back to article Organic food offers basically no health benefit, boffins find

US medical scientists reviewing the state of knowledge on organic food have come to the conclusion that the pricey old-school grub offers no appreciable health benefits. However consumers may still wish to buy it for the purpose of promoting organic farming methods. To be certified organic, food must be produced without the …

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  1. LarsG
    Meh

    Written

    Written by American scientists and organisations that promote Growth Hormone in cattle and GM crops from the fattest nation in the world.

    Hmmm believable.

    1. James 51

      Re: Written

      I don't see why organic food would be that different. It's the environmental arguments that have been better at convincing me to buy them. Oh course the tone of the article is that the enviromental arguements are insifficient to warrant buying organic.

      1. Chris 3

        Re: Written

        Indeed,

        It's always been environmental considerations that have lead me to buy organic, rather than any health considerations. The one exception being carrots which are fairly famous for retaining pesticide residues in their skin, and which I'm too lazy to peel when munching on them raw.

        1. Psyx
          Alert

          Re: Written

          "However consumers may still wish to buy it for the purpose of promoting organic farming methods."

          I always thought that was the main point.

          Tastes the same, but results in less fish ending up all weird.

          1. Powelly
            Happy

            Re: Written

            "Tastes the same, but results in less fish ending up all weird."

            :-) Now if that was the slogan I'd definitely buy it!

            (Although my inner grammar pedant feels the need to point out that it should be 'fewer fish')

            1. Psyx
              Happy

              Re: Written

              'fewer fish'

              I didn't like the alliteration.

              Does anyone know if Lewis was beaten up by hippie kids at school or something. It seems like an almost pathological need to slam down anything slightly green...

          2. PyLETS
            WTF?

            Doesn't taste the same

            Maybe its the fact the root veg arriving in my weekly box come with a bit of mud on them. Possibly Lewis' sources can't taste the difference but I certainly can.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Written

          this is a stupid "finding". it's framed as if people thought,previous to this scietific breakthrough, that organically grown produce was somehow packed with more wholesomely goodness. that is ridiculous! people don't trust 1st gen GMO and would prefer their produce wasn't soaked in nerve gas and don't want mustard gas runoff or it soaking into the water table. of course it's being published, it's horseshit. they know that a certain absurdly large percentage of the population is brainwashed enough not to notice that that wasn't their belief to begin with. once you see this method for what it is you will see it used everywhere. framing the debate in this fashion is used throughout dastardly media. until these people fear the people of the world/audience more than they fear their masters/advertisers/regulators they will keep pushing their lies and people will continue to be controlled.

    2. Some Beggar

      Re: Written

      Odd assertion. The US is also the richest market for flogging 'organic' food. This is essentially the same tactic as talking about imaginary "gravy trains" when sowing doubt about climate change research. The research appears sound. Suggesting it must be the result of corruption is conspiracy theory bunkum.

    3. Greg J Preece

      Re: Written

      I'd love to hear your reasons why GM foods are bad. So would the millions of people they've saved.

      1. Craig 2
        Trollface

        Re: Written

        You provided your own answer, it's saved millions of people on this already overpopulated planet....

    4. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Written

      Try reading the article. It merely confirms the British findings on organic food already published.

  2. bolccg
    Thumb Up

    Not sure...

    ...how they were surprised to find this. Organic food and much of its associated ilk has always been a perverse "fuck you" among rich, food secure people to those in the developing world.

    Really, taking hundreds of years of advancements in agriculture and junking them, while paying far higher prices than necessary to do so, is so stupid and ridiculous it pretty much makes me rage out every time I think about it. The fact that people are sufficiently clueless to wave this around almost as a badge of honour ("you *must* try this celery - it's organic!") just makes me weap for the state of our collective scientific education.

    It's dangerous too, since it sows the seeds (ho ho) of general mistrust of science and particularly other advances in agricultural technologis that are often desperately needed in poorer countries.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not sure...

      At least you won't grow tits eating organic food!

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Not sure...

        "At least you won't grow tits eating organic food!"

        Breaking news from AC! Sex of a person is actually down to whether or not they eat organic food rather than chomasomal difference! "Who knew?" says scientific community.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Not sure... @h4m0ny

          "At least you won't grow tits eating organic food!"

          Breaking news from AC! Sex of a person is actually down to whether or not they eat organic food rather than chomasomal difference! "Who knew?" says scientific community.

          Read the original post. (Particularly the part where the OP doesn't mention a person's sex.) And then read up on xenoestrogens. By all means disagree about whether agrochemicals are problematic. But giving a bloke oestrogen will cause him to grow female secondary sexual characteristics.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: Not sure... @h4m0ny

            I was more just making a point about their assumption they were talking to a male audience.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not sure... @h4m0ny

            So, by your theory, everyone that has been eating any food since the 1950s should have tits, yes?

            Well you know Playtex are going to be happy, who knew? ;)

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Not sure...

        No issue in the UK we have very high levels of control on livestock welfare

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not sure...

        But what if one is, shall we say, a laaaydeee ....., hmm? :P

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Not sure...

          "But what if one is, shall we say, a laaaydeee ....., hmm? :P"

          Then excess oestrogen will interfere with fertility. It will not, as far as I am aware, result in giant, gravity-defying breasts. Sorry to disappoint.

      4. Maxson

        Re: Not sure...

        If you think non-organic food will make you grow tits, then you are a tit.

        Growing tits on men is pretty much caused by body fat. The reason more men have tits these days? A higher proportion of the population is fatter than it was in the past.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Not sure...

      I think you are confusing science and engineering. Science tends towards the truth. Engineering not necessarily so.

      Farming is engineering - bound by profit rather than science. At the time of the doomesday book the local area produced about 4 times as much food as it does now. Its now largely dairy and sheep - things that could turn a good profit at one time - before the all important market was hijacked.

      Engineering is going to give us nitrogen producing cereals which require less fertiliser. antiSocial engineering of farmers - through the 'market' being manipulated will lead to this being planted in preference to the (very) local technique of growing peas and barley together - something that produces far more animal food that the gm equivalent can hope to produce.

      Many of the advance in agriculture are highlighted by looking at one element of production - we can grow 4* as much barley suing this variety on some select soils. I been trying old pre-improvement varieties on my land and they produce almost an order of magnitude more crop than modern improved varieties - with other added benefits like a long stem which outgrows the weeds so doesn’t require the weed-killer modern 'improved' varieties do.

      Yes farming methods have improved - but a lot of modern 'improvements' are made at repairing damage other 'improvements' have made.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Not sure...

        As you say, science tends towards the truth. Can you elaborate on the truthiness of this statement:

        I [have] been trying old pre-improvement varieties on my land and they produce almost an order of magnitude more crop than modern improved varieties

        What kind of order of magnitude are we talking here? The purpose of these improved varieties is to increase yield/hectare or decrease the cost of growing a hectare (eg due to improved disease resistance, less pesticides are required). I'm surprised that you claim an unspecified large increase in yield when using non improved varieties and would like to see numbers to back it up.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Science and allergies

      As far as I know it has not yet been explained why so many children today are allergic to peanuts. There was a theory (perhaps since disproved) that one of the causes might be dodgy ingredients in cattle feed. That's why we gave our children only organic milk for the first six months of their lives. Is that so stupid?

      Mistrust of science? Mistrust of authority is part of a scientific attitude, I'd say. Though I'm lucky in that I have several medics in the family who can answer my questions by pointing me at the actual research papers and encouraging me to read them myself ...

