Organic group criticises report dismissing benefits of organic food


A BRITISH report which concludes that eating organic food does not provide any significant nutritional or health benefits is missing the larger picture, according to Ireland’s largest organic group.

The independent report which was commissioned by the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) found there were no important differences between organic and conventionally produced food.

The conclusion was reached after a team of researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reviewed all papers published over the last 50 years relating to nutrient content and health differences between the two kinds of produce.

However, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association yesterday criticised the report and said an important study carried out at Newcastle University last year was not included in the review as it did not meet the criteria outlined by the researchers.

This report, Quality Low Input Farming, which was carried out by 31 research institutes and universities throughout Europe, showed there were more antioxidants and vitamins in organic vegetables than non-organic ones, according to the growers association.

It had also found, it added, there was more Omega 3 in organic dairy products than those which were non-organic. “Nutrition is only one reason why people eat organic food, other major reasons include the fact that organic food does not contain pesticide residues.”

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, attending a world convention of farmers in Dublin Castle yesterday, said he had noted the report.

Trevor Sargent, the Minister responsible for the promotion of organic farming, had ordered a review of the sector last Wednesday.

It will look at how available funds are used to best effect to attain the 5 per cent Government target. Currently, just over 1 per cent of agricultural land in Ireland is certified as organic. Mr Sargent said the outcome of the review would be announced during National Organic Week next month.

The principal author of the British report, Dr Alan Dangour, said 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.

The British Food Standards Agency said it supported consumer choice and was neither pro nor anti organic food, recognising there were many reasons why people chose to eat it.