Organic Food not Nutritionally Better than Conventional

passion fruit yeppoon 2009A SYSTEMATIC review of literature over 50 years finds no evidence for superior nutritional content of organic produce.

There is no evidence that organically produced foods are nutritionally superior to conventionally produced foodstuffs, according to a study published today in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Consumers appear willing to pay higher prices for organic foods based on their perceived health and nutrition benefits, and the global organic food market was estimated in 2007 to be worth £29 billion (£2 billion in the UK alone). Some previous reviews have concluded that organically produced food has a superior nutrient composition to conventional food, but there has to date been no systematic review of the available published literature.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have now completed the most extensive systematic review of the available published literature on nutrient content of organic food ever conducted. The review focussed on nutritional content and did not include a review of the content of contaminants or chemical residues in foods from different agricultural production regimens.

Over 50,000 papers were searched, and a total of 162 relevant articles were identified that were published over a fifty-year period up to 29 February 2008 and compared the nutrient content of organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. To ensure methodological rigour the quality of each article was assessed. To be graded as satisfactory quality, the studies had to provide information on the organic certification scheme from which the foodstuffs were derived, the cultivar of crop or breed of livestock analysed, the nutrient or other nutritionally relevant substance assessed, the laboratory analytical methods used, and the methods used for statistical analysis. 55 of the identified papers were of satisfactory quality, and analysis was conducted comparing the content in organically and conventionally produced foods of the 13 most commonly reported nutrient categories.

The researchers found organically and conventionally produced foods to be comparable in their nutrient content. For 10 out of the 13 nutrient categories analysed, there were no significant differences between production methods in nutrient content. Differences that were detected were most likely to be due to differences in fertilizer use (nitrogen, phosphorus), and ripeness at harvest (acidity), and it is unlikely that consuming these nutrients at the levels reported in organic foods would provide any health benefit.

Alan Dangour, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, and one of the report’s authors, comments: ‘A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, 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 foods on the basis of nutritional superiority. Research in this area would benefit from greater scientific rigour and a better understanding of the various factors that determine the nutrient content of foodstuffs’.

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Notes and Links

Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review.  Alan D Dangour, Sakhi K Dodhia, Arabella Hayter, Elizabeth Allen, Karen Lock and Ricardo Uauy. Am J Clin Nutr (July 29, 2009). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28041

Abstract: Despite growing consumer demand for organically produced foods, information based on a systematic review of their nutritional quality is lacking.  We sought to quantitatively assess the differences in reported nutrient content between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.  We systematically searched PubMed, Web of Science, and CAB Abstracts for a period of 50 y from 1 January 1958 to 29 February 2008, contacted subject experts, and hand-searched bibliographies. We included peer-reviewed articles with English abstracts in the analysis if they reported nutrient content comparisons between organic and conventional foodstuffs. Two reviewers extracted study characteristics, quality, and data. The analyses were restricted to the most commonly reported nutrients.  From a total of 52,471 articles, we identified 162 studies (137 crops and 25 livestock products); 55 were of satisfactory quality. In an analysis that included only satisfactory quality studies, conventionally produced crops had a significantly higher content of nitrogen, and organically produced crops had a significantly higher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity. No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining 8 of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed. Analysis of the more limited database on livestock products found no evidence of a difference in nutrient content between organically and conventionally produced livestock products.  On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

Received for publication May 7, 2009. Accepted for publication July 2, 2009.

http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/news/2009/organicfood.html

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47 Responses to Organic Food not Nutritionally Better than Conventional

  1. ad July 30, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    We buy fruit and veg from the local growers market. Some organic, some not, don’t really fuss too much about that. As long as its local produce and the money goes direct to the producers. It looks, tastes and keeps better. Healthier? who knows. And, most surprisingly, it is cheaper than the super-markets.

  2. Ann Novek July 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    As a matter of fact most studies point out that organic food is more nutrious than “super market” food.

    For example , milk from cows that are on the pastures contain much more healthy ingredients than factory farm cow milk.

  3. Larry Fields July 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    Where I live, the organic label means something. If the pesticide levels are too high– for example if pesticides drift from the field of a conventional farmer to that of his organic neighbor–then the food cannot be labeled as organic. However I’m not willing to pay premium prices for organic food.

