The debate over organic foods is hot, research only recently
demonstrated that it had more nutrients than its conventional
counterparts - this was indeed good news to the organic food industry.
The excitement was short-lived when it was then realised that the
differences were only due to the simple fact that the organic foods
contained less water than their conventional counterparts, so the
supposed lower nutrient levels of conventionally grown foods was only
due to dilution.
In 1999 the sperm was examined of 2 different groups of Danish
farmers to see if there was any difference between them. The first group
were conventional farmers and the second group were organic farmers, it
was assumed that they ate produce from their land. 40 different
pesticides were looked for in the sperm samples as well as the overall
quality of the sperm, no significant difference was found between the
two groups thus suggesting that conventionally grown crops were not
So if it is not nutrition then it must be taste that tempts so many
people to spend considerably more on organically grown foods and that is
where most people are in general agreement. Organic food often tastes
better, this has not escaped the notice of conventional food growers.
This can be witnessed particularly in the tomato growing industry, visit
any supermarket and you will see tomatoes that are now grown for
'taste'. This is good news all round, if food tastes better then we are
more likely to eat that bit extra. Perhaps having tastier fruit and
vegetables will help increase the generally poor intake of fruit and
vegetables and overall improve health.
Are there any other issues?
The principles of organic farming are based on sustainability, crops
are rotated to obtain the maximum nutrients from the soil, and also to
reduce dependency on renewable resources. Organic foods from
supermarkets are sourced from around the World, the principles of
reducing the need for renewable resources are lost if buying organically
grown french beans from Kenya!
On the food scare side there has not been a case of BSE in cattle
bred for their meat, this from the point of view of the supporters of
organic farming is a good reason to believe that this method of food
production is best for everyone.
What else do we need to know?
Because animal manure is used in preference to using chemicals great
care should be used to wash all root vegetables to be eaten raw to
reduce the risk of food poisoning. Cryptosporidiosis, a parasite found
in calves' faeces, although uncommon can cause severe diarrhoea and
death in the most vulnerable groups of the population.
There are very rare cases of some people being allergic to the
chemicals used in conventional farming in which case it is essential to
use only organically produced foods.
Some couples who have had trouble conceiving have found that by
changing their diet to include organic foods have improved their chances
of a successful conception. Research has yet to confirm or refute this,
there are other factors to be also considered such as - is there a
general improvement in the diet and health that is responsible for the
Where else can we get help?
Consumers wishing to fulfil the principles of organic production can
take part in 'box' schemes. Some farmers producing organic foods sell
'boxes' of organic seasonally available fruit and vegetables, these can
be delivered to homes. Typically they will provide a weeks worth of
food that they grown depending on what is fresh and in season, they may
seek alternative sources if they are unable to provide adequate produce.
Farmers markets are also a method of buying locally produced foods though they may not always be organic.
For more information about organic foods: The Soil Association.
An independent UK watchdog on f