      1. VaalDonkie

        Re: Science and allergies

        Did you know that your wife has a supply of "organic" milk in her blouse?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Science and allergies

          I don't suppose there is an official rule for what constitutes organic human milk, but I think that the rules for organic cows' milk require the cows' feed to be grown without fertilisers, etc, so presumably human breast milk would only count as organic if the woman eats only organic food? And doesn't take drugs?

          (Of course it would be madness to give a baby organic cows' milk in preference to non-organic human milk.)

        2. Identity
          Boffin

          Re: Science and allergies

          Very funny... Unfortunately, it's been shown that breast milk is often contaminated by the chemical load in the mother's body.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Science and allergies

          Re: Science and allergies

          Did you know that your wife has a supply of "organic" milk in her blouse?

          Only if she is eating organic

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Science and allergies

        My favourite theory is arachis oil in nipple cream, although there's no strong evidence for it at the moment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Science and allergies

          I feel some double-blind testing is required. No babies of course, they can't give consent, so everyone needs to be a grown-up ;)

      3. frank ly

        @AC 08:46 Re: Science and allergies

        According to one theory I read about (on the internet, so it must be true), there was a large supply of unwanted peanut oil as a by-product of peanut paste manufacture. This was incorporated into baby oil type products (since it's natural and we all know that natural products are good for you) and applied to the delicate skin of many, many babies and young children. The theory is that some component of the peanut oil was absorbed through the skin and resulted in sensitisation to that component, leading to a later allergy towards peanuts.

      4. Greg J Preece

        Re: Science and allergies

        "There was a theory (perhaps since disproved) that one of the causes might be dodgy ingredients in cattle feed."

        Sounds more like a hypothesis to me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Science and allergies

          Harsh, but fair ;)

      5. Lee Dowling Silver badge

        Re: Science and allergies

        "As far as I know it has not yet been explained why so many children today are allergic to peanuts."

        Did your wife eat peanuts when she was pregnant? Because the advice is not to. To absolutely 100% stay away from them.

        Did that advice exist 50 years ago? No. Are humans nut-gatherers? Yes, like most of our ape-like ancestors.

        So the child grows up in a peanut-free environment and then, shock, horror, has a reaction to peanuts on first exposure when they are 10 or something.

        And almost all peanut allergies, of any severity, can be cured by controlled, limited, measured exposure to - guess what - peanuts. The most effective treatment is to literally inject them with tiny, tiny proportions of peanut and gradually build up the dosage until they are "immune" to it. You get people going from certain-death allergies to being able to eat a small bag.

        Same as just about everything else in modern life - not enough getting dirty.

        Watch those parents who fuss about germs, who swipe the baby's high chair the second they drop anything, who cover their house in hand-gel, wet-wipes, antibacterial soaps, freshener sprays and all the other junk. Their kids will grow up with allergies, asthma, and a range of other conditions related to that.

        Watch those parents who follow the "five second rule", and tell kids not to get muddy only when they have their best dress on. They, generally, won't.

        I live with a geneticist who has to work in a cleanroom environment all day long. We don't have that crap at home because, and I quote, "your body doesn't need it, only the lab does" and too much exposure to it is what breeds all the bad reactions and poor immune systems. Even an antibacterial handsoap is enough to provoke a rant when we're out. Want to wash your hands? Cold water. Out of a tap, or rub them in the rain. I had to explain to my little'un lately that rain is probably cleaner than anything that comes out of a tap (when was the last time you flushed your water pipes with their manky corroding copper and leakage into the soil?) - they spent the next five minutes "washing my hands in the rain, daddy" and splashing in puddles. Yes, we all got soaked and needed a change of clothes when we got home to feel comfortable. No, none of us died.

        A lot of modern "diseases" are down to modern thinking. When was the last time you let your kids get muddy or roll through a field of grass? Now when was the last time they exhibited symptoms of hayfever, asthma, etc.?

      6. Dr Stephen Jones

        Re: Science and allergies

        "Is that so stupid?"

        It's exactly the kind of superstition I would expect from a Guardian reader.

    4. Psyx
      Alert

      Re: Not sure...

      "Organic food and much of its associated ilk has always been a perverse "fuck you" among rich, food secure people to those in the developing world."

      So, a bit like spraying treated drinking water over cars and lawns, then?

      Or recycling the containers of luxury goods.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not sure...

        Same people :P

    5. Euripides Pants

      Re: perverse "fuck you" (?)

      http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years

      'Nuff said...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: perverse "fuck you" (?)

        Ahh, Mr Rodale, the main US (self-)promoter of "organic", who died of a heart attack on the set of a TV program being filmed, just after proclaiming that he was so healthy that he was going to live to 100 unless he was mown down by a sugar-crazed taxi-driver. Not quite sure what he had against taxi drivers or sugar, mind ;)

        Also, apparently offered other people asparagus boiled in (whose?) urine. Mmmm yummy.

        http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/03/when-that-guy-died-on-my-show/

  3. Schultz Silver badge

    Simple tool to determine the quality of food

    Use your taste buds. It's been honed in some process called evolution to tell you whether the food is any good for you. Caveats apply concerning processed foods such as sugar, glutamate, etc..

    1. Buzzword

      Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

      Quite right. Not all foods benefit from organic production, but I can certainly taste the difference in tomatoes and in milk. If you can't taste the difference then stick with the non-organic produce.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

        "I can certainly taste the difference"

        Fancy taking a blind taste test?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

          Yup, and same varieties of tomato. No cheating with super-tasty mutants out of Thompson & Morgan catalogue !

        2. pete23
          Coat

          Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

          Paging the Audiophile conspiracy to the thread...

          1. Some Beggar

            Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

            Audiophiles are almost as delicious as belladonna berries. You need to cook them in an oxygen-free solid gold pan though.

    2. h4rm0ny

      Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

      "sugar, glutamate..."

      salt, saturated fats, excess meat, carcinogenic fried foods, various sweet tasting but poisonous berries, a wide range of mushrooms that taste no different to regular mushrooms... in fact, actually don't just use your taste buds. Use learning and research.

      1. Simon Harris
        Unhappy

        Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

        My taste-buds tell me bacon sandwiches are good for me...

        .. my doctor tells me otherwise

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

          Your doctor is clearly evil.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

      No. Precisely because of how evolution works, your taste buds have not caught up with artificial fertilisers, etc. If fact they probably haven't even caught up with farming, full stop, and are still living in hunter-gatherer times.

      There's some evidence your body can crave foods based on what's in them, but detecting trace amounts of some chemical which could build up over the years and cause long-term harm - no.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

        Plus, artificial fertilisers are simply the elements the plant actually needs, without added "benefits" like E-Coli, and remnants of the animal's intestines. You think hydroponics need the occasional turd thrown in to make it work properly? ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the elements the plant actually needs, without added "benefits" like E-Coli"

          I recall lots of UK outbreaks of E Coli in recent years.

          I recall lots of them being traced back to poor (industrial style) farming husbandry and similar practices. You will see this if you look.

          Does anybody anywhere recall any of them being traced back to organic farming practices? Pointers welcome (especially for the German outbreak which was originally blamed on organic lettuce but that explanation was later proved wrong????)

          [Yes I'm aware that there are fewer organic farms than non-organic, and of the statistical effect that would have]

    4. Some Beggar
      FAIL

      Re: Simple tool to determine the quality of food

      Good luck with that. Deadly Nightshade berries are delicious.

  4. jb99

    Why it's "better"/

    The only reason it might be better is that the people making organic food generally can be assumed to be doing so because they care about the quality of their food so do a better job. But they could just as well do that without being "organic".

