Is Organic Really Better?

If you are an advocate of organic food, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing the latest headline claiming organic food is ‘no better’.

Organic shopping costs more in most cases and being told there is no added value can feel disappointing, especially when your intuition and lengthy research tells you it is the right choice for your body and the world around you.  It’s easy to get deflated when you read these headlines but don’t lose faith in this natural way of working with the soil, the seasons and your body.

Ecological Agricultural Professor Leifert says “The organic vs non-organic debate has rumbled on for decades now but the evidence is overwhelming – organic food is higher in antioxidants and lower in toxic metals and pesticides.”

Here are some facts to help reassure you when the latest headline is trying to convince you otherwise.

  1. Government testing in 2015 found pesticide residues in 43% of British food, and many of these contain more than one pesticide. For example, 87% of pears and 79% of grapes contained traces of multiple pesticides. The best way to reduce your exposure to pesticides in all food is to buy organic. Certified organic food, including all fruit and vegetables, processed food, dairy and meat products will overall contain fewer pesticides.
  2. An international team of experts led by Newcastle University has shown that organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones (1).
  3. ‘When you see the organic symbol, you can be sure what you buy has been produced to the highest standards. Organic means fewer pesticides, no artificial additives or preservatives, the highest standards of animal welfare and no GM ingredients’.  Soil Association
  4. Many people don’t choose organic produce because they think it’s better for them as an individual, but for other, wider reasons (animal welfare, environment, the future of our soil).
  5. Organic food is held to higher standards of traceability, meaning there’s no meat treated with chemicals or potentially harmful medicines that could creep into your children’s food.
  6. Whereas labels such as ‘locally reared’ or ‘grass-fed’ provide no assurances regarding routine antibiotic use, organic can make these promises.
  7. The most up-to-date study showing that organic food is superior appears in the British Journal of Nutrition (2).
  8. ‘Many people don’t realise almost 300 pesticides can be routinely used in non-organic farmingand these are often present in non-organic food eat despite washing and cooking. Organic farming standards, on the other hand, don’t allow any synthetic pesticides and absolutely no herbicides such as Glyphosate.
  9. Organic farmers are permitted to use just 20 pesticides, derived from natural ingredients including citronella and clove oil, but only under very restricted circumstances. Research suggests that if all UK farming was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%! This means that organic farms are a haven for wildlife and these toxic pesticides can’t make their way into the food chain and into us.’
  10. Organic produce causes the least harm to our precious land, eschewing the damaging methods of intensive farming, and leaving a better legacy for future generations.

But what about when we see the latest article shunning nutrition in organic produce?  What do we know about the nutrition in organic food?

All harvests will vary slightly and different studies do bring up varying amounts of pesticide residues and nutrient values, but studies consistently show there is between 18% and 69% more antioxidants than food produced using non-organic methods. Correspondingly, studies have shown similar results with milk – there is no system of farming which produces milk with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids.

To read more on choosing organic read this related article click here.