FRIDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2012 ORGANIC FOOD "NOT HEALTHIER"?
Organic Food "Not Healthier"?
The headline read: “Organic food “is not healthier.” The respected Stanford University Center for Health Policy was claimed in the Times last week to say that “organic food is no healthier than conventional produce, the most comprehensive survey of evidence has concluded.” The Times makes it sound as though the Stanford study is unsympathetic to growers and consumers of organic food.
In fact, Dena Bravata, the senior author of the paper, said: “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health”.
The Stanford research is a meta-study, which includes virtually every scientific study done up to the present on the relationship between agriculture, nutrition and health. The immediate exception the Stanford study found, though not reported by the Times, was that “consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure”. The conclusion, also absent from the Times report, is that, according to the Stanford Center press release: “it remains an open question as to the health benefits. In fact, the Stanford study stemmed from Bravata’s patients asking her again and again about the benefits of organic products. She didn’t know how to advise them”.
I think most growers and consumers of organic food are not chiefly concerned with either the health value or nutritional aspects of organic food. They choose it because they feel it tastes better, and that its production is more environment-friendly that food produced by agribusiness.
Indeed, near the bottom of the brief article, the Times makes a concession, quoting Dr Bravata again: “If you look beyond health effects, there are plenty of other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional,” noted Bravata. But she also listed “taste preferences and concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare as some of the reasons people choose organic products ”.
It’s a case of reading beyond the sensationalist headline to get to the truth – a practice we associate with the red tops, but not usually with the Times! My own gut feeling is that there are many illnesses associated with diet and nutrition. When, as a chef at the pass where the dishes go out to the tables, I see that 20% of the orders placed by our guests indicate some form of food intolerance or allergy, I find it hard to believe that our food supply is completely safe and clean. Too many chemicals and actual drugs are used in intensive farming (especially of livestock), and our food is too much manipulated in the processing undergone by so much of the food on our plates, for me to believe that at least some of our contemporary malaises do not spring from this.
At Le Manoir, our large vegetable
garden, and our new orchard are both nurtured according to the best
organic principles. And I am immensely proud of our association with The
Soil Association and Garden Organic. As the Stanford study seems to require, I’m keeping an open mind and will continue to plough my own (organic) furrow.
PS Please tell me what you think of my blogs and my website: I want to hear from you!
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