    1. bolccg
      Flame

      Re: Why it's "better"/

      Many people making organic food are doing so for the higher margins it attracts or because they are ignorant of the facts. Look, not saying everyone in the industry is like that but it's a sweeping statement, packed with naïveté to take that as your starting assumption.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re:"Many people making organic food are doing so for the higher margins"

        "Many people making organic food are doing so for the higher margins"

        Which is one of the two major reasons I buy organic milk. The other is that it actually tastes like milk.

        When Safeway were my local supermarket they used to supply organic milk from the next county along. Safeway went away, sadly. Can the supermarkets using the likes of Robert Wiseman do that? I don't see any sign that they're even trying.

        I used to travel miles to stock up on meat from a not particularly organic independent butcher. It was very nice meat. He's retired (enjoy it, Stan and Sue). My local farmers market is no replacement (sorry, but it really isn't) and at the moment my answer is organic meat from the supermarket. That may change.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Why it's "better"/

        I've always preferred organic food because I think it encourages better environmental farming (less destructive to the British countryside and wildlife, leads to more locally sourced food which boosts local industry) and as a secondary reason because I'm never fully confident that pesticide residues have been fully removed and that these are not mildly harmful. I don't buy exclusively organic, but the environmental factor is enough to make it my preference where possible and affordable. I certainly know people who think organic food is more nutritious, but I think a lot of organic buyers have the same reasons as myself.

        Nutritional content more greatly suffers I think, through selective breeding of fruit and vegetables to be more supermarket-friendly. That is they are bred for size or shape rather than nutritional value. And then quite often sprayed or waxed to make them more colourful or shiny. You can actually taste the wax on most apples for example. But people follow the visual cues, going for, e.g. massive, flavourless items. Except for blind people who just wonder why everything tastes shit these days. Seriously, everyone should try and get hold of some of the more obscure, traditional varieties of various fruits to see what they're like. Did you know that tomatoes actually come in white and yellow varieties as well? But outside of a few keen gardners keeping the species alive, they're all but wiped out by the supermarkets that just want to seel bundles of giant, bright red ones. A shame as these obscure varieties have great tastes. The throwing out of food because it's a funny shape or too small or big or off-colour, is the real fuck you to the developing world.

        Organic food also tends to align with non-GMO food as well. And certainly presents dangers such as patents on foods, the destruction of traditional farming cycles with terminator crops (where you can't save seed for replanting next year), massively increased use and potency of herbicides and a genetic monoculture of food (which is a low risk, but extremely high stakes).

        I got tired of the strawman being thrown at me whenever I got into a conversation about organic food that it hadn't been shown to be healthier. Maybe it is (pesticide residues), it probably isn't, or if so, the difference is statistical rather than directly measurable. But it's not strictly limited to that issue and I'm very glad to see this article actually raises the environmental motivation many of us have for buying organic.

        1. Dr Stephen Jones
          FAIL

          @h4rm0ny

          "But it's not strictly limited to that issue and I'm very glad to see this article actually raises the environmental motivation many of us have for buying organic."

          Right. So you support organics because they have a propaganda value? That says it all, really.

          "The throwing out of food because it's a funny shape or too small or big or off-colour, is the real fuck you to the developing world."

          No, it's not. The real fuck-you to the developing world is us stopping them getting higher productivity agriculture, cheaper energy and inward investment. Farmers in developing countries buy new seed every year, whether it's GM or not. They want pesticides and they want higher yields. But affluent ninnies like you want to stop them using them.

          People like you love to keep the poor where they are - they look lovely on postcards. You might not think you're a racist, but your politics certainly is.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: @h4rm0ny

            "Right. So you support organics because they have a propaganda value? That says it all, really."

            Actually, that says something completely other than what I wrote. I gave a number of supportable reasons in my post and none of them were to do with "propaganda value".

            "No, it's not. The real fuck-you to the developing world is us stopping them getting higher productivity agriculture, cheaper energy and inward investment."

            Where am I stopping them getting cheaper energy or inward investment? I'm extremely pro-nuclear for a start and you don't get better energy than that. India is one of the leading deployers of nuclear energy and I fully support that, though my support is chiefly limited to shooting down stupid arguments online or the rare environmental meeting. Inward investment? You know nothing about what businesses I work in or where my money goes. For your information I've contributed to a number of developing countries. You know nothing about me or what I do for a living. You have only, somehow, extrapolated from my comments about patents on GMOs for example, that I am somehow against investing in developing countries. A very stupid extrapolation. As to pesticides and higher-yields, they want that primarily for export market, and the export market is what distorts much of the local production in the first place. For example, you get areas of India with vitamin D deficiency being common because traditional farming containing a balance of nutrients, has given way to intensive rice farming. A problem that Monsanto exploits to sell its vitamin D-enriched "golden rice", ironically enough.

            "People like you love to keep the poor where they are - they look lovely on postcards. You might not think you're a racist, but your politics certainly is."

            Making an argument that developing countries should be wary of ending up with their crops being nearly all patented by massive Western corporations who will later on cease to subsidize the buying of those crops once native seed stocks are heavily depleted and they are reliant on heavy use of pesticides and herbicides because the balance of their local ecosystem has been heavily shifted, is not reason to start suggesting I'm racist. Both the science and the economics of the above are sound.

            In short, your response seems to have little to do with the post I wrote. It seems to be a knee-jerk abuse based on some simplistic demon environmentalist stereotype that exists in your mind. No, people "like me" do not "love to keep the poor where they are." Poor people don't make good trading partners or customers for my tech-based services. Plus there's, you know, something called compassion. A thing that you seem to assume no-one but yourself posesses.

          2. Euripides Pants

            Re: @h4rm0ny

            "The real fuck-you to the developing world is us stopping them getting higher productivity agriculture"

            And organic farming has been shown in a 30 year test to actually produce _higher_yields than our ever-so-scientific conventional farming. Of course, it took a few years to get the better yields as the soil had been depleted of nutrients by conventional farming.

            http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years

    2. Filippo

      Re: Why it's "better"/

      I know some people who produce organic food. They don't care about food quality any more or less than the people who produce standard food. In fact, they are very often the same people. The notion that "organic" implies "small scale" is a marketing delusion; organic food is just like any other industry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why it's "better"/

        Agreed, I know of some hill sheep farmers where the only difference is that some got off their arse and did the paperwork for organic to get the higher prices, the sheep all eat the same stuff anyway, because it grows wild ;)

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Why it's "better"/

      Organic Milk contains 20-40 times the Omega3 of 'ordinary' milk during the summer period. This is primarily due to the animals grazing on real grass outside but either that’s better for you or a huge bundle of products on your supermarket shelves are lying to you.

      The one thing about this report that makes me worried is that since we seem to know fuck all about what is good for you in your diet how can we say either way as to the 'benefits'.

    4. Hans 1
      Boffin

      Re: Why it's "better"/

      The reason why it's better and why I seriously doubt the results of this research is not that it is more nutritious, nobody knowledgeable in the matter ever claimed that, BTW, but that the stuff contains significantly less pesticides (There will always be pesticides everywhere for centuries to come). The fact that they use manure for fertilizers is pretty damn logical, that is exactly how the planet has been doing it for billions of years - anybody claiming this has any negative impact should be shot on the spot. Note that the excrements are composted for 6 months before they are used as fertilizers, pathogens cannot survive that.

      Since the article does not indicate any reason for their conclusion, just a simple "we read through numerous reports and can say" I call BS, probably funded by Monsanto.

      Do we have a link to the report? I could do with a good laugh this week - want a new keyboard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why it's "better"/

        You might want to look up the word "biodegradeable". You know, that's the stuff organic farmers "don't" use.

