Karen McVeigh29 July, 2009
Organic food is no healthier than conventionally produced food, according to anew, independent study funded by the Food Standards Agency. But experts andorganic food campaigners are questioning the study’s conclusions. The study looked at the different nutrient levels found in crops and livestock fromboth organic and conventional farming. It also looked at the health benefits of eating organic food. The study, published in the American Journal of ClinicalNutrition, contradicts previous reports that found organically grown food to havenutritional benefits.Dr Alan Dangour, who led the study at the London School of Hygiene and TropicalMedicine, said that they looked at all of the studies that were published in the last50 years, and concluded that there’s no proof that eating organic food is good forpeople’s health.He said that although there were small differences in nutrient content betweenorganic and conventionally produced food, they were unlikely to make anydifference to people’s health.Organic food campaigners criticized the study for not looking at fertilizer andpesticide residues in food. They were disappointed with the study, and said that itdid not provide a clear answer on whether eating organic food has healthbenefits.Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said: “We are disappointedin the conclusions the researchers have reached. It doesn’t say organic food is nothealthier, just that there’s no proof that it is.”He criticized the methodology used by the team because they didn’t include theimportance of some nutritional benefits they found in organic food. He said thatthis had led them to different conclusions from those reached byprevious studies.Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University and theco-ordinator of a major EU-funded study which found that nutrient levels werehigher in organic foods, also said the conclusions of the study were selective. Hesaid: “I’m worried about the conclusions. They are so blocked by not wanting tosay positive things about organic farming.” The appendix of the FSA report shows that some nutrients, such as beta-carotene,are as much as 53% higher in organic food, but these differences are not in itsconclusions.Organic food is now worth £2bn in the UK alone. Crops are not treated withartificial chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and antibiotics and drugs are not usedon livestock.