The Organic Argument

In the last day or two the media has had some damning reports regarding organic food and health and I will try and reply to those of you who are calling me up and asking is this true – what do we believe?

If we can do away with the term “organic” for one second. When my family were virtually self sufficient in the 1970’s, my father never used sprays. However we never used the term organic when we went to the bottom of the garden to pick our radishes, leeks, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and kale. It was just food. Supermarkets do put a premium on organic products and the consumer has a right to know if its really worth it. I think the argument for ethical reasons and taste has been won, the one about health is slightly more shady.

When large trials are done, it’s best to google them and look at exactly how many people have been trialled and who has funded the trial – this is crucial in getting a balanced outcome. Who has the time or the inclination to do this ? Well I do, as its part of my job. Many trials are funded by companies that may want to promote, say GM foods instead. Its very very easy without lying to massage the figures to the outcome that suits your needs. Doing my research for my Masters I see this all the time.

Two of the trials I have seen that I feel have been totally unbiased are the following (there are numerous more):

Dairy foods – research found that organic milk is naturally higher in nutrients like Omega 3 and vitamin E.

Tomatoes – have almost double the amount of flavanoids found in organic after a 10 year study.

The trouble with pesticides and herbicides is that its almost impossible to trial the effects of the cocktail of these chemicals on humans as there are so many. You could possibly follow for example one particular pesticide over a period of 20 years and how it affects health but how would you trial the thousands of different mixes of different chemicals on the body. Then you would have to ask yourself what are they testing when they test the health of these people? What symptoms would tie in with eating pesticides for 20 years? More headaches for example? You see how difficult it is to monitor.

For your information by the way The Environmental Working Groups “dirty dozen” i.e. the worst affected with sprays are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes (imported), pears, spinach, and potatoes. The “cleanest 12” are onions, avocados, sweetcorn (frozen), pineapples, mangos, sweet peas (frozen), asparagus, kiwis, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and eggplants.

My thoughts are these – fruit and veg, meat and dairy products have definite health benefits when eaten as “naturally” as possible. However organic tomato ketchup might not be worth the extra. I leave it up to your common sense and judgement and try not to believe everything you read in the media. If you want cheap organic food and love the taste and quality try getting an allotment or growing your own.

See today’s article by Joanna Blythman for further discussion…

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