      2. Greg J Preece

        Re: Why it's "better"/

        "The fact that they use manure for fertilizers is pretty damn logical, that is exactly how the planet has been doing it for billions of year"

        Trying and failing to follow that "logic". Given that the whole point of human civilisation is basically improving on nature (your current life expectancy is most definitely not down to natural causes), why should we not seek to do the same with our farming methods?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why it's "better"/

          And I would hazard a guess there wasn't much fertilising going on during Earth's molten phase ;)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it said "Monsanto free" rather than "organic"

    How many people would buy it if it said "certified Monsanto free" rather than "organic"?

    Not surprisingly, the corporatist-powered "free market" is not interested in offering customers that choice.

    Customers who might want that option are instead offered the choice between growing their own (which hasn't worked too well this year in the UK unless you're a slug, and most folk don't have room for a cow or whatever anyway), or supporting those suppliers who are certified organic.

    There are lots of reasons of wanting to buy organic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it said "Monsanto free" rather than "organic"

      "Of all dietary pesticides that humans eat, 99.99 percent are natural: they are chemicals produced by plants to defend themselves against fungi, insects, and other animal predators."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If it said "Monsanto free" rather than "organic"

        Monsanto have other products and practices besides popular pesticides such as glyphosate, and many people don't want any of them, if they can make informed decisions about avoiding them.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: If it said "Monsanto free" rather than "organic"

          Certainly; Monsanto did sterling work in providing enough Agent Orange to carpet South-East Asia when the USAF had that need.

          1. Identity
            Boffin

            Re: If it said "Monsanto free" rather than "organic"

            Actually, that was Dow Chemical

      2. slhilly

        Re: If it said "Monsanto free" rather than "organic"

        So what? Many toxins only need to be present in small quantities to cause harm. And the fact that some plant-derived chemicals are harmful is not only well-known (it's why you pick mushrooms in ignorance at your peril), it's also completely irrelevant to whether or not human-derived pesticides are a good or bad thing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >"Of all dietary pesticides that humans eat, 99.99 percent are natural"

        That's not really relevant. The natural pestidicides we consume aren't organophosphates. The agrochemical ones we consume are.

        Those things are among the most hideously nasty chemicals we've ever developed. Minimizing your intake of organophosphates is a seriously good idea, and eating organic food is worth it for that alone. (At least according to my cost-benefit balance, anyway.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: >"Of all dietary pesticides that humans eat, 99.99 percent are natural"

          What's relevant is if they are toxic or not, and roughly 50% of both natural and man-made chemicals are carcinogenic in huge doses.

          However, this is irrelevant because the doses in real life are tiny, and mostly from the natural pesticides the plants make, which actually would be carcinogenic in huge doses, like many other things, like caffeine and celery.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            There are other forms of toxicity besides carcinogenicity.

            Your post conflates the two. Organophosphates have a huge range of toxic effects, of which carcinogenicity is among the least worrying. I'm not worried about cancer, but I am worried about neurotoxicity, which is well-documented to be a risk of even low-level chronic OP exposure.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: There are other forms of toxicity besides carcinogenicity.

              Numbers.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We knew this in the UK already.

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/07/30/0210224/uks-fsa-finds-no-health-benefits-to-organic-food?sbsrc=thisday

  7. Wild Bill

    Weirdly written article Reg. Shouldn't have to click an external link to find out who a particular quote is attributed to (Prince Charles apparently)

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      I can't think of any other heir to the throne...

      1. Greenchutes

        I am Spartacus

        Actually, we are all heirs to the throne. It's just that some of us are a bit further back in the queue.

        Definition of "heir" - A person who succeeds or is in line to succeed to a hereditary rank, title, or office.

  8. Andrew Moore

    It's not that organic food is better...

    ...it's more due to processed food being much worse for you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not that organic food is better...

      Which is why I never buy processed if I can help it, organic or not :P

      1. Alex King

        Re: It's not that organic food is better...

        "Which is why I never buy processed if I can help it, organic or not :P"

        Never buy processed eh? Unless you go and pick it off the wild bush yourself, it has been processed - it's all a matter of degree.

        The amount of fresh produce that we in the west waste is neither here nor there. People in developing countries need to be able to grow food near where they live. When we've succeeded in reliably producing enough food for everyone in the places they live, then I'll start worrying about how happy the chickens are and whether I'm being cheated out of the oppoprtunity to buy white tomatoes.

        Such a ridiculous first-world debate.

  9. Filippo

    Human manure...?

    I'll take something grown with fertilisers and weedkillers any day before I eat something that had excrement of my own species on it. Most viruses and lots of parasites are species-specific and some are notoriously hard to reliably kill.

    1. Goldmember

      Re: Human manure...?

      Well if you are in the UK and have ever bought fresh veg from Sainsbury's, you may have already done so:

      http://www.metro.co.uk/news/236914-human-sewage-used-for-cereals

      There was a BBC article on this but I couldn't find it. i seem to recall tomatoes in particular being grown in this way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Human manure...?

        Can I be slightly nitpicky and suggest that cereals aren't veg exactly ....... although clearly they are plant-derived :P

        1. Goldmember

          Re: Human manure...?

          Indeed you can. I was making reference to the tomatoes (I know, I know, they're really fruit) and other veg I thought Sainsbury's used. But I can find no evidence of this so maybe I made it up...

  10. Hans 1
    Boffin

    elReg biased?

    "This tends to greatly reduce yields from a given amount of land, making organic food very expensive compared to the regular stuff."

    I cry BS and would like to see a report on that. The price difference is merely because of the hype. Previously, organic food was produced by little farmers, sold in specialized shops. Now, supermarkets have seen that ppl are eager to pay 1.5 or 2 times as much for organic variants, and are laughing all the way to the bank.

    The best example is chicken ... organic chicken must run around in the open and be given "natural" food, other chicken that are "produced" in the open can be fed anything - the organic variant is priced twice the price, although "natural food" is cheaper ...

    1. Trygve

      Re: elReg biased?

      Natural food possibly is cheaper. Giving the chooks room to run around outside rather than packing them into a windowless shed at a density of a dozen per square metre certainly isn't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: elReg biased?

        I do hope they put some "organic" foxes out there as well to make it more natural for the chickies :P

        1. Psyx
          Stop

          Re: elReg biased?

          "I do hope they put some "organic" foxes out there as well to make it more natural for the chickies "

          No, it wouldn't.

          Ever seen a wild chicken?

          They've been domesticated for thousands of years, and are about as 'natural' as sweetcorn.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: elReg biased?

            And equally tasty :P

      2. Hans 1
        Mushroom

        Re: elReg biased?

        "Giving the chooks room to run around outside rather than packing them into a windowless shed at a density of a dozen per square metre certainly isn't."

        BOTH VARIANTS ARE IN THE OPEN IN MY EXAMPLE!

        Compared to Auschwitz chicken, it is more like 6 to 8 times the price .... where do you live?

      3. Psyx
        Alert

        Re: elReg biased?

        "Giving the chooks room to run around outside rather than packing them into a windowless shed at a density of a dozen per square metre certainly isn't."

        There's not that much in it. Look how cheap an acre of agricultural land is. You don't even need good soil for chickens.

        The only reason chickens were herded indoors and crammed together in the first place was because of gross amounts of greed, and people looking to maximise profits in every manner.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: elReg biased?

      Where does one buy 'natural' food from?

      You can definitely buy outdoor reared farm chickens that have been fed only a natural vegetarian diet, but not certified organic.

