Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Access
  • Open access
  • Cited by 54
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Aceleanu, Mirela 2016. Sustainability and Competitiveness of Romanian Farms through Organic Agriculture. Sustainability, Vol. 8, Issue. 3, p. 245.

    Birkhofer, Klaus Smith, Henrik G and Rundlöf, Maj 2016. eLS.

    Bøhn, T. Cuhra, M. Traavik, T. and Fagan, J. 2016. Genetically Modified Organisms in Food.

    Bonaccio, M. Bes-Rastrollo, M. de Gaetano, G. and Iacoviello, L. 2016. Challenges to the Mediterranean diet at a time of economic crisis. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases,

    Bretzel, F. Calderisi, M. Scatena, M. and Pini, R. 2016. Soil quality is key for planning and managing urban allotments intended for the sustainable production of home-consumption vegetables. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Vol. 23, Issue. 17, p. 17753.

    Bruins, Randall JF Canfield, Timothy J Duke, Clifford Kapustka, Larry Nahlik, Amanda M and Schäfer, Ralf B 2016. Using ecological production functions to link ecological processes to ecosystem services. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management,

    Ceglie, Francesco Amodio, Maria and Colelli, Giancarlo 2016. Effect of Organic Production Systems on Quality and Postharvest Performance of Horticultural Produce. Horticulturae, Vol. 2, Issue. 2, p. 4.

    Desjardins, Y. 2016. Are organically grown fruits and vegetables nutritionally better than conventional ones? Revisiting the question with new eyes. Acta Horticulturae, Issue. 1137, p. 187.

    Funabashi, Masatoshi 2016. Synecological farming: Theoretical foundation on biodiversity responses of plant communities. Plant Biotechnology,

    Genuis, Stephen J. and Genuis, Rebecca A. 2016. Preconception Care: A New Standard of Care within Maternal Health Services. BioMed Research International, Vol. 2016, p. 1.

    Granatstein, David Kirby, Elizabeth Ostenson, Harold and Willer, Helga 2016. Global situation for organic tree fruits. Scientia Horticulturae, Vol. 208, p. 3.

    Guéguen, L. and Pascal, G. 2016. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences.

    He, Xueqing Qiao, Yuhui Liu, Yuexian Dendler, Leonie Yin, Cheng and Martin, Friederike 2016. Environmental impact assessment of organic and conventional tomato production in urban greenhouses of Beijing city, China. Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 134, p. 251.

    Lepiller, Olivier 2016. Valoriser le naturel dans l’alimentation. Cahiers de Nutrition et de Diététique, Vol. 51, Issue. 2, p. 73.

    Lorenz, K. and Lal, R. 2016.

    McGregor, Joan 2016. Citizenship and Immigration - Borders, Migration and Political Membership in a Global Age.

    Mercati, Valentino 2016. Organic Agriculture as a Paradigm of Sustainability: Italian Food and its Progression in the Global Market. Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia, Vol. 8, p. 798.

    Nuutila, Jaakko and Kurppa, Sirpa 2016. Reaching goals for organic food in Finland: which changes should occur in the food chain?. Organic Agriculture,

    Orsini, Francesco Maggio, Albino Rouphael, Youssef and De Pascale, Stefania 2016. “Physiological quality” of organically grown vegetables. Scientia Horticulturae, Vol. 208, p. 131.

    Prada, Marília Rodrigues, David and Garrido, Margarida V. 2016. Deliberate choices or strong motives: Exploring the mechanisms underlying the bias of organic claims on leniency judgments. Appetite, Vol. 103, p. 8.


Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses

  • Marcin Barański (a1), Dominika Średnicka-Tober (a1), Nikolaos Volakakis (a1), Chris Seal (a2), Roy Sanderson (a3), Gavin B. Stewart (a1), Charles Benbrook (a4), Bruno Biavati (a5), Emilia Markellou (a6), Charilaos Giotis (a7), Joanna Gromadzka-Ostrowska (a8), Ewa Rembiałkowska (a8), Krystyna Skwarło-Sońta (a9), Raija Tahvonen (a10), Dagmar Janovská (a11), Urs Niggli (a12), Philippe Nicot (a13) and Carlo Leifert (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 15 July 2014

