the overall sludge, pesticide etc. pollution from raising any plant/livestock contribute to overall environment around us. So if someone is concerned about the general health of the air, water and soil around us, they make a concious decision by choosing organic over conventionally raised products.

      2. In the USA, is there any other organic rice grower/marketer other than Lundberg? Not all of theirs is organic, though their arborio rice package does talk a lot about 'eco-farming'.


        5 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          "nutra-farmed," and "eco-farmed," are Lundberg's registered trade names. They are more sustainably grown than most conventional, but have some chem use so are not organic. A lot of u.s. rice can't be labeled organic because it is gmo, notably "texmati" etc. you can get u.s. organic wild rice, but it's not really rice, so probably doesn't address your question.

          1. re: paulj

            The only organic rice I know of is Anson Mills Carolina Gold which is heart-stoppingly expensive. Worth it for special occasions but hard to justify for daily use. Close to $7 per pound. Grown from heirloom seed in a project in cooperation with Clemson University in South Carolina.

            Maybe Sam can weigh in on why rice is so difficult to grow on a large scale organically. I've heard that it pollinates and spreads easily across wide areas and is hard to control without some use of herbicides to keep undesirable strains out of what could be certified organic fields.

            1. re: MakingSense

              Organically grown rice is easy to grow, but is low yielding--against fixed costs that are essentially the same for organic and non-organic.

              A lot of rice grown in poorer areas of Asia is organically grown. For all rice, pestcides are rarely needed: early season pests are defoliators that make the crop look bad but don't harm yield; and if not sprayed, natural preditors will get rid of later-season pests. Farmers, however, use nitrogen fertilizers because modern varieties respond to N: a little N applied, much greater yields. Cross-pollination is not a problem.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Sam, your word is good enough for me! I have read in a couple of unreferenced articles that rice if heavily sprayed and as the crop is grown underweater, abosrbs a very high concentration. While the lack of citations made me skeptical, I remained concerned. But now I have a reference from an unbiased, bona fide specialisit, and as another person put it, a gentleman to boot! Thanks!

                1. re: alex8alot

                  Thank you. Plants cannot absorb pesticides in the sense of uptake, as in the uptake of soil nutrients. Pesticide residues on any crop plant (especially leafy vegetables) can be a problem.

          2. Curious -- what are the "Toxic 12 fruits and veggies"?

            7 Replies
              1. re: welle

                Thanks, Welle. I checked out the link.

              2. re: maria lorraine

                well, it's the "toxic ten," or the "dirty dozen," depending on whose chart you use, but the theory is that if we could all just eat these fruits and veggies organically, we'd reduce the level of toxic pesticides, etc. in our bodies by up to 90%.

                the list always prominently includes spinach, sweet & hot peppers, potatoes, & celery

                and for fruits: strawberries, apples, stone fruits (peaches & plums), south american, esp chilean grapes

                i can't actually rattle off the whole list right now. shame on me.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  "but the theory is that if we could all just eat these fruits and veggies organically, we'd reduce the level of toxic pesticides, etc. in our bodies by up to 90%." - has this theory been verified with actual lab tests, with the results published in peer-reviewed journals?


                  1. re: paulj

                    Paul, if you go to the link I provided above, in it, it says "The produce ranking was developed by analysts at the not-for-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004." On the same page you can find links to the full data by EWG.

                    This is the same watchdog group that analyzed BPA levels in canned foods (100% canned veggies and soups were contaminated ) - yikes. And also the group that evaluated mercury in fish. You can find various reports from their website

                    1. re: paulj

                      i believe so. these fruits and veggies, raised conventionally, use disproportionately high amts of chemical inputs as opposed to low-input veggies & fruits, for example onions, asparagus, broccoli, & blueberries. they also tend to be consumed in greater quantities by people who may not pay attention to the ingredient (when was the last time you actively ate celery, apart from a crudite tray or with buffalo wings, although it is ubiquitous as an ingredient in commercial grocery store and restaurant soups, salads & entrees).

                      the "dirty list" is often recommended to people concerned about ingesting ag/chem products but who have poor access to organic/sustainable; those who change their eating habits during special health conditions, like pregnancy; or those who have budget concerns. there are several recent books and studies on these lists-- i think one of the more useful, interesting & user-friendly is the book "fresh choices" by david joachim and rochelle davis. i probably like this book because it has a bunch of great recipes, but many studies it refers to are footnoted in the back.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Looking at the list, it appears that the problem is one we've created: demand for cosmetically good looking fruit and vegetables drives pesticide use. The high (bad) scorers are in general more susceptible to pests and diseases that lead to blemishes that would be ignored in other parts of the world.

                2. It is always worth buying organic because it will help reduce the impact on the environment. Eating organic shouldn't be only focused on the advantages for consumers but also the environment.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: honkman

                    Buying organic is most likely but not necessarily better in terms of its impact on the environment. For example, if you buy organic fruits raised 2,000 miles away, having it shipped to your location may be worse than buying conventionally-grown fruits grown 10 miles away. It can become a complicated issue.

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      In the short term yes. On a larger scale, an increase in demand for organic SHOULD equal an increase in producers of organic and decrease in non-organic, shouldn't it?? (thus reducing the amt of non-organic farming and helping the environment...)

                      1. re: raytamsgv

                        Your point is correct but as amyvc pointed out the goal is to have organic food produced at as many places as possible locally so that the impact on the environment by transporting food for long distances is also reduced. So that best way is to buy localy grown organic food.

                        1. re: raytamsgv

                          We have been around this mulberry bush so many times.
                          There is a happy meeting ground between big ag and worshipping blindly at the altar of organic certification. Both can place unnecessary burdens on the environment.
                          Sometimes the only thing that prevents a sustainable, responsible farm from obtaining organic certification might be something as simple as being located next to a county road, despite all of its practices being totally organic.
                          We should demand responsible agriculture, not necessarily organic.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Yes, be responsible, THINK about what you are buying, do not be foolish and buy something that travelled 2000 miles to get to you because it is Organic, while locally grown items can't get placed in your local supermarket. ASk for local, support responsible. Think, don't just kneejerk.

                        2. re: honkman

                          Lower yielding production requires greater areas that are prepared, cared for, and harvested using fossil fuels.