To Be Organic, or Not To Be?

The age old question of our times: organic vs non-organic.

I think that the article below is too good to rewrite. I will make the point that even if organic food does not contain MORE nutrition than conventional food (but has the same) it is what is does not have that is important- pesticides, herbicides and nasty fertilisers. I will also simply add that organic food tastes better and is only as expensive as you make it. I order mine from Go Organics, a local family run Co-Op. Check them out.


I have adapted this article from,7471


The organic side

Speak to advocates of organic farming and they will tell you that yes, their produce is almost always better than that which is produced conventionally - that is, using pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. "There are some very good studies that show that on balance organic food has higher levels of nutrition," says Andre Leu, chair of the Organic Federation of Australia. "The data we have from Australia and around the world tends to be consistent. The number one reason people buy organic is for health reasons and concern about the use of pesticides.

"People believe that organic foods have higher levels of nutrition and leave less of an environmental footprint. It's better for the environment and organic food tastes better." American food philosopher and journalist Michael Pollan, whose most recent book, Food Rules (Penguin), is a call to arms against agribusiness and factory-produced food, wholeheartedly agrees.

He says that large-scale conventional farming has so overtaken food production that average consumers have lost connection with their food sources. The result of this is large-scale farming that produces food too cheaply and too quickly, with little concern for quality.

Pollan says he became an advocate for organic and home-grown food after he encountered a mass-scale cattle feedlot that turned his stomach. His other turning point came when he saw an enormous potato farm in Idaho, where fertilisers and pesticides were pumped over the crops by a remote-controlled computer.

"What they were pumping onto the crops was so toxic that the farmers would not go into the fields for five days after spraying," he recalls. "And for their own consumption, the farmers were growing organic potatoes in a small patch beside their house." New South Wales farmer John Reynolds, whose Nashdale Fruit Co sells naturally grown potatoes through farmers' markets around Sydney, says he stopped producing commercial potatoes after tiring of being encouraged to grow oversized, flavourless crops.

The supermarket type of spud is generally grown in a grey soil that's very sandy," he says. "They do that because they can feed them up with fertiliser, which makes them grow very fast and very big. And that's why supermarkets charge $1.50 to $2 a kilo for them. They're force-fed."

He says his potatoes, which include varieties such as Dutch cream, kipfler and purple congo, taste better because they are slow-grown. "People come to me and say, 'My God, these are the best potatoes I've ever eaten'," he says.

The research

In the face of evidence such as that, it would be hard to argue against the benefits of organic food. But despite the claims of advocates, independent studies that compare the nutritional value of conventional produce with organic fare remain open-ended about the differences between the two.

Associate Professor Samir Samman, from the School of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Sydney, says there is little evidence to suggest that organic food is nutritionally better than conventional food, especially in relation to fresh fruit and vegetables. In amajor study that has been accepted for publication in the international scientific journal Critical Reviews In Food Science And Nutrition, Professor Samman and his team "surveyed the international literature and critically evaluated the results" - and they aren't heartening for the organics industry.

"Our review showed [that] when all the published articles on this topic are considered, organic food is reported to contain more vitamin C and phosphorous than conventionally produced food," Professor Samman says. "[But] when the articles are scrutinised for scientific quality, and only the better-quality articles are considered, only phosphorous remained significantly higher in organic food as compared with conventional foods.

"Phosphorous is not in any way a limiting nutrient in the diet. The presence of higher amounts in organic food has probably little significance. We conclude from the analysis that the nutrient composition differs very little between foods that are produced by organic and conventional methods."

Professor Samman's team also analysed the nutritional content of food bought from conventional shops and organic stores, and found that with oils such as olive, peanut and canola, "the method of production [organic or conventional] has no real impact on the composition" of the fatty acids contained in the food. The same result was found for eggs. His team is now conducting research on nuts, dairy foods and meat.

"Some health professionals believe that organic foods have more nutrients and elicit favourable effects on health," Professor Samman says."This advice is given despite the lack of scientific evidence to support it." He says it's more important to simply consume as many fruit and vegetables as possible rather than worrying about whether they are organic.

"The really important thing for consumers is that they continue to consume fruits and vegetables regardless of the source, because this is going to bring about health benefits," he advises. "If you only eat one organic apple because that's all you can afford, instead of having two conventional apples, surely you're better off having two."

And for those worried about the environmental impacts of conventional farming, Professor Samman says that organic farming has become such a big business that it's now facing the same problems as other agribusiness. "The more that the organic supply increases, the more likely it is to be detrimental to the environment in a sense, because we have to get the food transported to the cities, we have to get it mass produced and we have to use some of the equipment that conventional farming uses," he says.