    At the CONCENTRATIONS typically found in foods grown in the US, for example, it’s difficult to link INDIVIDUAL pesticides IN FOOD to health problems in people. (Old saying: It’s the dose that makes the poison.) Is that true for COMBINATIONS of pesticides found in a typical Merkin or Aussie diet? In other words, is there a synergistic effect in humans? I do not know.

    One of the concerns about pesticides is that some of them have sex-hormone-mimicking effects. Certain endangered species–like the Florida Panther–have relatively high concentrations of pesticides and their metabolites, which stymie the reproductive systems of the big cats.

    In light of the environmental effects of high concentrations of pesticides, it would be worthwhile to do long-term studies of the effects of food-borne pesticides in fetuses and in children. Control group: families who eat conventional supermarket and restaurant food. Experimental group: families whose food is at least 90% ‘organic’. Control for socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc.

    Anyway, the issue is pesticides, NOT essential nutrients. And the article glosses over that distinction. An undiscerning reader would come to the conclusion that there’s no substantial difference between the two approaches to agriculture. There is a difference. The real question is this: Are pesticide levels in common foods a big deal?

    Putting the brouhaha into perspective, I think that we should be much more concerned about the highly carcinogenic heterocyclic amines in GRILLED beef, for example. In contrast, the HCA levels in a pot roast are negligible. I microwave my burgers.

  4. Ian Mott July 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    Cite your souces, Ann, or forget about it.

    The reality is that the so-called health food industry is not in the slightest bit inclined to allow proper comparison of products. Why would they? They get so much advantage from maintaining the customers ignorance.

    Indeed, even the much touted farming advantages of organic production are highly dependent on the dilligence with which their conventional neighbours control pests and diseases. Without these large surrounding conventionally farmed buffers, the organic farms would not survive as their methods are only capable of dealing with minor outbreaks.

  5. Neville July 30, 2009 at 4:18 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more, the organic industry exists for lamebrains to pay much higher prices for food for zilch.
    Much the same type of fools who are taken in by AGW.

  6. Louis Hissink July 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    I was offered “organic” beef, and it was %$#^$%#@ awful – no taste and colourless to boot. In fact boot leather might have been tastier.

  7. janama July 30, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    There’s a 40 year old organic dairy farm in Gippsland where the milk never makes it to the general public because every drop goes directly to a certain number of private hospitals who find that their patients are able to consume it without side effects whereas normal milk creates problems.

    Apparently some members of the community were like Motty and had a deep felt hatred for hippies so they organised a way to test out the farmers wife’s knowledge of organics. They purchased 4 oranges and only one was organic and they took them to the farmers wife and asked her which were organic.

    She opened each and not only picked the organic but also pointed out to them the different aspects of the formation of the fruit that had been affected by certain chemicals in each case.

    This is so much like the AGW theory – all it proves is that nutritionists don’t know as much as they claim to know about food and nutrition just as climatologists don’t know much about climate.

  8. janama July 30, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    yeah I know Ian – it’s just anecdotal, but hey – so was your post.

  9. AW July 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    It is a well-established fact that the most nutritious source of protein on the planet is whale meat. The fact that whale meat is organic is not relevant.

  10. Ann Novek July 30, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    Here ‘s the link Ian , that organic milk is healthier than conventional, but it must be pointed out that it also depends on the quality of pastures, best possible milk from cows from 100% nature pastureland:

