This week there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of organic eating. If you have been watching the news you will have seen many debates about whether eating organically is actually better for your health or not. This has been a long argued debate over the years and there are extreme opinions on both sides of the fence. When I heard of the scientific study “proving” that organic food was healthier than regular food it was music to my ears. However, after a bit of research I am a bit sceptical of the results.
The study in question can be found here. The results showed that organic produce had higher levels of the antioxidants which can contribute to good health than those that had been grown conventionally. They also contained lower levels of dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. The team who carried out the study have claimed that the significant health benefits are equivalent to eating another 1 or 2 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. There has been controversy however, with sceptics arguing that the methodology is questionable and that the results are being exaggerated.
The study involved compiling the results of 343 previous experiments which found a significant difference in the composition of organic and non organic foods. This kind of analysis does come with many problems, the worst of which being the difference in methodology in the studies that are being compared. In the introduction of this paper the authors admit that there were “major research synthesis challenges” and that there could have been variations in soil quality and the crop varieties used in the studies. The sceptics have also acknowledged this claiming that the differences could be based on any number of factors and may not be due to whether the crops were grown organically or not.
So the debate rages on and many families are still left confused about whether they should be spending the extra money on organic food for their children’s health. For me the debate about the health benefits of organic food is not the end of the story. According to the Soil Association 44% of the people buying organic foods in this country are doing it , at least in part, for environmental reasons. Conventional farming was developed to fight food shortages and made food much cheaper to grow and buy. It is true that buying organically will probably cost you more money but the thing to consider is whether it’s really worth it at the sacrifice of the environment we depend on. Pesticides and herbicides cause soil degradation and pollute rivers and other water systems. As a country we spend billions of pounds cleaning these chemicals out of our drinking water which makes you worry about the quality of the water our wildlife is drinking. As well as this, the chemicals used in our food systems have been thought to be causing huge damages to the populations of our native bees. I don’t need to tell you how much danger we will be in if our bees become extinct.
For me organic food is healthier as the vitamins I’m gaining do not come with a side serving of chemicals. The reactions to this article have me asking a question I find myself asking again and again at the moment. Why do we consider ourselves as more important than the environment we live in? How much more do we think the environment can take?
I’ll happily hand over the extra pound for my organic bananas. Will you?
Find out more:
What is organic food? – The Soil Association