      For the general consumer they aren't able to tell (read: supermarkets!) using psychic ability which non-organic produce is actually well cared for with best intentions by the farmer, so choosing organic is the 'easy' choice. It's a half-way house between convenience and aiming for the intake of less meddled with produce into your body.

      IF consumers were to make more of an effort, instead of pretending they've never had it so bad in terms of time spent during a standard day, they could find their local producers and small shops and discover a whole new range of foods.

      However the fact tastebuds are destroyed over time if you don't use them means that for many people they are actually unable to taste the difference between the cheapest crappiest foods and the best most-cared for foods. I can taste the difference blind, which applies to things such as wine too. I'm sure you know people who can't taste any difference, which just goes to show how the processed nonsense of the last 30 years has diminished people's ability to taste.

      Suits big business perfectly, keep the cash rolling in for tripe food :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: elReg biased?

        Well clearly, natural food is food that hasn't been farmed by humans :P

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EH?! Seperate Nutrition and Health!

    Is health purely based on the nutritional/vitamin content of food that you eat? Of course it's not!

    [Skip to the last line of this post if you want an ideal summary of taste/nutrition!]

    For years we've seen a shift from food that is fresh to food that is heavily processed. If we look at fresh food raw ingredients alone, it's obvious in items such as milk, fruit and vegetables that non-organic food is heavily laden with pesticides and chemicals that DO transfer into your body.

    In fact the majority of independent studies support that hypothesis, so it's fair to say we "know" the above.

    People don't eat organic food because those foods may or may not contain better nutritional value - although for milk organic is the obvious choice - they eat them because chemicals that are ingested can stay for decades or permanently in the body causing as-yet untold damage.

    One thing you will have forgotten: ALL FOOD WAS ORGANIC prior to a few decades ago. Animals and vegetables grew as they grew without much intervention. That's pretty natural, isn't it? Then corporations came into play and it was quickly realised that huge profit could be made from food production and agriculture.

    We need to forget the fact the world is population is growing at a ridiculous rate, as the control of the size of population on earth is something that will eventually have to come into play to ensure there's enough resources to feed the number of people alive, which will happen eventually in a few hundred years time.

    People should read 'organic' as 'natural', but taste usually comes from care. Supermarkets don't care about you and very few care about taste, even with organic produce.

    Find your local producer, use your local shops, compare their home-grown much cared for tomatoes taste and compare it to a generic supermarket tomato that's been chemically sprayed to buggery and has had rushed growth.

    And remember: prior to a few years ago, ALL food was organic, but your perception was changed by corporations whose only care is profit. Scary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EH?! Seperate Nutrition and Health!

      Botulism FTW, and lead oxide in bread unlisted. Ahh, the good old days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: EH?! Seperate Nutrition and Health!

        Those are examples of items that involved processing, which is exactly what I stated is part of a negative trend in food that we've seen for decades.

        Bread utilises grown ingredients and botulism appears through using containers to store food without removing appropriate gases.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: EH?! Seperate Nutrition and Health!

          Umm actually I meant Ergot / ergotism not botulism, oops.

          A natural problem common in the Middle Ages, avoided by proper checking and careful grain handling and processing.

          However, older style methods can lead to outbreaks like in Ethiopia in 2001.

          And the lead oxide thing was referring to bread or other food being adulterated in the 1800s,not in the 20th/21st century, where that would be checked for, and illegal, and ingredients have to be listed now.

          http://www.duralabel.com/duranews/2012/may/02-chemical-labeling-is-arrives-at-a-turtles-pace.php

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: EH?! Seperate Nutrition and Health!

            Yes, we could do with more ergot. Ergotamine Tartrate isn't so easy to come by these days!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It all depends on what questions you ask

    These two questions might have quite different answers -

    Health benefits from organic vs industrialised?

    Health risks from organic vs industrialised?

    Properly conducted double-blind taste tests would also be interesting

    Some of the commenters above decry organic as a denial of science and engineering. Yet Tom 7 asserts that he can empirically show better yields from traditional methods. So it may be that the science and engineering approach, applied to traditional methods and divorced from the goals of the agrichemical industry, is a valid 'third way'.

  13. dkjd

    already use sh*t on normal farms

    Human sewage is already used as fertiliser e.g. http://www.thereview.ca/story/concerns-over-sewage-sludge-being-spread-eastern-ontario-farmland , but not on organic farms though afaik (as it contains too many chemicals, and is also slightly radioactive).

    In demark you can get organic potatoes from marocco, covered in soil. The funny thing is you cannot import dirty potatoes into the EU, so what happens is that they get a slight covering of Danish dirt put on them before they are put on the shelves. Because that makes them look more "organic". Its a strange planet we live on (not as strange as Lewis's brain, but bloody strange nonetheless)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: already use sh*t on normal farms

      Is the no-importing dirt thing because of Colorado Beetles, perhaps? They used to have posters of it in the local cop shop when I was a kid (farming area), you know, "Wanted-Dead Or Alive" style mugshots ;)

  14. bill 36

    Have you ever wondered

    Where the soil originally came from that we grow our food in?

    Anyone with a compost heap can tell you

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have you ever wondered

      Rotted leaves, plants, and decomposed rock mostly? I suppose the odd animal corpse or two. Not much poop though, unless from dogs or cats these days.

  15. Nigel R Silver badge
    Alert

    It's the sprays, stupid

    The boffins clearly decided to ignore the skin of the fruit & veg. This is where all the actual minerals and vitamins are concentrated. Organic items should be spray free. Non organic will have synthetic pathogens sticking to the skin. I like to eat fruit & veg with skin.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: It's the sprays, stupid

      Yes, they never thought of that. No doubt they had a nubile lady feeding them peeled grapes.

    2. Some Beggar

      Re: It's the sprays, stupid

      "Organic items should be spray free."

      No. The rules for the 'organic' label allow plenty of spraying. Copper sulphate, hydrogen peroxide, boric acid ... the list varies from place to place. The 'organic' label just means that it fulfils a set of (arguably arbitrary) rules set down by a regulatory body. It doesn't mean it grew in an unadulterated Eden.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's the sprays, stupid

        Yes, they are allowed non-biodegradeable, persistent stuff. I think the copper sulphate could be a longterm soil contamination problem. Plus, they are allowed to rumble on lumps of phosphate rock, but not purified phosphate rock derived powder in carefully controlled amounts ;)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You do know that a "pathogen" is what the general public calls a "germ", yes? Are synthetics pathogens things like Anthrax then? Darn it they were right, washing apples does nothing, where's me tinfoil hat!

  17. Andy 18
    Facepalm

    Shock horror!!

    This is a research for marketing/lobbying purposes only. Most people buy organic food because it is less likely to have pesticides, herbicides, added hormones, GM residues not because they think it is healthier in itself. My home grown tomatoes are delicious because I pick them 5 minutes before eating but I don't seriously expect them to be different nutritionally from the same seeds grown elsewhere and sprayed every week. I just expect them not to be covered in pesticides and preservatives.

    This is a repeat of the GM research that says eating GM versions of food crops isn't bad for you (also done purely to provide marketing sound bites) . Big whoop - we have a couple of million years of evolution to stop us being damaged by odd DNA in food. What people worry about is GM crops that produce dangerous chemicals cross fertilising with food crops or GM plants with pesticide immunity cross fertilising with native weeds.

    1. Tel Starr

      Re: Shock horror!!

      Home grown tommies taste delicious because the average home gardener uses 3 times the level of fertiliser than farmed foods. Farmers are very precise in the amount of fertiliser they use (normally following Defra defined ratios) unlike home growers with their bags of growmore, tomorite, human urine, horse manure liquer, etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shock horror!!

