Question: when is a tomato not a tomato? Answer: When it’s an organic tomato. Those who are into organics say it’s superior to anything you can get that has been grown using conventional production methods. They will tell you that an organic tomato tastes better, is better for you and is grown in away that causes less harm to the environment. It may be more expensive, but you get what you pay for, don’t you?
Thats accoring to an article on organics titled It’s only natural published over the weekend in the Sunday [colour] Magazine of the Sydney and Melbourne tabloid newspapers. I didn’t see the magazine, but Detribe kindly sent these snippets for the blog:
Critics, however, say it’s a rip-off. Nothing more than a load of marketing hogwash aimed at people with more money than sense, which plays on fears about the misuse of pesticides and is supported through a series of far-fetched claims. Weighing up the pros and cons can be confusing, but one thing that’s New Age crystal clear is just how popular organic products have become in recent years.
In 1990, just 372,000 ha were farmed organically in Australia. Today, the total land area given to organic production is around 10 million hectares and Australia now accounts for nearly half the world’s organic farmland. Staggering as that increase may seem, organic food production still represents less than two per cent of the total value of agricultural production in this country.
The Australian organic food industry, estimated to be worth between $250-$500 rnillion, remains a minor player in the agricultural sector But, according to the government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), domestic demand for organic products significantly outstrips supply, despite an estimated growth in organic production of at least 15-25 per cent per annum, every year for the past five years.
… “Our market is intelligent consumer” says Pierce Cody founder of Macro Whole foods, a new chain of organic supermarkets sprouting up in Sydney and Melbourne. The stores sell everything from organic toilet paper and toothpaste, to cleaning products and pet food. Cody believes the key to growth is treating the consumer with respect.
“I can’t see us advertising on a billboard, ‘Macro: You’ll love us’ because people don’t buy organic just because you tell them to. It’s a choice they arrive at themselves” he says.
Cody’s background is in advertising, he confesses he only got, into organics because he could see there was “monstrous scope for growth”. “It’s the thing,” he says. “The concept is very simple to understand. It’s clean, original food, made the way it used to be made. We are taking food back to the future.”
Cody admits that “our market tends to be more white collar than blue collar”, but he, denies the higher cost associated with organics makes it elitist.
“It is more expensive, yes, but it’s the real cost of food prior to industrialised farming, which cuts comers.”
[But]… by not using artificial fertilizers -like nitrogen, organic farmers have smaller yields – typically around 30 to 50 percent less than crops grown on conventional farms. This is the main reason why organic products are more expensive.
…In 1994; Trina Karstrom took over the Botobolar vineyard in scenic Mudgee, NSW. The 22 ha vineyard was the first organic one to be planted in Australia. That was in 1971 and the vines have always been grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. She is in no doubt about the health benefits of organically grown produce.
“I shudder to think what residual spray is in [conventional] wines,” she says, “Grapes don’t get washed before they’re processed and the chemicals growers are allowed to spray are quite scary.” Or are they?
Not according to Microbiologist Dr David Tribe, Senior lecturer at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne. “The organic lot make all these claims about better nutrition and health benefits but, overall, the hard evidence simply doesn’t support it” he says.
A review of more than 100 studies that looked at differences between organic and conventional food, conducted in 2002 at New Zealand’s University of Otago found there was “no convincing evidence to back claims that organically grown foods were healthier or tastier than those grown using chemicals”. The review found that nutritional value had more to do with freshness and methods of storage than whether artificial inputs, such as pesticides, were used during production.
Strictly speaking; professional bodies outside the organic movement, such as the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA), do not share the view that organic food is necessarily healthier than food grown conventionally.
Sunday Magazine (News Ltd Herald/Sun), page 23.
February 19 2006 Craig Scutt