Demand for organic foods is partially driven by consumers' perceptions that they are more nutritious. However, scientific opinion is divided on whether there are significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods, and two recent reviews have concluded that there are no differences. In the present study, we carried out meta-analyses based on 343 peer-reviewed publications that indicate statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop-based foods. Most importantly, the concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop-based foods, with those of phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins being an estimated 19 (95 % CI 5, 33) %, 69 (95 % CI 13, 125) %, 28 (95 % CI 12, 44) %, 26 (95 % CI 3, 48) %, 50 (95 % CI 28, 72) % and 51 (95 % CI 17, 86) % higher, respectively. Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including CVD and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies. Additionally, the frequency of occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal Cd. Significant differences were also detected for some other (e.g. minerals and vitamins) compounds. There is evidence that higher antioxidant concentrations and lower Cd concentrations are linked to specific agronomic practices (e.g. non-use of mineral N and P fertilisers, respectively) prescribed in organic farming systems. In conclusion, organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of Cd and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and production seasons.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses
      Available formats
The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution licence
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Professor C. Leifert, fax +44 1661 831 006, email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

2E Oughton & C Ritson (2007) Food consumers and organic agriculture. In Handbook of Organic Food Quality and Safety, pp. 7494 [J Cooper , U Niggli and C Leifert , editors]. Cambridge, UK: Woodhouse Publishing Ltd.

4 BPBaker , CMBenbrook , EGroth3rd , et al. (2002) Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: insights from three US data sets. Food Addit Contam 19, 427446.

6AL Hansen (2010) The Organic Farming Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Certified Organic Farm. North Adams, MA: Storey Books.

7J Cooper , R Sanderson , I Cakmak , et al. (2011) Effect of organic and conventional crop rotation, fertilization, and crop protection practices on metal contents in wheat (Triticum aestivum). J Agric Food Chem 59, 47154724.

8ETL van Bueren , SS Jones , L Tamm , et al. (2011) The need to breed crop varieties suitable for organic farming, using wheat, tomato and broccoli as examples: a review. NJAS Wageningen J Life Sci 58, 193205.

9C Tetard-Jones , M Edwards , L Rempelos , et al. (2013) Effects of previous crop management, fertilization regime and water supply on potato tuber proteome and yield. Agronomy 3, 5985.

10L Rempelos , J Cooper , S Wilcockson , et al. (2013) Quantitative proteomics to study the response of potato to contrasting fertilisation regimes. Mol Breed 31, 363378.

11SJ Lehesranta , KM Koistinen , N Massat , et al. (2007) Effects of agricultural production systems and their components on protein profiles of potato tubers. Proteomics 7, 597604.

12C Tetard-Jones , PN Shotton , L Rempelos , et al. (2013) Quantitative proteomics to study the response of wheat to contrasting fertilisation regimes. Mol Breed 31, 379393.

13JP van Dijk , K Cankar , SJ Scheffer , et al. (2009) Transcriptome analysis of potato tubers – effects of different agricultural practices. J Agric Food Chem 57, 16121623.

14JP van Dijk , C Leifert , E Barros , et al. (2010) Gene expression profiling for food safety assessment: examples in potato and maize. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 58, Suppl. 3, S21S25.

15JP van Dijk , K Cankar , PJM Hendriksen , et al. (2012) The identification and interpretation of differences in the transcriptomes of organically and conventionally grown potato tubers. J Agric Food Chem 60, 20902101.

16D Del Rio , A Rodriguez-Mateos , JPE Spencer , et al. (2013) Dietary (poly)phenolics in human health: structures, bioavailability, and evidence of protective effects against chronic diseases. Antioxid Redox Signal 18, 18181892.

19AD Dangour , SK Dodhia , A Hayter , et al. (2009) Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 90, 680685.

20K Brandt , C Leifert , R Sanderson , et al. (2011) Agroecosystem management and nutritional quality of plant foods: the case of organic fruits and vegetables. Crit Rev Plant Sci 30, 177197.

21C Smith-Spangler , ML Brandeau , GE Hunter , et al. (2012) Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives? A systematic review. Ann Intern Med 157, 348366.

23C Curl , RA Fenske & K Elgethun (2003) Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets. Environ Health Perspect 111, 377382.

24C Leifert , K Ball , N Volakakis , et al. (2008) Control of enteric pathogens in ready-to-eat vegetable crops in organic and ‘low input’ production systems: a HACCP-based approach. J Appl Microbiol 105, 931950.

25G Stewart (2010) Meta-analysis in applied ecology. Biol Lett 6, 7881.

27K Brandt , D Srednicka-Tober , M Baranski , et al. (2013) Methods for comparing data across differently designed agronomic studies: examples of different meta-analysis methods used to compare relative composition of plant foods grown using organic or conventional production methods and a protocol for a systematic review. J Agric Food Chem 61, 71737180.