        Does that mean they basically have more sugar in them, I wouldn't be surprised .....

    2. Some Beggar
      WTF?

      Re: Shock horror!!

      "damaged by odd DNA in food"

      Can somebody translate this into English for me?

  18. Crisp

    Well duh!

    I am Jacks complete lack of surprise.

  19. b166er

    I love people that rubbish the organic produce idea. I can only surmise they must be misers.

    I mean, a litre of organic milk will keep at least a week longer than its non-organic cousin. An organic cauliflower tastes much better than its non-organic cousin. An organic chicken has doubtless had a far better life than a non-organic one. And organic eggs last forever too.

    1. Silverburn
      Thumb Down

      I hope you're being sarcastic, because this is complete bollox otherwise.

      1. b166er

        The thing is, it isn't bollocks at all. The milk and eggs do last longer and the cauliflower does taste better.

        The chicken will also have had a better life.

        It's a question of mass production and it's the same in ever sector (tobacco springs instantly to mind).

        The same level of quality simply cannot be maintained when you're producing to the lowest price point.

        I've seen how chickens are kept and I have absolutely no doubt that organic/free range chicken is a far more healthy option than caged, or even barn, hens.

        The taste of cauliflower is subjective, however I have, on occasion, picked my own cauliflowers from the local farm. The hand-picked ones taste better than the store bought ones, but the organic ones taste better still.

        If I keep barn eggs for say, a fortnight past their best before date, their yolks will almost certainly break, whereas I can still break an organic egg intact at least several weeks after their best before date.

        I once left a bottle of organic milk in an outside fridge and forgot about it. When I came to pour it away (it was almost a month past its use by date), the constituents had not separated at all and the milk, in fact, smelled fresh and perfectly drinkable. I didn't take the risk of course, but non organic milk would have been in a far worse way by that point.

        I'm sure you'll still disagree and that's fine with me, I'm not asking you to agree. But you can't tell me it's bollocks because I can see for myself it isn't.

    2. Menelaus-uk
      Stop

      Really?

      A litre of organic milk keeps a week longer than it's non organic variant? Really I doubt this very much.

      Having grown up on a farm drinking raw milk (that's non pasteurised, non homogenised) you wouldn't want to drink it the next morning, as it turns really quick. Even now, I never use the best before date on a bottle of milk, my good old nose tells me if it's good or not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really?

        Yup, plus there are our old friends Brucellosis and TB, which is why milk is mostly pasteurised ..... unlike in Ye Goode Olde Days.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      Most of what we term 'organic' tastes better and/or lasts longer because it's much fresher due to being locally produced. But that's a difference about local produce, not organic produce.

      1. Richard 120
        Thumb Up

        Thanks JDX

        I hadn't made the link between local/organic before. It's good to know.

        I do buy some organic stuff simply because it tastes nicer, like tomatoes that actually have a flavour instead of tasting of water, but I'll not go out of my way to avoid GM or non-organic farming methods.

        I also recognise that something that is listed as "organic" could also be GM, but I've no problem with that really, given the quantity of testing that's done (if the fucking hippies don't destroy the test fields)

        I've actually thought the opposite was true about the length of time organic foods last, I think they don't last as long, but generally the stuff is all eaten before stuff goes off and there's not much waste in my house anyway.

  20. Steve Murphy
    FAIL

    I don't even need to read the author to know this opinionated piece is penned by Lewis (fukushima was triumph of engineering) Page

    "That's not too surprising as organic grub is a huge money-spinning business, turning over $24.4bn in the US last year, and money like that tends to lead to a lot of ropey science and analysis"

    Same is true about studies promoting agro chemicals such as growth hormones.

    Lewis, stick to what you know.

  21. Steve Murphy

    And the bits Lewis kept out

    Bravata and colleagues found organic fruits and vegetables are 30 per cent less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than their conventional counterparts, although they were not necessarily 100 per cent free of pesticides.

    They also found children on organic diets had lower levels of pesticides in their urine, compared to those on conventional diets

    Tthey did find organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    1. Alex King
      Thumb Down

      Re: And the bits Lewis kept out

      "Bravata and colleagues found organic fruits and vegetables are 30 per cent less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than their conventional counterparts, although they were not necessarily 100 per cent free of pesticides."

      30 percent of what? If it's 30% of almost zero chance anyway, its not important.

      "They also found children on organic diets had lower levels of pesticides in their urine, compared to those on conventional diets"

      In their urine. Good. That's where the body puts stuff it doesn't want. Again, how much lower? Were the higher levels in any way harmful? Pffft.

      "Tthey did find organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

      'Appeared to reduce exposure' is hardly a ringing endorsement. All bacteria are dead if you cook it properly anyway - which you should always do - right kids? Again, a reduction without stating prior levels indicates nothing in terms of health benefit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "All bacteria are dead if you cook it properly anyway"

        So the world is E.coli free then, so long as everything that needs cooking is properly cooked?

        I'm not sure about that. Some stuff that carries E.coli (etc) doesn't need cooking when it reaches the end user.

        The rest is just as bad.

        1. Alex King

          Re: "All bacteria are dead if you cook it properly anyway"

          "So the world is E.coli free then, so long as everything that needs cooking is properly cooked?"

          No, you have billions of them swimming in your body at the moment, causing you no ill effect. If it carries (or has the potential to carry HARMFUL E.coli, then it needs cooking, organic or not, as the article states it just reduces the risk (from some small amount to some other slightly smaller amount).

          If you don't cook it then you're accepting a small risk whether it's organic or not, so it's not relevant to this article in terms of health benefit, so long as you follow the far more imprtant precaution of cooking the damn chicken at home. it's like worrying about how clean the knife that just stabbed you was.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "All bacteria are dead if you cook it properly anyway"

            Cooking's not going to help with lettuce if you normally eat it raw. Washing doesn't help much either.

            1. Alex King
              Facepalm

              Re: "All bacteria are dead if you cook it properly anyway"

              Oh, that changes things then. I'll only eat organic lettuce from now on so that I only have a 0.0000007% chance of getting E.coli poisoning from it rather than a 0.000001% chance or whatever. Praise be!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They already use human waste as fertiliser

    Sewage sludge is already used as fertiliser. You just don't use human waste in its fresh form, and why would you want to?

    http://www.thameswater.co.uk/cr/wastewater/sewage-sludge-management/

    Interesting snippet; you will normally see tomato plants growing on the sludge in summer, while it's waiting for collection from the works. The seeds pass through you, and the entire sewage plant, unharmed. In a really good summer you even get maize (sweetcorn).

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: They already use human waste as fertiliser

      Does anyone pick them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They already use human waste as fertiliser

        Yeah, the same folks that go fishing in harbours :P

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: They already use human waste as fertiliser

      "I don' remember eatin' any corn!" (Fat Bastard)

  23. umacf24

    Organic meat is better

    1) It's tastier because it's been hung properly. I grant you that non-organic producers could do that, but, by and large, they don't.

    2) Because antibiotics are not used as growth enhancers a) it's not promoting antibiotic resistance in the wild, and b) the beast was older when killed and consequently tastier. I grant you that producers don't need to be organic to refrain from antibiotics but, by and large, they don't.

    What we want, for meat and eggs, is a legitimate marker for 'sensibly raised' which doesn't go the whole organic hog. And we could eat less, better, meat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Organic meat is better

      I think there are already schemes that cover that - CoOp Freedom Food comes to mind for meat - better animal welfare if not completely organic, and there are certainly plenty of cereals etc which brag about their environmental credentials.

