organic non organic is better for you ….?

what the....?

what the....?

There was at one point in the past rumours that ‘dirty’ vegetables sold better than clean ones. Not necessarily ‘better grown’ – just dirty.

There was also a point where unwashed vegetables were sold cheaper than washed. But I remember 15 years ago in college and walking the vegetable house grading floors…. the white ended species [eg. leeks] were bleached to make them ‘more white’.  The carrots, if in any way ‘deformed’ were either second classed or trailers appeared and they were used for cattle feed……

Then one day organic came to town…. people became a little more green and the books and tv shows hopped off the shelves. A bandwagon certainly started to roll. It didn’t just stop at vegetables.

Yesterday the UK Food Standards Agency came out with this report:

An independent review commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows that there are no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food.

this is the bit I like:

Gill Fine, FSA Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health, said: ‘Ensuring people have accurate information is absolutely essential in allowing us all to make informed choices about the food we eat. This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. 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.

you can read more here at their website. Tom Doorley has his views on it here. But then maybe we just don’t know enough about the ‘entire’ organic gig.

I mean what is the actual difference between an organic chicken and a non organic one. At least we know that we don’t like genetically modified food. right ?

Back to the vegetables…. I guess it is a case now of what do you think? In my opinion and as I have said so many times before…. unfortunately very few of us in Ireland have or know the legal definition of what exactly organic is…. Until then maybe it’s a matter of perception or [pardon the cliché] taste…….. ?

what do you think....?

what do you think....?

I asked for a comment this from Bord Bia. This is what I was sent:

while much debate occurs on the health benefits of organic food, the one certainty relates back to the organic certification standards, which prohibit the use of many chemicals and additives, while including additional environmental and animal welfare standards. Bord Bia research has shown it is the perceived health benefits of organic food, conferred through its ‘free from’ status, that are most important to Irish consumers. Seventy three percent of those surveyed stated “not having added chemicals or pesticides” as the main benefit of buying organic food.”

Source: TNS MRBI, August 2008


I don’t know who Joanna Blythmans editor is at The Mail Online – But you have some serious answering to do. The most rediculous article I have ever seen written with zero research done. I wonder if Joanna actually read the report at all.

If you have read the FSA website quotes that I give. You may be surprised by this excerpt [may favourite! ] from Joanna’s.

The latest assault in this propaganda exercise comes from the Food Standards Agency, the government’s so-called independent watchdog, which has just published a report claiming that there is no nutritional benefit to be gained from eating organic produce.

Never mind her little piggy pictures…. I thought we were talking about vegetables. Propaganda? Try research. And factual information. Mail Online you should be ashamed. You had it all in your court – you simply pulled out a hurley instead of a tennis racket.

On behalf of myself as a grow your own-er tree hugging geek – I would like to apologise to all you chemical lovers out there. If it was George Bush you’d understand. 🙄 sorry.

UPDATE: tuesday 4th august

and it seems Richard Corrigan has jumped on the PR banwagon once again – except Richard use vulgar language to get his point across. I suppose if it gets the media attention for you….?

But then this is the 2nd times online has reported this…..? Maybe he just read the article I noted above…. ? Once again they didn’t say that Richard.

Sunday Times [Irish edition], 2 August 2009. By Gabrielle
Richard Corrigan, the celebrity TV chef and owner of
Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill in Dublin, has branded a
report dismissing the benefits of organic food as “lazy
research” by a “bunch of lazy nine-to-five f**kers”.

An independent report commissioned by Britain’s Food
Standards Agency (FSA) released last week concluded that
eating organic food does not provide any significant
nutritional or health benefits.

A team of researchers at the London School of Hygiene and
Tropical Medicine reached its conclusion by reviewing all
papers published over the last 50 years relating to nutrient
content and health differences between the kinds of produce.

Corrigan, who bought Bentley’s in London in 2005 and last
year opened Corrigan’s Mayfair, said he was puzzled by the
agency’s decision to examine the nutrition and health
benefits of organic food without taking into account the
wider effect of pesticides and hormones used in intensive
farming. For that reason alone, advocates say, organic is

“It’s the laziest research in the world because nobody ever
said that organic food was more nutritious,” the
restaurateur told The Sunday Times. “This bunch of lazy
nine-to-five f**kers just took any topic to justify their
existence before going off on holidays.”