    Organic milk is cream of the crop
    A new study by Newcastle University proves that organic farmers who let their cows
    graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.
    The Nafferton Ecological Farming Group study found that grazing cows on organic farms
    in the UK produce milk which contains significantly higher beneficial fatty acids,
    antioxidants and vitamins than their conventional ‘high input’ counterparts.
    During the summer months, one of the beneficial fats in particular – conjugated linoleic
    acid, or CLA9 – was found to be 60% higher.
    The results of this study into UK dairy production are published online in the Journal of
    Science of Food and Agriculture.
    ‘We have known for some time that what cows are fed has a big influence on milk
    quality,’ explained Gillian Butler, livestock project manager for the Nafferton Ecological
    Farming Group at Newcastle University, who led the study. ‘What is different about this
    research is it clearly shows that on organic farms, letting cows graze naturally, using
    forage-based diet, is the most important reason for the differences in the composition
    between organic and conventional milk.
    ‘We’ve shown that significant seasonal differences exist, with nutritionally desirable fatty
    acids and antioxidants being highest during the summer, when the cows are eating fresh
    grass and clover.
    ‘As a result, our future research is focusing on how to improve the nutritional
    composition of milk during the winter, when cows are kept indoors and fed mainly on
    conserved forage.’
    The study, which involved Newcastle scientists working with the Danish Institute for
    Agricultural Science, is part of the ongoing cross-European Quality Low Input Food
    project into animal health and welfare, milk quality and working towards minimising the
    use of antibiotics in dairy production.
    ‘This paper is a major milestone in the project and clearly shows that if you manage
    livestock naturally then it’s a win-win situation for both us and them,’ said Professor
    Carlo Leifert, project co-ordinator.
    The scientists also discovered interesting results from a group of low-input farms in
    Wales, which are not certified organic but use very similar production methods to organic
    farms (the main difference was the use of some mineral fertiliser and shorter withdrawal
    periods after antibiotic use).
    To reduce costs, these farmers calved all their cows in spring and grazed them
    throughout lactation, from March until November, resulting in milk being produced on an
    almost 100% fresh grass diet.
    Milk from these non-organic farms also had significantly higher levels of nutritionally
    desirable fatty acids and antioxidants, which was a direct result of the extensive outdoor
    rearing and fresh forage intake.
    ‘These New-Zealand type dairy systems are not common in the UK, as weather
    conditions in many areas of the country make it unworkable,’ explained Mrs Butler.
    ‘Therefore, milk from these farms is not available to the public as it’s mixed in with milk
    from conventional systems during processing.
    ‘However, including these extremely extensive systems allowed us to clearly link the
    difference in milk quality to the dairy cows’ diets.’
    Gordon Tweddle, of Acorn Dairy in County Durham, is a local supplier of organic milk.
    ‘We have believed for some time that organic milk is better for us and our customers tell
    us it tastes better,’ he said. ‘It is satisfying to have the scientific explanation as to why it
    is also nutritionally better.’
    This current research confirms previous studies in the UK, which reported higher
    concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids in milk from organic production systems than
    conventional ones.
    CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and carotenoids have all been linked to a reduced
    risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. CLA is hugely popular in the US, where it is
    marketed as a nutritional supplement. However, synthetic supplements often contain
    compounds with a different chemical composition (isomer balance) than those occurring
    naturally in milk, resulting in an equal dose of both ‘good’ (i.e. CLA9, omega-3 fatty acid,
    vitamin E and carotenoids) and ‘less desirable’ fatty acids (i.e. omega-6 fatty acids and
    CLA10).
    ‘Switching to organic milk provides an alternative, natural way to increase our intake of
    nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake
    of less desirable fatty acids and synthetic forms of vitamin E,’ said Mrs Butler. ‘In organic
    milk, the omega-3 levels increase but the omega-6 does not, which helps to improve the
    crucial ratio between the two.’
    The study involved 25 farms across the UK in two contrasting areas of the UK – South
    Wales and the North East. The scientists looked at three different farming systems:
    conventional high input, organically certified, and non-organic sustainable (low-input).
    Ends
    27/5/08
    Notes to Newsdesks:
    (i) The Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University collected 109 milk
    samples from 25 commercial farms categorised into the three different production
    systems: conventional high input; organically certified low input; and non-organic, low
    input. These samples were taken in August and October in 2004 and January, March
    and May the following year.
    (ii) The group investigated the effects of seasonal and indoor/outdoor feeding
    differences on the milk’s fatty acid profile, and also compared individual carotenoids,
    stereo-isomers of α-tocopherol (vitamin E) or isomers of CLA. The higher levels of
    nutritionally desirable fatty acids found in the organic milk were CLA9, omega-3 and
    α linolenic acid and the antioxidants/vitamins were vitamin E and carotenoids. The
    lower levels of undesirable fatty acids were omega-6 and CLA10.
    (iii) Case Studies: Both these farms took part in the Newcastle University study and can
    be contacted by journalists.
    TWA Farmers, Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales
    (email: JackSue_Warner@hotmail.com)
    Jack and Sue Warner have been running their farm since 1994, when they began
    with 350 acres and a conventional dairy system. They’ve since expanded, taking on
    more land and other local farmers along with them, converting to organic in 2002.
    They now have about 390 cows, mainly British Freesians, with a mixture of
    Longhorns, Guernsey and Jerseys.
    Acorn Dairy, Teesdale, County Durham
    (email: organic@acorndairy.co.uk Phone: 01325 466818)
    The Tweddle family has been farming at Archdeacon Newton, County Durham,
    through four generations. They began to deliver milk in the 1930s through to the
    1960s, but like many small dairies, were gradually pushed out by larger dairy
    businesses. However, Gordon and Linda Tweddle converted Garthorne Farm to
    organic status and are now reviving the tradition of doorstep delivery with their own
    organic milk and cream.
    (iv) For more information, a copy of the full paper, and to arrange interviews/filming,
    contact Sarah Cossom, Media Relations Manager, on 0191 222 6067 or 0191 222