      Quite often just buying local produce will do what you want. The beef in the local shops is made from the cows who share fields with my horse. I can see for myself how well they are looked after (although these actually are organic, to be fair).

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Properly raised and butchered meat is better

      Well in the UK we do not add hormones and antibiotics are only used when necessary.

      Sheep as mentioned before are only paperwork away from organic, pasture cows - no problem, pigs should have room to run about.

      Chickens - as long as free range.

      So get decently raised meat and a decent butcher - you get decent meat.

      Supermarket cheap stuff has not hung at all.

  24. Silverburn

    Organic = better

    ...but not for the reasons you normally think off. Personally, I can't taste the difference, and don't really give a shit.

    However, I do know that Organic farming uses far far less petro-chemicals in its production. This becomes important when talking about "peak oil" etc. We can replace oil as a fuel and even as a material (plastics) but we're not doing such a great job removing it from agriculture. Also, there is evidence to to show "soil fatigue" which is considerably reduced by going organic. The reduced yields could be compensated for by using high productivity GM crops.

    So I say ignore the health bollox. Just go organic to go save money, reduce oil dependence and save the environment. Errr...sort of.

  25. rwbthatisme
    Flame

    Efficiency vs Etthics

    The argument of organic vs artificial is complete bollox, in comparible circumstances a tomato grown either way will have pretty well the same nutritional value. The key consideration to food production is the equation of energy input, amount of land used to produce your kilo of corn and the transport cost of getting that food to market. Organic production generally produces less acre and because of the lower croping density means that your transport costs are higher.

    Organic farming is jolly nice on paper as somekind of pastoral utopia, but with 6+ billion people to feed it isn't terribly efficient.

    The second related argument is the idiots who rail against GM crops, (which gets me even more mad!), ever since humans stopped chasing down mamoths for steaks and started farming, we have been GM'ing our food crops and animals, be it from selective breeding and cross polintation etc. GM is that 'selective breeding' at a greater precission. Once again, the reason why we selectively breed our food crops is to make the most efficient use of land & energy inputs.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Efficiency vs Etthics

      "ever since humans stopped chasing down mamoths for steaks and started farming, we have been GM'ing our food crops and animals, be it from selective breeding and cross polintation etc. GM is that 'selective breeding' at a greater precission"

      Argue for or against GM crops whichever way you want (you'll notice that I elsewhere gave a long list of reasons that had little to do with health, btw), but please don't misrepesent science in order to try and bolster your case. No matter how many tens of thousands of years you selectively breed your cereal crop, it is unlikely to cross-breed with a caterpillar and acquire its genes for making toxins harmful to its predators (for example).

      1. rwbthatisme

        Re: Efficiency vs Etthics

        haha, caught a live one, perhaps GM is getting a little off topic.

        Obviously plants adapted & developed flowers independently for attracting insects to polinate them, rather than plants having a sentaint thought that hey lets make flowers cos they're awful pretty & cool (and perhaps in a million years an ape creature will like them....) .

        Plants already incorporate defense mechanisms that deter predation by pests, these wheren't arrived at by 'accident' but by the selection and random chance of genetic mutation and trial & error over the millenia. Bacteria & viruses are clear vectors whereby plant & animal DNA may be exchanged. Plants & animals always have had and always will be swapping genes and working symbiotically.

        Likewise if GM where able to implant the genes necessary for a plant to create a useful drug that could not be synthisised by traditional methods, would this be wrong? Is it wrong to dictate to an african farmer whos maize crop has just been ravaged by locusts or stunted by drought that they can't plant GM?

        An anti-GM stance is illogical at best.

    2. slhilly

      Re: Efficiency vs Etthics

      You asserted that the key consideration is energy input. Others will disagree with you, and think things like pesticide loading or oil requirements are just as important. And your analysis is really incomplete: pesticides and artificial fertilisers are very energy-intensive, and they aren't used in organic food. And virtually any meat, under any system, costs a lot more in terms of energy than growing veg. So if your prime concern is cutting energy use, you should be railing about the necessity of adopting a wholly or mainly vegetarian diet, which would deliver large-scale savings especially in the West, not moaning about organic agriculture, which remains a tiny part of modern farming.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Efficiency vs Etthics

        Don't organic farms usually use tractor diesel? Like, a lot, because they have to till the land more due to using less weedkiller?

        1. Silverburn

          Re: Efficiency vs Etthics

          They do, but tractor diesel is only a fraction of the total oil-based material used in agriculture. A lot of it actually goes on pesticides and fertilizers, neither of which are used in organic.

          Note: I'm not claiming organic is better produce. Just that it uses less petro-chemical materials.

  26. R.

    Hum, the difference is not in the vegetables but around... all the chemicals used by conventional agriculture.

    Read the work of Pr Bourguignon and you will see that modern agriculture is killing the soil.

    When the sage is pointing the moon, the industry argue about him having dirty fingernails...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      J'Accuse!

      You, monsieur, are made of chemicals! You may deny it if you wish, but we know the real story!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: J'Accuse!

        What, I am made of _all_ chemicals?? I think I'm missing your point...

  27. grantoz
    WTF?

    Where do I start with this? Talk about missing the point completely.

    Rejecting hundreds of years of advancements? I think organic farmers are happy to use tractors and the like, but what they don't like to use is things like pesticides, which are known to damage insect life and therefore bird life, biodiversity and the local food chain in general around farms. Organic farmers also use techniques that *build up* soil nutrients and helpful microbes, rather than deplete them. Organic farming also uses better animal management practices , so your food creatures can have happier and more normal lives. And before you reactionary types pillory me for saying that, consider this: do you *really* want to eat a whole bunch of hormones and antibiotics in your meat? Do you really think they are doing you any good? (And why shouldn't we be nice to cows and chickens and goats and pigs anyway?)

    But really, the biggest deal is that organic food TASTES better. A WHOLE LOT better, and you feel better after eating it. And that's not just some elitist smugness, it's a real phenomenon, at least in my experience - and believe me, I'm such a massive tightwad that I *want* there to be no discernable difference, in fact nothing better at all about organic food, then I could cheap out and happily buy the regular stuff. But it's just not so.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where do I start with this? Talk about missing the point completely.

      "There's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact" :P

    2. Alex King
      FAIL

      Re: Where do I start with this? Talk about missing the point completely.

      Thanks for clearing that up. In future I will simply ignore science and simply trust in what grantoz believes. Phew - that makes things easier.

  28. Menelaus-uk
    Megaphone

    Organic?

    The problem with "organic" is the word conjures up all sorts of connotations as to the provenance of the food. The public perception (as far as I am aware) is that organic means that it was produced on a little farm with just a few cows all individually named, given back rubs twice a day and only eat the finest grass.

    In real life they are still the same farmers that had ordinary farms five years ago, they still run large dairy farms and got into organic due to the larger returns (which have now been canceled out as so many converted).

    Oh and don't get me started on "holistic".

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Organic? back rubs twice a day

      You're thinking of Kobe beef - the cows are fed beer and massaged a couple of times a day.

      And the meat is unbelievably good - with is why it cost over £200/lb.

      Alas Organic now almost invariably means on a large farm cos its not cost effective for the really effective small farms and smallholdings to pay for it. But the welfare standards are a lot higher.

      Most people cant tell the difference between organic and good butchers meet. but then 20 years ago most people couldn’t tell the difference between a Chardonnay and a pinot noir - other than price.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Organic? back rubs twice a day

        You'd have thought the colour might have been a bit of a clue :P

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Organic?