The chef, who previously ruffled the poultry industry’s
feathers by dismissing standard Irish chicken as “muck and
crap”, has some suggestions for the researchers.

“Why doesn’t the Food Standards Agency ask how we can get GM
and pesticides and antibiotics out of the food chain? Why
don’t they look at why we have chemicals in the soil? Nobody
has ever bloody said that organic food is more nutritious.
We all know keeping pesticides out of the food chain is
better for your health.

“And as a professional who has been cooking food for 33
years, I can tell you anyone who says organic food tastes
worse than the stuff you get on a supermarket shelf needs to
put his head in my deep-fat fryer.”

The Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association also
criticised the British report, albeit in more subdued tones.
It faulted the researchers for not including in the review a
study carried out at Newcastle University in 2008 that
discovered that there were more antioxidants and vitamins in
organic vegetables than non-organic ones.

That report, entitled Quality Low Input Food, was carried
out by 31 research institutes and universities throughout

It also showed that there was more Omega 3 in organic dairy
products than those which were non-organic.

The growers’ association pointed out, though, that nutrition
was not the only reason why people eat organic food, citing
benefits such as the absence of pesticide residues.

Trevor Sargent, the minister of state for food and
horticulture, last week said he had ordered a review of
Ireland’s organic farming sector and that the outcome would
be announced during National Organic Week in September.

The report will examine how available funds can be used to
reach the government’s target of using 5% of agricultural
land for organic farming. About 1% of agricultural land in

UPDATE: wednesday 5th august

from gm watchthis is probably the most logic quote I have seen and heard sice the FSA gave their findings. One must appreciate that all their report really did was compare nutritional value. It did not say one was better than the other…. it did not compare methods farming practices.

Geoffrey Lean
Daily Telegraph, 31 July 2009

*The FSA ignored pesticides, the main health issue, in its report on organic food, says Geoffrey Lean.

UPDATE wednesday 5th August ’09

pesticides found in organic foods report the EFSA – that be the european food safety authority…..

not again Richard…… ?

and moving swiftly onwards….. well kind of

National Organic week and awards – you’ll enjoy this one 😆

UPDATE: thursday 6th August ’09

do note that on their website – the soil asociation say that this is what the FSA ‘failed to address’ – my point exactly. 

from the UK soil association 29 July 2009

Soil Association response to the Food Standards Agency’s Organic Review

Responding to today’s review on organic food commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association commented:
“We are disappointed in the conclusions the researchers have reached. The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences. This was because these studies did not meet particular criteria fixed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which carried out the review.

“Although the researchers say that the differences between organic and non-organic food are not ‘important’, due to the relatively few studies, they report in their analysis that there are higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic compared to non-organic foods. For example, the mean positive difference between the following nutrients, when comparing organic to non-organic food, was found in the FSA study to be:

– Protein 12.7%
– Beta-carotene 53.6%
– Flavonoids 38.4%
– Copper 8.3%
– Magnesium 7.1%
– Phosphorous 6%
– Potassium 2.5%
– Sodium 8.7%
– Sulphur 10.5%
– Zinc 11.3%
– Phenolic compounds 13.2%

The researchers also found higher levels of beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids in organic meat and dairy products (between 2.1% – 27.8% higher) compared to non-organic meat and dairy.
The Soil Association is also disappointed that the FSA failed to include the results of a major European Union-funded study involving 31 research and university institutes and the publication, so far, of more than 100 scientific papers, at a cost of 18million Euros, which ended in April this year [1].

The European Union research programme concluded that:

  • ‘Levels of a range of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g. antioxidants, vitamins, glycosinolates) were shown to be higher in organic crops’
  • ‘Levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds (e.g. mycotoxins, glycoalkaloids, Cadmium and Nickel) were shown to be lower in organic crops’.

In addition, levels of fatty acids, such as CLA and omega 3 were between 10 – 60% higher in organic milk and dairy products, and levels of Vitamin C were up to 90% higher in leafy vegetables and fruits.