    From University of Newcastle.

  11. Ann Novek July 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    And what’s the matter with you anti environmentalists???? Is everything connected with the AGW, all enviro issues? Don’t be so totally lobotimized!

    BTW, I think organic beef is much tastier than conventional beef, just my opinion:))

  12. Ann Novek July 30, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    To be totally unbiased here I’m aware that the market consists also of sleazy green labels on many products which is a fraud….

  13. Louis Hissink July 30, 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    Milk? I was weaned a long time ago – so why do so many continue to behave b -biologically in a peculiar way by continuing to eat milk and milk products?

    As AGW seems to be a European issue, I wonder if it’s the result of not being properly weaned causing problems in the thinking department.

  14. wes george July 30, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    People don’t really buy organic because it is more nutritious or better for the Earth, although that’s the narrative they’ll wax haughtily upon if asked. Whether they believe it or not is irrelevant.

    People buy organic for the same reason they buy other “quality” brands–to identify themselves as discerning, intelligent, genetically fit apes and as a signal of sexual fitness to other apes inclined to be responsive to that particular cultural gestalt.

    Of course, sexually in humans is largely sublimated into culturally euphemistic activities. Therefore, some people are consciously unaware that consumerism, especially the concept of “brands” and fashion, is almost entirely driven by desires that are irrational outside the context of fitness displays in natural selection.

    Personally, I prefer Cole’s home brand. But that may be more information than is appropriate in a family blog.

  15. sod July 30, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    thanks jennifer! your headline is more accurate than even many mainstream news headlines on this subject.

    for example here:

    Organic food is no healthier, study finds

    LONDON (Reuters) – Organic food has no nutritional or health benefits over ordinary food, according to a major study published Wednesday. ….

    (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Simon Jessop)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE56S3ZJ20090729

    what Hirschler and Jessop wrote on Reuters is a travesty of journalism.

    of course from a sceptic like Jennifer, i would expect a cautioning remark about other obvious benefits of organic food.

    like pesticides, chemicals additions to the food or simply the awful life of an non-organic chicken.

  16. jennifer July 30, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    Sod,
    Free-range does not equate with organic … and I do buy free range eggs.
    And neither does chemical/pesticide free… see David Tribes blog for the dangers of the various more ‘natural’ chemicals that can be used in the production of organic food.
    And rarely do I add cautionary remarks. 🙂

  17. Mac July 30, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    From nutritional point of view organic produce has failed the test of criticism.

    Organic farming may still be better for the environment, animal welfare and the local economy, but these are different arguements.

    This lengthy study sets different priorities when it comes to the weekly shop. Feeding and doing the best for your family no longer means you are left counting the pennies after buying expensively produced organic foods.

  18. janama July 30, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    wes – I have a T-Shirt that my family gave me because I’ve always said:

    “I’ve eliminated Coles from my Diet”

  19. wes george July 30, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    Janama, well, guess that means asking you out on a date would be futile. darn.

  20. Suresh's Software News July 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    As a matter of fact most studies point out that organic food is more nutrious than “super market” food.

