Research verifies nutritional value of organic foods: BFA

15 Sep, 2009 01:35 PM
Organic farmer Steve Skopilianos is doing well on his Keilor, Vic, farm despite testing times for organic produce.  Photo- Ken Irwin.
Organic farmer Steve Skopilianos is doing well on his Keilor, Vic, farm despite testing times for organic produce. Photo- Ken Irwin.

A NEW report by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) has found that organic foods are more nutritious and contain less pesticides and nitrates, which have been linked to a range of health problems including diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Shane Heaton, nutritionist for the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA), says the research is a thorough and critical evaluation of the nutritional quality of organic food, and has found organic foods have higher levels of minerals and antioxidants as well as a raft of other benefits.

“This is what an unbiased review of the available evidence reveals,” he says. “This review is contrary to another recently released review commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency and widely reported in the media as showing organic food has no significant benefits over non-organic food.”

“This review does the question justice by comparing not just a handful of nutrients but also dry matter content, antioxidant content, pesticide levels, and nitrate content.

"Organic wins out over ordinary food in every respect.”

In 2001, AFSSA set up an expert working group to perform an exhaustive and critical evaluation of the nutritional and sanitary quality of organic food. The AFSSA says they aimed for the highest quality scientific standards during the evaluation.

The selected papers referred to well-defined and certified organic agricultural practices, had the necessary information on design and follow-up, valid measured parameters and the appropriate sampling and statistical analyses.

After more than two years of work involving about 50 experts from different fields of organic agriculture research, a final consensus report was issued in the French language in 2003.

The current study published in English in the peer reviewed scientific journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development is a summary of this report and the relevant studies that have been published since 2003.

The conclusions of this study challenge the findings of the recent UK Food Standards Agency study that was widely criticised by international experts for using flawed methodology and a conclusion that contradicted its own data.

The major points of The French Agency for Food Safety study are:

1. Organic plant products contain more dry matter (more nutrient dense).

2. Organic plant products have higher levels of minerals.

3. Organic plant products contain more anti-oxidants such as phenols and salicylic acid (known to protect against cancers, heart disease and many other health problems).

4. Carbohydrate, protein and vitamin levels are insufficiently documented.

5. 94–100pc of organic foods do not contain any pesticide residues.

6. Organic vegetables contain far less nitrates, about 50pc less (high nitrate levels are linked to a range of health problems including diabetes and Alzheimer’s).

7. Organic cereals contain similar levels of mycotoxins as conventional ones..

8. Organically-bred cattle have more lean meat and more polyunsaturated fatty acids than their conventional counterparts.

9. Organic chicken fillets contain 2–3 times less fat and are significantly higher in n–3 fatty acid content (with reported anti-cancer effects and other health benefits).

Biological Farmers of AustraliaSource:
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john Newton
16/09/2009 5:31:46 AM

Now there's a conundrum - who do you believe on matters pertaining to food? The Frogs - or the Poms. No contest.
john Newton
16/09/2009 5:31:55 AM

Now there's a conundrum - who do you believe on matters pertaining to food? The Frogs - or the Poms. No contest.
really and truly
16/09/2009 6:49:49 AM

Now there’s a front page story – FOOD CAUSES DEATH – yes, if you eat for long enough you’ll eventually die… Really and Truly.
16/09/2009 8:13:35 AM

Do they need too many experts and too long to study this topic? From my knowledge and practical experience one needs to apply a good sampling technique on both type of food and process them throught the same test techniques. A good statistics software can easilly provide enough information to see that no one can create everything from air.
R See
16/09/2009 10:14:18 AM

Think this through...who buys most of the organic food? Only those wealthy enough to afford it. Organic food is hardly an issue in 90pc of the worlds countries, or for most of the people, although quantity is. The report does not say anything about measured levels of anything being below acceptable levels or above acceptable levels [as appropriate]...just different. Whether the value differences make a nutritional difference in your actual diet is questionable, as there are so many other issues involved and that interact with diet.
Robert Stewart
16/09/2009 12:00:31 PM

Inputs of fertiliser, together with tractors, specialised tillage practices and water management provided a threefold increase in food productivity per ha to cope with the increased population since 1940. Will the organic movement be able to produce another threefold increase on land already being organic farmed without cutting into forest habitat? The organic lands need the next two years to recover. To cut into the forest lands to create more land for organic rotation practices is indefensible and double the price for the wilting produce at the roadside stall doubly so.
16/09/2009 3:01:01 PM

John Newton, the UK study did not test for the effects of contaminants or chemical residues. So I guess it's the Frogs.
Everyone deserves food
17/09/2009 3:26:13 PM

The whole world should go organic because it is so much better. Just one problem, that means we have enough arable land for 4 billion mouths. So if we could just have 2 billion volunteers step forward...?
19/09/2009 5:31:06 AM

Close examination of the reviews on organic food values by the BSA and its French counterpart (the AFSSA) indicates few differences between these independent bodies in their findings. The BSA review can be considered to be at least as good as the AFSSA review as it covered more scientific papers and had better paper selection criteria. It also studied some 32 nutrients etc. “not just a handful of nutrients” as Shane Heaton implies. The BSA concluded that a person consuming a normal varied diet would be unlikely to benefit healthwise from selecting organic grown foods as compared with conventionally grown foods. This is because where there was more of a particular nutrient etc. in organic food, the person was already consuming more than enough of that nutrient with his normal varied diet. There is every reason to expect that the AFFSA report author would completely agree with the BSA conclusion except with a few unclear dietary components. It is particularly relevant that the AFFSA author did not reach any conclusion about the health benefits - he only concluded: “Thus, organic agricultural systems have already proved able to produce food with high quality standards.”
19/09/2009 10:29:39 AM

The publication of the French review seems to have presented an opportunity to denigrade the UK review. In this context it is important to appreciate that the UK review gives values for the number of comparisons, the average differences between organics and conventionals in nutrients etc. and a measure of variation. By contrast the French review fails to give these specific values and this is a major weakness. The two reviews agree in most respects viz. generally only small benefits for organic and irrelevant re. human health. The article above presents many misleading statements. Just one example, is the statement “organic plant products have higher levels of minerals”. It ignores the French review finding that with fruit and cereals the mineral composition is not noticeably altered by the production system which agrees with the UK review. Serious readers should examine both reviews. Some may be interested to learn that organic animal products were found to contain 52% more trans fatty acids than the conventionals. Again, the UK review found nitrate reduction with organics to be only 16% and the increase in phenolics to be only 3-13%.
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