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Organic Food

Is organic food better for you?

Is there any evidence to prove that organic food is healthier, better for us and safer? In this piece I will discuss the pros and cons of organic meat and organic vegetables.

In many supermarkets and shops nationwide you will see 'organic food' labels. Also in many newspapers etc. - the word 'organic' is fast becoming part of our every day lives. When we consider what organic means to us we think of the price difference between organic food and conventionally grown foods and there are many top chefs using this word 'organic'. But does eating organic food have any effect on our health? Does organic food contain more nutrients? Is organic food safer? And is there any evidence to suggest this?

There is a lack of public understanding and knowledge in this area, and many debates surrounding the nutritional value of organic food and other related topics. Because organic food is a relatively new aspect there is very little or no research about people who have eaten organic food for a prolonged period of time. This makes it difficult to analyse the health aspects that organic food has, and doesn't create a great starting point for analysis. Because of this we must consider that it is all aspects of lifestyle that has an effect on a persons health and well-being.

We live in a world full of poisons and toxins, that we come into contact with on a regular basis. For example car fumes and chemicals in our drinking water. All these aspects and more contribute towards a persons health. Stress is also a large factor in modern society and we must also take into consideration genetics. Although there is no sound research about organic food there is defiantly an increase in popularity, with a large increase of organic farming in the UK. Also in the US organic food sells very well, with sales at about $6 billion and future growth estimated at 20 to 25%.

There is a body called the Soil Association which is the UK's leading campaigning and certification organisation for organic food and farming. The Soil Associations philosophy is; organic agriculture is a safe, sustainable farming system, producing healthy crops without damage to the environment. Also that drugs, antibiotics, etc are not used on livestock. It has become the official stamp for organic food /produce in the UK, and its organic symbol is the UK's most recognisable trademark for organic food/produce. Because of this we can be sure that organically grow food/produce grown under The Soil Association' s standards is free from artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides. We know that the produce grown does not contain harmful chemicals etc.

Is organic food safer than conventionally farmed food?

Most of the conventionally farmed food in our modern society is mass produced on an industrial scale using artificial fertilisers. These artificial fertilisers then seep into the groundwater, lakes and streams. These pesticide, herbicide and fungicide chemicals have a poison/hazardous warning on the container and require protective clothing and a license when used. It is scary to know that the effects of these chemicals have on our daily lives is still vastly unknown. However there are some pesticides like lindane and carbendazim that have a hormone-disrupting effects, and until now were being used in the UK. There was a report published by the Royal Society on hormone-disrupting chemicals and within it they recommended a precautionary approach. In particular they said that pregnant women should reduce their exposure to these chemicals, and measures should be taken to do so. Eating organic food reduces the exposure to xenoestrogens and because of this hormone disruption is minimised.

If you eat organic food this should eliminate the main source of exposure to pesticides. There is a great deal of emphasis on eliminating pesticides from our food, and some charities like Sustain ­ the alliance for better food and farming, are running campaigns like the Organic Food & Farming Targets Bill. This bill aims to make sure that 20% of the food we eat is organic and they have a strategy in place to ensure 30% of land is in organic production all by 2010. The demand for organic food is growing each year by around 40% but around 70% of organic food is imported. This indicates that UK farmers are loosing out and this is the motivation behind Sustain's Targets Bill. The Targets Bill aims for increased organic production are calculated by looking at current growth in demand and by studying the progress of other European countries. Sweden is a good example of this, it has the largest proportion of in-conversion organic land - currently 11.2% and set targets like Sustain's Targets Bill during the 1990's. The UK government have to work towards these targets, they are seen by Sustain as realistic and achieveable goals. Enquiries to the Organic Conversion Information Service (OCIS) for England have more than doubled from 111 in February 2000 - the interest is defiantly there!

Friends of the Earth published news from a Government report in September 2000, this outlined that there had been a significant increase in pesticides residues within fruit and vegetables. There were traces of pesticides found in 43% of of fresh fruit and vegetables samples and last years figure was 33.9%. Real Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Sandra Bell said, "The public will be dismayed to learn that almost half the fresh fruit and vegetables they are eating contain pesticides".
During 1999 in the UK farmers and local authorities used 25,744 tones of pesticide active ingredients, these are made up of about 400 different pesticide chemicals. Because a proportion of these chemicals end up in our water sources, this means that it also infiltrates conventionally farmed food chain. However the presence of these pesticide chemicals in our water sources means that they also end up in organically farmed produce, regulators are now realising this. Reducing the amount of these pesticide chemicals can be done by careful use, but we can never get rid of them altogether. Each year it costs water companies over £100 million to clean up these pesticides, this is passed on to our water bill and hence we end up paying for it.

Are the levels of pesticide residues proving to be unsafe?

In some MSFF surveys pesticide residues have been found in some organic food - however this is rare. If organic farmers cultivate crops on previous fields that have been contaminated by pesticides then this can lead to the organic crops also containing pesticide residues. Also the spray from near by conventionally farmed fields can be blown over to the organic crops.There are other way in which organic crops can be contaminated by pesticide residues.


Organic Food Pages - Topics & Content

Organic Food Page 1:

Organic Box Schemes


Organic Food Page 2:

Organic Food at Farmers Markets

Organic Food and Complementary Therapies


Organic Food Page 3:

Is organic food better for you?

Is organic food safer than conventionally farmed food?

Are the levels of pesticide residues proving to be unsafe?


Organic Food Page 4:

Does organic food contain more nutrients?

Is organic food better for you?

With preventative medicine in mind, can organic food make a difference to our health?

Are there fewer additives in organic food?

Is organic food safer?


Organic Food Page 5:

Trans Fats


Organic Food Page 6:

Organic Food and your health

Organic Food and Animal Welfare

Organic Food and the Environment

Organic Food and your Kids




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