From The Times July 30, 2009
Organic food 'no better for health than factory-farmed food' says report
Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor 92 Comments
Recommend? (18) Organic food is no healthier than other produce, according to the Government’s food watchdog.
The largest ever review into the science behind organic food found that it contained no more nutritional value than factory-farmed meat or fruit and vegetables grown using chemical fertilisers. The findings challenge popular assumptions about the organic industry, worth £2 billion in the UK. Consumer groups said that shoppers may now think twice before buying organic.
The report, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, was carried out by experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who studied data collected over 50 years.
Organic groups were incensed by the findings. The Soil Association accused the FSA of ignoring up-to-date evidence and pre-empting EU research for political reasons. Lord Melchett, its policy director, said that he had urged the FSA to delay its report. “They have jumped the gun,” he said.
Pro-organic groups criticised the findings of the year-long review, which cost £120,000. They said that the conclusions, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, failed to take into account the impact of pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming bans artificial chemical fertilisers and has stricter animal welfare rules than conventional farming.
Dr Dangour said that, as a nutritionist, he was not qualified to look at pesticides. “There is a possibility that organic food has less pesticide residues, but this was not part of the review,” he said. “Potentially this may be an area for further research.”
He added: “A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance.
“Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced crops and livestock on the basis of nutritional supremacy.”
Among the differences identified by the study was a higher phosphorous content in organic food. Dr Dangour said: “Phosphorus is an important mineral and is available in everything we eat. It is important for public health but the difference in the content between organic and conventional foods was not statistically relevant in terms of health.”
He added: “Acidity is also higher in organic produce but acidity is about taste and sensory perception and makes no difference at all for health.”
Nitrogen levels were found to be higher in conventional produce, but this was not surprising given the use of nitrogen as a fertiliser in commercial agriculture. But the levels posed no better or worse impacts on human health, the research said.
A study of 52,000 papers was made, but only 162 scientific papers published between January 1958 and February last year were deemed relevant, of which just 55 met the strict quality criteria for the study, Dr Dangour said.
Twenty-three nutrients were analysed. In 20 categories there were no significant differences between production methods and the nutrient content. The differences detected were most likely to have been due to differences in fertiliser use and ripeness at harvest, and were unlikely to provide any health benefits.
The Soil Association challenged the conclusions that some nutritional differences between organic and conventional food were not important. It said it was particularly concerned that the researchers dismissed higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic food — such as 53.6 higher levels of beta-carotene and 38.4 per cent more flavonoids in organic foods — according to the mean percentage difference of samples analysed.
Dr Dangour was adamant that these were not relevant because of the level of standard error in the research — which was 37 per cent for beta-carotene and 10.6 per cent for flavonoids.
The authors said in their conclusion: “No evidence of a difference in content of nutrients and other substances between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock products was detected for the majority of nutrient assessed in this review, suggesting that organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock products are broadly comparable in their nutrient content.”
Gill Fine, the FSA’s director of consumer choice, said: “This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”
In reaching their conclusions, the report's authors were accused of pre-empting a Brussels study being carried out by Carlo Leifert, Professor of Ecological Farming at Newcastle University, which is due to be published this year.
Professor Leifert told The Times that his research found higher level of antioxidants — which help the body to combat cancer and cardiovascular disease — in organic foods. He said that the FSA did not want to admit that there was anything good in organic food. “The Government is worried they will then have to have a policy to make organic food available to everyone,” he said.
Amanfuo mo ns3m pa! the microwave fufu and the real ghana banky3 a y3wo fufu shits on this research!!