There are limited studies available on the health benefits of organic versus non-organic food. Without large-scale, longitudinal research it is difficult to come to far-reaching clear conclusions on this, which was acknowledged by the authors of the FSA review.

Also, there is not sufficient research on the long-term effects of pesticides on human health.
In 2006 the European Commission said that “long-term exposure to pesticides can lead to serious disturbances to the immune system, sexual disorders, cancers, sterility, birth defects, damage to the nervous system and genetic damage.”

Organic farming and food systems are holistic, and are produced to work with nature rather than to rely on oil-based inputs such as fertilisers. Consumers who purchase organic products are not just buying food which has not been covered in pesticides (the average apple may be sprayed up to 16 times with as many as 30 different pesticides) they are supporting a system that has the highest welfare standards for animals, bans routine use of antibiotics and increases wildlife on farms. [2]

Notes to editors:
[1] The study was part of QualityLowInputFood (QLIF), which was an integrated project funded by the European Commission.

[2] Soil Association website


courtesy of Amy at the huffington post – thanks Amy 😉 these 2 articles

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12 replies
  1. donna m
    donna m says:

    in north america organic has very stringent rules and regs to follow. it has to be pesticide free. it has to be non terminator seeds. it has to be, in the case of meat foods, hormone free, antibiotic (mostly) free, free range etc. .. and on it goes.

    my brother eats nothing but organic. everything. he says that he actually gets full faster and needs less food. his 6 yr old son has the most incredible eyes i’ve ever seen and is healthy. we figure americans are literally starving to death – while gaining weight – our theory? no food value in the food so our bodies are telling us to keep eating in order to get the proper nutrients.

    i do know that there is a hell of a difference in organic vs non organic chicken and ground beef (mince). huge. non organic chicken over here has growth hormones. Non organic mince beef does too to some extent. And so does the milk in the States. And dont get me started on eggs! lol

    there was going to be a study done between some fella’s home grown foods and standard big box farm stuff, but i never did see the results.

  2. Jenny Foxe
    Jenny Foxe says:

    The study tested only for nutritional content. I think the potential health impacts of pesticides and fungicides and residual toxins are far more worrying. They can’t prove or disprove that these don’t cause serious illness in the long term and they have found pesticide in most human breast milk. I know I certainly feel better about eating and feeding my children chemical free food. We’re all exposed to enough toxins as it is. I’ve discussed this on my blog today as well.

  3. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:


    but then as i said – we do not have – as members of the public – a definition of what organic is – exactly?

    on the other hand – from last weeks links Round-up. You know the stuff? Scientific American reports round up can kill human cells.

    but back to the first point….. joe public doesn’t really know. I read the full entire report on legislation for chickens and to be honest *factory* ones were an animal welfare officer must be present at all time for example – were killed in a more humane way than those on our own RTE programme. But because of the media [to an extent] the emphasis is on dirty is now good – organic does not mean [to my knowledge] that no chemicals are used – simply cotrolled, minimised and reduced.

    once again i await a legal state definition.

    fair point re the strict controls. funny thing is the image i show of the organic seeds. produced in the uk. no offence. shipped to ireland. by plane, boat or car – stuff the ozone en route – but hey its organic? rhetorical?

  4. Amanda Webb
    Amanda Webb says:

    It’s true that very few people seem to understand what organic is. Even customers at farmers markets seem to be confused.

    Have you tried contacting one of the certifying bodies either IOGFA or The Organic Trust for an explanation?

  5. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    A Cara Amanda,

    I contacted about 4/5 associations to get a comment.

    However – I would have thought that a ‘definition’ as important twice controversial in the context of my weblog – I also assumed that this would have been [more than] readily available……. it seems not.

    I’m sure this is a document rather than a simple 4 liner.
    I had contacted the organic centre [i know this by email sent] but some are comment fill in only – which is a mild problem for sent copy saving – That said, I had tried most of the associations around the time of the ‘chicken’ debacle. And unfortunately, as one can see got verylttle except for the odd association press release.

