Having reached the supposedly mature haven of my mid-forties, I try not to get too easily worked up by the nonsense dished up by our national press on the subject of health and nutrition. However, I failed miserably when I read the lead article of Wednesday’s Evening Standard. It dealt with an allegedly rigorous report produced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which concluded, after 12 months gravely studying 50 years of comparative research, that organic food has no significantly greater nutritional value than conventionally produced food.
The article mused that this earth-shattering conclusion would no doubt cause great prejudice to the organic food industry, and concluded with a quote by Gill Fine, FSA Director of consumer choice and dietary health:
“This study does not mean people should not eat organic. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food”.
Great stuff – but for one small detail: the reason why most people pay extra for their organic food has nothing to do with calorie count or vitamin content. Equally, the organic food industry has to my knowledge not used nutritional content as a major argument in favour of its produce.
Rather, customers are willing to pay the organic premium not to be poisoned by the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides being pumped into conventionally-produced meat and vegetables. It is with this in mind that with our nutritionist hats on, we recommend organic food-source to our patients, budgets permitting.
In this light, Gill Fine’s conclusion is highly pernicious, as it links the absence of nutritional difference with the false deduction “therefore” that organic food has no additional health benefits. In fact, organic food most definitely does have the critical health benefit of not loading our digestive tract with toxins that it cannot easily metabolise – although rather conveniently, there is not sufficient scientific research on the long-term effects of pesticides on human health, and pesticides are only anecdotally related to liver and bowel cancer, other tumours and chronic systemic diseases.
I for one will most definitely be feeding my family organic food for as long as I can afford to do so, and strongly recommending that our patients do the same. I was somewhat reassured to read this evening of the backlash against this report by some nutritionists with a conscience, and I hope that the FSA will in due course be fully exposed and shamed for misinformation and dereliction of duty.