Researchers from the University of Otago (New Zealand) reviewed about 100 international food studies and concluded that there is no evidence that organically grown foods are healthier or tastier than those grown using chemicals.
Principal Researcher Diane Bourn said that most of the studies which claimed that organic food had more vitamins and minerals did not take proper account of factors such as time of harvest, freshness, storage, and weather, which all influence the nutritional value of food. No evidence was found that certified that organic foods are more nutritionally superior.
Similarly, the superior taste of organic food could not be conclusively proven. However, Mrs Bourn did acknowledge the environmental benefits from growing organically. Reduced pesticide residues in organic foodstuffs also contribute to better food safety.
The review was commissioned by the state-owned science agency New Zealand Institute of Crop & Food Research. Mrs Bourn added that it is possible that the non-use of pesticides in organic food production may lead to higher levels of compounds that help to naturally protect plants against pests and diseases. “Some of these may help protect against illnesses like heart disease and cancer. This is an area where much more research needs to be been carried out,” she said.
Organic producers avoid the use of artificial pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. There are, however, no fixed standards. Following a number of food scares, the organic food sector has grown enourmously in recent years, especially in Europe and Japan. A London-based organic produce exchange valued the sector at more than $30 billion a year.
In 1991, the EU adopted a Regulation on organic production of agricultural products. In 1999, the Council extended its scope to cover organic livestock production. The rules were introduced as part of the reform of the common agricultural policy.