Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is Organic Better?

I always find this debate quite interesting.  Is organic food "better".   I just saw this study that reckons that in terms of the antioxidants, organic carrots and onions are no better.

The study :  Effects of Organic and Conventional Growth Systems on the Content of Flavonoids in Onions and Phenolic Acids in Carrots and Potatoes  is here. 

Well, maybe.

Then again my motivation for organic is not really just about this.  I prefer organic for a couple of other reasons:

  • what it means for the wider ecosystem
  • avoiding eating too much in the way of pesticides etc
I might be deceiving myself on both I suppose!

More here


Matt Baldwin said...

Conventional crops are grown in depleted soils, using pesticides to control insects and herbicides to control weeds. You *might* convince me that they have the same mineral and nutritional content as organically grown crops (since genes are genes and a plant assembles what it needs for itself based on genetics not growing methods) but you *can't* convince me that there aren't chemical residues on conventional produce... most of which are hormonal analogues and potentially quite harmful to the human endocrine system.

newbieinNoVa said...

I tend to agree with Matt. The only concern tho is that "organic" doesn't necessarily mean what we think it does, especially when it comes from outside the US.

Fresh Origins said...

Organic activists have perpetuated the following myths about organic farming:
-grown without using toxic pesticides
-better for the environment
-safer and healthier
-better tasting
All of these claims are false and misleading. If the consuming public knew the truth about organic farming, they would not pay more for organic products.

Todd Hargrove said...


I read a fascinating article by Bruce Ames on pesticides.

Its cited in Jaminet's excellent book Perfect Health Diet. The article basically says that plants need pesticides, either natural or synthetic to survive to harvest. The more synthetic the less natural and vice versa. And the natural pesticides are just as likely to be carcinogenic as the man made ones.

Pete Shield said...

As an organic small holder in France my experience isn't universal but I would content that under European organic certification the way we farm is indeed much better for the environment.

Because of the very limited solutions we have for removing weeds and pest,and to be frank the solutions we are allowed I don't like- some of the organic pesticides are both useless and onerous, and the idea of using gas burners to kill weeds is not my idea of a sustainable solution. The best way I have found to control both is highly intensive agricultural methods, using crop rotation, companion planting, fly traps, and natural deterants such as Bordeaux mixture.

The difference in the insect and bird population since we started has been phenomenal. Using low water techniques and determined soil management we have increased the depth and quality of the soil four fold and massively reduced wash off.

Integration of small scale, free range animal husbandry has helped- as has a neighbour's llama herd, both in keeping down hostile insects and in enriching the poor quality soil structure we started with.

I personally feel that the health claims of the 'organic' brand have been overstated, but then so have the health claims of so many other industrial foods. It's a marketing strategy- a quick look at the food adverts, and cosmetics adverts than fund TV will show that manufacturers constantly accentuate the positive to the point of insanity at times, compared to Kraft, Nestle, P&G and Unilever the organic brands are mere infants in the marketing game.

On the whole looking at organic agricultural methods and their long term impact on the environment, on biodiversity and on human eating habits I think the balance is tilted our way.

Stephen said...

I'm passionate about organic but have never been dreadfully convinced about the arguments that it is necessarily healthier nor that it is necessarily more eco friendly. Indeed if anything I think there are legitimate reasons to debate it's eco friendliness and my reasons for using it potentially selfish. Ultimately though my knowledge is too limited to have an informed view on that.

For me the simple reason for trying to buy local organic food from farms I know about is because I love food and want to buy it from people whi I know are also passionate about it, not just passionate about maximising yields and profit, partiuclarly when it comes to meat. I like to know my meat comes from grass fed, well cared for animals, better for the animals, tastier for me. Small scale organic farmers tend to do it for love of what they do and that is reflected in the quality of the produce. I'm not necessarily convinced it is healthier, I am completely convinced it is better quality.

terrence said...

A number of studies in the UK and Denmark have shown clearly that "organic" crops yield only 60% of what dreaded "chemical fertilized" crops do.

The Danish trails demonstrated that Denmark could not be self sufficient if it went all "organic". They had the good sense to NOT do so.

The recent UK study also showed that these reduced "organic" crops have a devastating impact on small bird populations. Fewer crops mean less space for nests, fewer foods, and greater exposure to preditators. The net result is much lower bird population.

terrence said...

Even more research on blessed "organics" showing they are NOT healthier than non-organic.

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