  21. RWFOH July 31, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    Chemically Grown Food Not More Nutritious Than Organic

    Research by a part time blog reader has revealed that chemically enhanced food is no more nutritious than the chemical free alternative.

    The paper notes that side-effects of agricultural chemicals and fertilisers on non-target species, residues concentrating in soil and substances produced by chemical transformation are nothing to worry about as long as someone is making money.

    The energy expended producing and applying such chemicals is also good for business. Being able to turn intractable toxic waste into fertiliser so that it may be spread evenly across the landscape is merely killing two birds with one stone.

    Pollution of soil, freshwater systems and marine environments is a fact of life. Impacts on all life forms from soil flora and fauna through to top-order predators should be viewed as acceptable levels of collateral damage.

    The paper concludes that, provided manufacturers and users can manipulate the political process, it’s all good. It endorses the view held by the US EPA that the people best positioned to test the safety of such products are the manufacturers.

    The author now plans to research the benefits of consuming food contaminated with chemical residues and, also, how higher cancer rates have helped rural communities.

    http://www.livenews.com.au/news/greens-call-for-chemical-testing-of-fruit-and-vegetables/2009/7/3/211824

  22. ALAN July 31, 2009 at 12:49 am #

    I thought the big advantage of organics (besides obivously being better for the earth) is more anti-oxidents due to the thicker skins to fight insects. An anti-oxident is not onsidered a nutrient, but it certainly has valve.

  23. Eli Rabett July 31, 2009 at 5:40 am #

    There is a higher standard

  24. dhmo July 31, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    Jennifer this is just a comment about free range. I grew up on a poultry farm as it was progressing through the various stages of egg production. I reckon free range eggs are so cheap that they are probably a fraund. $10 to $20 would be a realistic price. So most likely we will find that there are boutique farms which act as a front but the main production is cage eggs with free range packaging. Choice did an article on this some time back they are phony and there is no regulation.

    As for organic the message is that there is no intrinsic worth! So we grow say tomatos using cow dung rather than agricultural chemicals. Both must have their problems. Bring on GM ra ra rah.

    How can you be sure you are buying organic anyway? Consider this our non organic food is checked is organic?

  25. KW July 31, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    The ‘do-gooders’ are so gullable…while the marketers are counting their money.

    “Guilt, for a better word ladies and gentlemen, is good.”

    Same goes for CLIMATE FREAKING CHANGE.

  26. Ian Mott July 31, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    I assign zero credibility to the Newcastle research, Ann, because they have implied that only organic dairy farms allow cows to graze. This is bollocks, not just here in Australia but all over the world. Yes many northern hemisphere dairy farms bring their herd indoors during winter where they are hand fed. But most of that feed is hay. And most of that hay was cut from the paddocks right outside the barn door. It has been ever thus for millenia. But when there is feed available in the paddocks then what farmer would be so stupid as to go to all the trouble of cutting the grass and hand feeding animals that are still indoors? They let them outside as soon as practicable so the cows will cut and process the grass themselves.

    Duuuh, it is what nature designed them to do best.

  27. Patrick B July 31, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    I not that worried about small differences in nutritional levels. I consider the use of hormones and anti-biotics the real problem. Having just read ‘Fast Food Nation’ I’ve been prompted to buy a 1/4 of grass fed beef. It surprising how difficult it is to determine what the beef industry here is up to with regard to feedloting. As far as I can tell a lot of beef is feedlotted for the last 3-6 months before slaughter.
    Also its funny to here the comments about organic tasting like rubbish. I’ll wager these are the same commenters who’d go into bat for hunting on the basis of killing you own food.

  28. Johnathan Wilkes July 31, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    “But when there is feed available in the paddocks then what farmer would be so stupid as to go to all the trouble of cutting the grass and hand feeding animals that are still indoors?”

    They do it in Switzerland, Ian. Of course the situation is different, the “paddocks” are very small although highly productive.

    You can see and smell the freshly cut grass being brought in every morning in the small towns.

    Have no idea about Sweden, in Germany they do graze cattle.

