Monday, September 03, 2007

More of what our bodies do need and less of what they dont: organic food

Over the weekend I've been involved in a debate on the Bristol Blogger site about the merits of organic food, or lack of. I got involved because I felt that the benefits of organic food were being swept aside and massive problems with intensive farming, to which organic farming is in my view a partial solution, were not acknowledged. I based my first comment on my blog entry of January 9 2007 but was then asked for sources...I spent a fair bit of time putting together the response below - if anyone knows of better examples/arguments please send them to the Bristol Blogger!

... I referred to research that was widely reported in my first comment as well as giving a reasoned case that no-one has disputed the sense of. Blogger cant simply throw it all out by throwing mud at the Soil Assoc. []

Its not a substantial argument from Blogger to accuse me of being scared of technology and attacking all technology in farming (organic farmers eg use plenty of it!). This is just stereotyping on his part and is a feature of the way he argues.

Its also not credible for Blogger to argue that there is no connection between intensive farming practices and BSE, foot and mouth and bird flu. Cases of BSE in cows born and raised organically are zero for instance.

My general point is that organic food is healthier because it has both more of what we do need and less of what we don’t need for our wellbeing. I acknowledge that the debate is of course ongoing as more research is done but the body of evidence in favour of organics is now mounting rapidly. Go to this report for example: .

I guess the big and politically influential multinational companies involved in agrochemical manufacture have not been keen on research into organics to say the least. Now, if you want to look at the reports of the research I referred to in the media...

Evidence for more omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, E and A, and anti-oxidants like flavinoids is very strong in certain foods. Evidence of negative health impacts from contaminants of various kinds is stronger if anything.

For reports on organics having less of what we don’t need, go to: for a start.

For reports on organics having more of what we do need:

More vitamin C:

More phytonutrients such as anti-oxidants called flavinoids:


More omega 3 fatty acids in milk:

More vitamin E and vitamin A in milk:

One Soil Association briefing leaflet (available via their website ) dealing with how organic food has more nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, as well as less contaminants like artificial pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and anti-biotics, uses these sources: The King’s Fund, an independent medical charity; Professor Vyvyan Howard, University of Liverpool; the British Medical Association; the World Health Organisation; the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine; and a range of academic papers – a list pretty strong on that vital property of evidence quality - provenance - I’d say.

On other issues - I do think that a lot of organic food is very overpriced (and imported) and I agree this cant be addressed through the law of supply and demand alone, so...has a point. Our society effectively subsidises the mass production of chemical and energy intensive food, making it superficially 'cheap' because the costs of poorer health and environmental pollution are not a private but certainly are a social cost, for now and for future generations. What we need to do if we are to subsidise at all is to switch favour to the greener, healthier options.

Now, also raised was the issue of whether we can produce enough food for a large population by organic methods alone. [Note: I'd earlier in the debate argued that a low meat diet would free up land, making feeding larger numbers without imports easier]. I'm not arguing for all production to be organic, though I'd like to see chemical farming get a lot smarter and more frugal in its operation (through science and technology!). I'd also like to see a lower population in the long run but thats another big debate...and at the moment I'm writing more of Bloggers site than he is!!

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