    I’ll throw this back out on the interweb and see what comes back.

    many thanks

  6. Amanda Webb
    Amanda Webb says:

    You’re right of course a concise definition would be not only helpful but a great marketing tool. I also hear where you are coming from with the shipped in seeds, the local v organic debate is another one worth having. There is an Irish company however that provides organic seeds I think they’re called the brown bag seed co or something along those lines.

    Just on donna m’s point, there are strict regulations governing what organic is in Ireland. I have copies from the certifying bodies and they are comprehensive.

  7. Philip
    Philip says:

    Organic for me is if it is grown and processed and sold to you LESS than 10 miles from where you live. That way it’ll taste better and will likely be handled less and will have most of it’s freshness. Indeed, I’d even go to far as to say if it is not out of your garden, it is not “organic” – whatever that means!?.

    Maybe, just maybe pesticides, weed killers etc are a factor – but it’s overblown – just too many people alive. A bar of cadbury’s or Nestle’s vegelate does far more damage!! Keep the kids off the fizzy and crisps and take exercise!! True, a spoonful of DDT every morning is to be avoided, but if we are to keep teeming billions alive, you need to kill off bugs, fungus and weeds.

    The main reason people are living longer than average lives is….clean water and good sewers. Not meds and not organic nutcracker driven nonsense. Want some nice tasting food? Grow your own! believe me, the whole food processing industry is a marvel, lets not confuse issues with organics and keep the focus on legality and tranparancy of food standard groups. The organic movement is a distraction that serves no one except people who want to sell worm ridden spuds!

  8. donnam13
    donnam13 says:

    wow Philip you have some strong views on organic! I totally disagree with most of what you said though. The reason people are living longer IS meds… meds to keep us alive at the end of our life when we should be dying, meds to ward of simple diseases that killed millions of people a hundred years ago, meds that do all sorts of things unheard of in years gone by. clean water? most water is so chlorinated its undrinkable.

    As for wormy spuds, organic doesnt have to mean second rate veg. Come to Canada – Vancouver. Come to Oregon. Oregon (USA) has the largest community of organic producers than anywhere else in North America and its all high end produce.

  9. Philip
    Philip says:

    Donnam, Yes, meds are amazing. But the reality is that too many today are dying not because of lack of meds but because of basic life needs and 100 years ago, that was the issue in most parts of the world

    Clean water is the prerequisite for staying alive. After that, it’s about staying dry and warm and having political stability and being sufficiently well fed! This is the big problem I have with “organics”. It takes the eye off the reality of sustaining the teaming billions we have on this planet and the reality of job and social structures which force people to move to urban environments. Organic yields simply cannot meet this need else they would not be as expensive.

    We need to stop paying more than is needed for the food especially if the benefit is not there. Basically, organics are a waste of time.

    I think if we got people to eat less, we’d be onto a real step increase in average health benefits than wasting time with the as yet highly dubious data on what weedlkillers and other biotechno things may be doing to us.

    Now if you could make Organics for cheaper than conventional and with better distribution methods, you’d have a most zealous convert indeed.

  10. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    @amanda webb
    i also wonder whether european versus other continents whether ‘organic’ by definitive law differs…… ?

    @philip @donna
    you 2 crazy kids 🙄

    philip – i fully agree with you on the point that

    Organic for me is if it is grown and processed and sold to you LESS than 10 miles from where you live.

    and i now refer you to this organics post

    regarding the meds – I’ve gotta kinda side with philip here.

    I’m not saying organic are a waiste of time…. but like this organics post there is a point of logic.

    also. I work outdoors. I eat potatoes with meat and a.n.other 2 forms of veg or salad almost every day. I don’t have a G.P./ doctor. I’ve probably been 3/4 times since I was 16and usually I’m bringing someone there….. In saying that I get flu type symptons nce per year….. and i just let it run its course; fill myself with fruit [and maybe the odd hot whiskey 😉 ] but nothing more.

    and look at me know 😆
    as long as ‘organic’ gets us thinking – in this case I realise that eatig organic food from ‘bolivia’ is incorrect – although ‘certified’ organic – and extremely illogic.


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