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Get off our organic backs

If you live in the 702 reception area and were listening to the John Robbie Show on Monday, you might have been as irritated as I was when the topic of organic foods came up for discussion.

People keep digging up nonsense research to make the absurd claim that organic food is no healthier than conventional.

This type of garbage is getting thrown at the organic sector with increasing intensity, despite plenty of good research that proves exactly the opposite but which somehow just does not get the same level of publicity.

What irks me is that some in the organic sector spring to its defence with the argument that it’s not what’s in the food that matters, it’s what’s not in ie no pesticides, no hormones, no antibiotics, no GMOs …

That sort of defence, admirable as it is, only tells half the story. What’s IN organic food matters. A lot, because there’s a whole lot more nutrients in organic foods than in conventional foods (how could it, logically, be otherwise?)

Gary Hirshberg, owner of Stonyfield farms, one of the most successful US organic producers, wrote the other day: “There are compelling studies that have shown organic foods higher in beneficial antioxidants, substances or nutrients in our foods known to slow or prevent heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. A 2007 Newcastle University (UK) study concluded organic fruit and vegetables contained up to 40% more antioxidants than non-organic varieties; organic milk contained more than 60% more antioxidants and healthy fatty acids than conventional. A 2007 study by the University of California found organic tomatoes had elevated levels of up to 97% of two types of antioxidants.”

Last year the University of Aix-Marseille published an “up-to-date exhaustive and critical evaluation of the nutritional and sanitary quality of organic food” for the French Food Safety Authority, and concluded that organic plant products contain more minerals — such as iron and magnesium — and more antioxidant polyphenols like phenols and salicylic acid.

And just out this week is a new research report from Washington State University which shows that organic strawberries have higher levels of antioxidant activity and concentrations of Vitamin C than conventionally-grown strawberries.

How much more evidence do we need to state the blindingly obvious? Why is this debate even taking place? Do we still discuss Zuma’s fidelity?

It’s seems bizarre that the organic sector is getting such rough treatment when the horrors of industrial agriculture are now plain for all to see thanks to movies like Food Inc and Supersize Me, as well as Michael Pollan’s best-selling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. One can’t help wondering if Big Food isn’t orchestrating a sophisticated campaign against organic … or am I just paranoid?

Pass me my Big Mac and Vitamin Water.


  • Bruce Cohen

    A former journalist, in recent years founder and CEO of Absolute Organix.