  29. Patrick B July 31, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Also I think you have to understand that the appellation ‘organic’ will also mean ‘produced without artificial assistance’. I’m perplexed by the critics here who see the survey results as some sort of vindication of there ‘organic food is a conspiracy’ theory. Some of us want to chose more naturally produced meat even if it costs the grower a bit more because they can’t use methods that speed of their processes and somehow that means we’re all gullible fools. I’d say that meat produced totally in the paddack is closer to what I and many of the critics ate when we were young. Come conservatives, why aren’t you backing traditional farming methods?

  30. Gordon Robertson July 31, 2009 at 11:16 am #

    All food is organic. Anyone who has studied ‘organic’ chemistry knows that ‘organic’ refers to ‘carbon-based’. I think the proper term is organically-grown food, whatever that means. To me, it’s more jargon with a political inference, something like refering to globally-averaged warming as simply global warming, to give the impression the whole planet is warming.

    I remember years ago, when the chemistry expert Linus Pauling was alive, he stated that chemically there was no difference between natural Vitamin E and synthetic Vitamin E. Yet the health food industry continues to tout natural Vitamin E as being better. The main difference is that synthetic E contains d-alpha-tocopherol and L-alpha-tocopherol and the natural is pure L. The d and l refer to the way the vitamin twists light, d being to the right and l to the left.

    The body only used the l-type. That means if you buy 400 iu of synthetic E, you only get the benefit of about 3/4 that value. Then again, you can pay up to 3 times the price for the natural.

    That’s what organically-grown food seems to be about…an excuse to charge more for it. In a local supermarket, OG Thompson raisins are selling for $1.00/100g whereas the artificial Thompson raisins (humour) sell for about 30 cents/100g.

    The pesticide thing seems to be a red-herring since it’s reportedly under control in countries where that is of interest. In places like Mexico, it’s not, and you take your chances. From what I have read, washing your vegetables and fruit with dish soap, or a specially-formulated detergent made for fruit/vegetables, gets what is left of the residue off. Apparently, most fruit and vegetables are washed with non-toxic detergents at processing factories, again in more civilized countries.

  31. dhmo July 31, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    I am arguing that there is scant regulation of this. If not you really don’t know what it is. I do not want to eat pesticide unless someone can convince me it is good for me. There controls and regulation for that. As for tasting better or not sounds fairly subjective.

  32. janama July 31, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Take the case of organically grown garlic. The grower first grows a green crop, typically a legume as it adds nitrogen. The green crop is then dug back into the soil and acts as a natural fertiliser. The garlic cloves from the previous years crop are them laid out in the soil all pointing the right way and then covered with mulch. There is no additional chemicals used in the whole process, the quality of the soil is constantly improving as all the micro-organisms within the soil – which we know f**K all about, are breaking the organic matter down and replenishing itself as it goes.

    That’s what sustainable agriculture is about and is currently exemplified by the Bio Dynamic system, and it’s what organically grown food is all about.

    Now do you want the organic garlic, or the mass produced, grown with chemicals in dead soil bleached white stuff we see in shops that comes from China in shipping containers?

  33. wes george July 31, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    Well, Janama’s got a point. Yuck.

    I pay more for Australian garlic just to avoid the urban myth of Chinese garlic grown in dioxin-laced ash mulched with shredded used nappies.

    It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. Half of fine dining is ambience. If the lamb is organic and salt-bush free ranged, (as seen on TV!) it WILL taste better and be better for the environment, unless you’re a salt bush. Even if you have lied to your guests and are serving up rancid IGA special clearance shanks, it WILL taste incredibly le eco-gastronomica. Cooking tip: near rancid meat, even if free range, should always be cooked to very well done to avoid the risk of salmonella poisoning. May I also suggest Gravox, one tablespoon of sand and lots of extra salt to preserve the Oz cultural authenticity.

    As an advocate of slow food movement I have to admit it’s essentially a luxury enjoyed by the up-themselves intelligentsia of rich Western countries. It’s not a moral imperative, nor is it a sign of one’s spiritual or intellectual superiority over others who choose for whatever reason just to eat the crap they can source effortlessly at the local supermarket and get on with life. After all, some government agency assures food quality and safety in Australia is second to none. I think.