28G Stewart , I Cote , H Rothstein , et al. (2013) First steps in beginning a meta-analysis. In Handbook of Meta-Analysis in Ecology and Evolution, pp. 2736 [J Koricheva , J Gurevitch and K Mengersen , editors]. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

29E Palupi , A Jayanegara , A Ploeger , et al. (2012) Comparison of nutritional quality between conventional and organic dairy products: a meta-analysis. J Sci Food Agric 92, 27742781.

30Anonymous (2013) The R Project for Statistical Computing. (accessed 10 February 2013)..

31W Viechtbauer (2010) Conducting meta-analyses in R with the metafor package. J Stat Softw 36, 148.

32LV Hedges & I Olkin (1985) Statistical Methods for Meta-Analysis. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

33J Sanchez-Meca & F Marin-Martinez (2010) Meta-analysis. In International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd ed., pp. 274282 [P Peterson , E Baker and B McGaw , editors]. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

34MW Lipsey & DB Wilson (editors) (2001) Practical Meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

35LV Hedges , J Gurevitch & PS Curtis (1999) The meta-analysis of response ratios in experimental ecology. Ecology 80, 11501156.

, & () . : .37HR Rothstein AJ Sutton M Borenstein 2006 Publication Bias in Meta-Analysis Chichester, UKJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd

38J Gurevitch & LV Hedges (1999) Statistical issues in ecological meta-analyses. Ecology 80, 11421149.

41GH Guyatt , AD Oxman , GE Vist , et al. (2008) GRADE: an emerging consensus on rating quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. BMJ 336, 924926.

42L Grinder-Pedersen , SE Rasmussen , S Bügel , et al. (2003) Effect of diets based on foods from conventional versus organic production on intake and excretion of flavonoids and markers of antioxidative defense in humans. J Agric Food Chem 51, 56715676.

43M Søltoft , A Bysted , KH Madsen , et al. (2011) Effects of organic and conventional growth systems on the content of carotenoids in carrot roots, and on intake and plasma status of carotenoids in humans. J Sci Food Agric 91, 767775.

45C Lauridsen , C Yong , U Halekoh , et al. (2008) Rats show differences in some biomarkers of health when eating diets based on ingredients produced with three different cultivation strategies. J Sci Food Agric 88, 720732.

46D Srednicka-Tober , M Baranski , J Gromadzka-Ostrowska , et al. (2013) Effect of crop protection and fertilization regimes used in organic and conventional production systems on feed composition and physiological parameters in rats. J Agric Food Chem 61, 10171029.

47RL Nicholson & R Hammerschmidt (1992) Phenolic compounds and their role in disease resistance. Annu Rev Phytopathol 30, 369389.

48RN Bennett & RM Wallsgrove (1994) Secondary metabolites in plant defense mechanisms. New Phytol 127, 617633.

50JF Sander & R Heitefuss (1998) Susceptibility to Erysiphe graminis f. sp. tritici and phenolic acid content of wheat as influenced by different levels of nitrogen fertilization. J Phytopathol 146, 495507.

51S Rühmann , C Leser , M Bannert , et al. (2002) Relationship between growth, secondary metabolism, and resistance of apple. Plant Biol 4, 137143.

52AJ Stewart , W Chapman , GI Jenkins , et al. (2001) The effect of nitrogen and phosphorus deficiency on flavonol accumulation in plant tissues. Plant Cell Environ 24, 11891197.

54PK Bešter , F Lobnik , I Eržen , et al. (2013) Prediction of cadmium concentration in selected home-produced vegetables. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 96, 182190.

57European Food Safety Authority (2011) The 2009 European Union report on pesticide residues in food. EFSA 9, 2430.

58M Marinovich , F Ghilardi & CL Galli (1996) Effect of pesticide mixtures on in vitro nervous cells: comparison with single pesticides. Toxicology 108, 201206.

59PA Pape-Lindstrom & MJ Lydy (1997) Synergistic toxicity of atrazine and organophosphate insecticides contravenes the response addition mixture model. Environ Toxicol Chem 16, 24152420.

60JC Axelrad , CV Howard & WG McLean (2002) Interactions between pesticides and components of pesticide formulations in an in vitro neurotoxicity test. Toxicology 173, 259268.

62P Bilsborrow , J Cooper , C Tetard-Jones , et al. (2013) The effect of organic and conventional crop production systems on the yield and quality of wheat (Triticum aestivum) grown in a long-term field trial. Eur J Agron 51, 7180.

66JO Lundberg , E Weitzberg & MT Gladwin (2008) The nitrate–nitrite–nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics. Nat Rev Drug Discov 7, 156167.

67A Machha & AN Schechter (2012) Inorganic nitrate: a major player in the cardiovascular health benefits of vegetables? Nutr Rev 70, 367372.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Barański Supplementary Material

 Unknown (3.0 MB)
3.0 MB