    Framing the issue as organic versus poisonous is a bit conspiratorial and one has to wonder if those who promote fear of poisons in our food supply are not on the payroll of the big eco-syndicalists which control the supply of those bloody sticky little labels you can’t get off your fruit and then once you do, where do you put ‘em?

    Our wealthy and connected elites who have already made their zillions and own their mega-C footprint estates while preaching austerity, zero-growth economics for the rest us sound less than convincing, especially when they advocate organic truffles for the masses as a solution for feeding humanity.

    Yeah, Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXXZILo2cNY&feature=related

  34. Hasbeen July 31, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    Of course organically grown stuff is best for you. All those grubs add lots of protein, that you just don’t get in the other stuff. It’s even organically grown protein, as well.

    Have you ever tried to get modern ladies to eat grubs, without hiding them in apples, tomatoes, & cabbage?

    How do you think the French discovered you could eat snails? You don’t really think they thought they looked nice, & took a bite out of one, one day, do you? It had to be unnoticed, on some of those vegatables they had, sticking up out of the cow dung.

    Would any of you organic types like some mushrooms.

    For those of you who don’t know, stallions mark their territory by crapping in heaps. When you get rain, at the right time, these heaps produce a veritable thicket of mushrooms. Could you ever get anything more organic? If you have been feeding them oats, the heaps grow that, too. Must be organic, after the seed has passed through a horse.

    Well, it rained at just the right time, this year, & my stalion paddocks are awash with heaps of mushrooms, & oats. I’m finding it very hard to give them away to the locals. However, If you like to drop in, I’ll give you a months rations. Porridge for breakfast, & mushroom steaks for dinner. What more could you want?

    Now, is it still organic, if I eat the birds I catch, trying to keep them off my organic apples?

  35. dhmo July 31, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    Is it safe to eat?

    What does it taste like?

    How much does it cost?

    Am I buying Australian?

    What else matters?

  36. rojo July 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

    Will organic production be able to feed the expected 9 billion mouths later this century? My understanding is that the organic industry constitutes between 1-3% of food sales in the western world.
    Can enough new land be brought into production to make up for markedly reduced yields? Pesticide residue is a danger, but starvation moreso.

  37. Richard111 July 31, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Here in Pembrokeshire organic food in the supermarkets is too pricey. Not cheap enough from local farmers to make regular purchases worthwhile.
    My wife grows a lot a veggies in our garden using our home produced compost and though the “looks” of the veggies are not up to supermarket standards, they do tend to taste much better. There is also the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t pay someone else for the food.

  38. Helen Mahar July 31, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    An old story that come down through my husband’s family. A priest was reading out the Lenten fasting rules. He stopped, looked at his poor, rural congregation then quietly said “Eat what youse can get”.

    Many in the third world are still in that situation. In our abundantly fed, healthy, long living first world, most of us are not many generations from it. I find this whole discussion rather precious. Food is food. The fresher it is the better it tastes. Though with the privelege of being well fed enough to afford to be picky, I do prefer range meat. Not as tender as the lot fed stuff, but tastes better. Now saltbush mutton …

    As for milk, Louis, any sort, any time, by the bucketful.

  39. henry chance July 31, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    Raw milk is incredibly superior to processed milk. Is not better because cows did or did not eat organic feed. The risk of a rare contamination and limited shelf life are offsetting concerns. Tomatoes grown on sewage with small amounts of radiation still are edible.
    Tomatoes, some fresh vegies are better if they are ripened further and purchased locally. It is not better for reasons of organic. Some artifical growing environments produce low quality product. My organic farm was started in 1861 and remained in the family. It is wondrfull to learn soil conservation. I also pick the brain of a former employee that had a PHD in plant science. He also is not only organic, but specializes in heirloom varieties. His C.V. included in his past genetics and hundreds of employees he supervised in research and he also oversaw several hundred non western plantations.
    THe organics field is now overrun by marketing propoganda and exploitation of customers.

  40. Ann Novek August 1, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    A short comment here re Motty’s input.

    Actually European farmers don’t want to let out their cattle on the pastures. They do it only for animal welfare regulations, that’s the sad fact.

    Swedish cattle must spend 6 month on the pastures that’s law , but the farmers dislike this.

    Re the label organic it means different in different countries and it means the RATIO between grass/ hay / ensilage , spending time on the pastures and the ratio of grain.

  41. spangled drongo August 1, 2009 at 7:34 pm #

    Ann, I suppose where you have very rich, prolific pasture the cattle trample more than they eat. I am used to one beast per square mile where they get fat on gidgee stones and underground herbage. But fat they do get, and they taste good. Specially when it’s your neighbour’s.

  42. Dave Richards August 1, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    I go on taste. I started searching out organic food after being nauseated by the obvious taste of spray on a non-organic nectarine. That has been reinforced by recent experiences with non-organic mangoes, which often taste rotten on the inside. I’m not saying that all organic food always tastes better. Obviously it depends on other factors, especially on whether the soil is depleted or not. Organic farmers are also capable of depleting their soil and producing crap. Rojo raises an interesting point about the ability of organic production to feed the planet, but I would suggest that unsustainable agriculture won’t feed the planet either and there is plenty of evidence of how the green revolution has failed India. Also plenty of evidence that small farms (not necessarily organic) are more productive than big ones, and they tend to incorporate basic organic practices. I doubt that well-grown organic food is not superior in nutritional value, but as others have pointed out it’s beside the point.

  43. rojo August 2, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    Dave, unsustainable agriculture is doing a pretty good job so far, but it won’t go on forever. Unsustainability hasn’t bothered the fossil fuels industry so far, nor for that matter metal extractors but for some reason farmers with mostly renewable resources have to be “sustainable”. When the population has passed sustainable levels then the methods to feed that population cannot depend purely on nature. We need fertilisers and pesticides in order to extract as much production as possible from our real limitations of arable land area and water. Unfortunately for farmers this productivity has so far outpaced demand and prices have fallen in real terms. Hopefully a push for organic produce will redress the situation.

    I don’t wish to burst the organic bubble either but while humans populations concentrate in cities and don’t return their wastes(nutrients) to the fields organic farming cannot be considered truly sustainable. Nutrients exported off farm must be replaced somehow, and while lower yields will make the reserves last longer, they too will dwindle.

    I’d agree small farms are generally more productive than larger ones though I’d put that down to familiarity with the land, and motivation. The real problem is creating a living from a small holding, certainly in a first world country.

  44. dave richards August 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    Rojo. I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe the non-use of human waste is the most overlooked environmental scandal, much worse than than any proposed greenhouse effect. I personally campaign for the intelligent resue of human waste, and hope that other people like yourself will join me. meanwhile I will also support orhanic growth, knowing that eventually the two campaigns will combine! I think your statement: unsustainable agriculture is doing a pretty good job so far, but it won’t go on forever.” is at the heart of the matter. I think we could say it won’t go on for very much longer. I also believe that we can still recreate our cities so that we take back some of the fertilie soils we lost when we took them over from farmers by creating neighbourhood farms. Of course cynics will jeer at this, but I’ve seen it happen on a small scale, and in the long run, necessity will be mother!

  45. Beano August 2, 2009 at 7:40 pm #

    We buy organic garlic and bananas. The wife cuts up and grinds the garlic and puts it in a bottle. Lasts a week at our house. Organic garlic will stay white for two to three weeks. Non organic goes yellow and ” smelly” within three days.
    We only buy organic bananas because the “others” taste like flour.

    SBS had a U.K. sourced documentary on a few months back concerning organic v supermarket food. A professor on food nutrition and doctors did a blind test on 30 pairs of twins over a six month period.

    The test laid out a diet of of exactly the same types of food of both types – organic and supermarket. All of the twins were given an intensive health check before during and after the test period. One twin was to eat organic, the other non.
    The test resulted in finding out that both twins were much more healthy at the end of the test than before.
    Surprise, surprise. Junk food had been cut out of the diet.
    A balanced healthy diet regime had been followed.
    There was no conclusive proof that either of the two types of food gave benefits or were detrimental.

    Further. Those who were overweight slimmed down, skin cleared up, allergies disappeared and general health improved.

    So. Proper balanced diet – doesn’t matter whether or not organic or supermarket.

    Footnote. You cook the crapola out of your food – doesn’t matter whether it’s organic or supermarket.

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