      "Holistic" means they are speaking out of their ....

  29. disco_stu

    I've no idea if the tomatoes I grow down my allotment are nutritionally better than the ones bought from supermarkets but I know they taste an awful lot better

    1. JDX Gold badge

      That's because they're fresher. Nothing else, apart from psychological effects (which are entirely real).

      1. Identity
        Thumb Down

        not entirely true.

        Commercial tomatoes are bred to ship, and are often picked green and subjected to ethylene gas to 'ripen.' They are, by 'nature' harder/tougher to avoid bruising. Further, most of them are waxed (roma tomatoes, I understand, are not). I can leave my tomatoes on the vine until perfect for eating.

  30. deo160
    WTF?

    not looking at the whole as usual

    Organic benefits the whole planet not just the individual. Well written piece, poorly thought out, probably written just to cause a stir, sad really.

    Growth hormones, pesticides, herbicides, all damage other parts of the eco system, our world, our future. Organic damages what exactly?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: not looking at the whole as usual

      Makes you want to slap a big Elastoplast on poor little Earth doesn't it.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Organic Better?

    I have 24 head of cattle who are a mixture of beef breeds and pedigree Herefords. They are only given medication when they require it.

    The land we graze hasn't been sprayed in years and is fertilized using the manure from the cows.

    So are my cattle worse than organic cattle?

    My point is there are good and bad sides to all farming. There are some organic farms that are run just as intensively as non-organic variants.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Organic Better?

      Do they taste nice?

      Apart from small size sounds like a pre intensive UK farm

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Studied contents of food, not effect on humans

    If you look at the source meta study, it says they have not found any reliable long term studies of effects of organic vs. industrial food on humans. (And I guess Mr Page knew that. Last article I've read by this name.)

    They have just looked at studies that analysed the contents of these foods. I've not heard any serious scientists state that we understand body chemistry so far that we can distinguish well between "non-quite-immediately-poisonous food" and "long-term-healthy food" with a mass spectrometer or something like that.

    1. Identity
      Boffin

      Re: Studied contents of food, not effect on humans

      Huzzah! Finally! It took 4 pages (and not Lewis) to get to this. Add in that many of the base studies in the metastudy were not at all rigorous. The most rigorous study I know of — a hundred-year study that we're about 10-15 years into — is only about one crop on one plot of land.

      While it's been pointed at in this forum, there are also the business aspects. The organic label, especially here in the States, has often been taken (especially by corporate entities) as merely a way to jack up prices. Other corporations (I'm looking at you, Monsanto) really don't care about anything but their own bottom line. They foster a monoculture, which is dangerous in the event of some kind of blight, sue farmers who keep seed (assuming a given crop even has any) and even those whose fields are contaminated by blown-in pollen, and while increasing yield and nutrition (for instance, golden rice) in the short run, have no care for the long run. One such corporation even tried to patent basmati rice (even though you could say there's ample evidence —centuries!— of prior 'art').

      There may be little or no *nutritional* difference, but as for taste, environmental sanity and chemical load, there *is* a difference.

  33. Flabbergarstedbastard
    Stop

    Yeah but the real point of organic food is not health...

    This always pees me off about the marketing of organic food. It really has very little to do with health benefits. Organic farming is all about protecting the soil. Regular farming methods kill soil and drain the life out of it. Organic farming methods maintain healthy levels of bacteria and keep the soil in good shape.

    Farming with chemical fertilizers is like using xylometazoline based nasel spray on a blocked nose. It feels good until you find out you are now stuck using xylometazoline for the rest of your life in order to breathe.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Yeah but the real point of organic food is not health...

      We live in a free market. If you put a product on the shelf that costs substantially more than existing products and justify this to the consumer by explaining that it makes for more sustainable farming and better bugs in the soil then you'll be bankrupt in a year.

      (although the better bugs technique appears to have worked for the probiotic yoghurt witchdoctors)

      If we had an all-powerful autocracy like China then we could impose healthy soil for the good of the motherland. But then we'd probably fertilise it with powdered crocodile cloaca.

  34. Tim Worstal

    Peak phosphorous

    On the very day that a mining company announces plans to dig out a 10 year global supply (and thus very much more than that for the UK) from one small corner of Yorkshire.

    Hmmm....

  35. Herby

    What IS organic?

    It seems to me that the only thing that is constant about "organic" foods is that they are more expensive. Now I wonder if money itself is "organic" with all sorts of nice inks, pigments, and paper.

    I can see it now (being from the USA): Organic Dollars, on sale for $1.25

    Seems logical to me!

    Live & Learn!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What IS organic?

      So are Homeopathic products. In fact, price is the easiest way to spot them in a chemist :P

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What IS organic?

      My personal favourite was the DryCleaners who market their services as Organic.

      Yes, technically perchloroethylene is organic, it's carbon-based ....... nothing untruthful there... :P

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Organic Movement = Stalin / Mao on Steriods

    It's simple math: we don't have enough food to feed the world's 6 billion now. If we go organic we cut food production by around 40% so 2 billion plus people WILL DIE.

    There are some things we could do to mitigate this - improve food distribution in less developed countries, lower consumption in better developed countries, have most of the world's population go vegetarian - but they're NEVER going to happen.

    Can you really imagine a red neck giving up red meat when he refused to give up the gas guzzling monstrosity he drives? Cut our consumption? Have you compared the size of the weight loss industry with obesity statistics? Notice how the obesity stats NEVER go down?

    Basically, cutting back going to happen: two billion have to die and all else being equal, they'll be the two billion poorest.

    Which is just not fair: billions die in the 3rd world because of some fetish of rich westerners?

    I figure the only fair solution is that, for every 5 people who eat Organic, two have to kill themselves. Their bodies could be used for fertilizer. Nice and organic.

    1. Some Beggar
      Trollface

      Re: Organic Movement = Stalin / Mao on Steriods

      Epic Godwin.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Organic Movement = Stalin / Mao on Steriods

        Yeah, bloody Georgians. They still didn't apologise for Beria yet either :P

  37. Tel Starr

    'we don't have enough food to feed the world's 6 billion now.'

    Yes we do, we just have a distribution\politician problem.

    Has there been any recent famine where politics have not been a prime cause or a block in resolving it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We wouldn't have enough, if it wasn't for the Green Revolution, you know the one that involved higher plant yields and Norman Borlaug.

  38. N2 Silver badge

    The food I grow

    Is just as organic as the stuff I buy from the marche, but is fresher & has nothing sprayed on it or the soil it grows in. Personally I think the term Organic is just yet another marketing hype.

  39. cnapan

    In an ideal world...

    ...families would think about how many children they were having so as not to burden it with a population explosion.

    ...all our food would be grown in a way which causes least damage to the natural environment and least animal suffering

    I'm aware that there's an environmental argument that goes: 'we must produce food as intensively as possible to minimise the amount of land we require to feed a certain number of people'

    But I've seen the effect of intensive agriculture on the countryside. Wild animal populations have been decimated over the last few decades, especially birds, insects, fish... And it could get a lot worse.

    In the end, the ultimate responsibility for the wellbeing of the planet rests with people who have children. Until they stop having too many of them, we are stuffed (and the environment too), no matter how we grow food.

    For that reason, I'll continue to opt for Organic to support sustainable farmgate prices, better animal husbandry and crop production that doesn't obliterate all other forms of life in the vicinity.

    Over to you, breeders... Do your bit too!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In an ideal world...

      But your parents didn't help the cause either? How dare you have parents! I bet they weren't even metro hipsters either ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In an ideal world...

      Surely that's what farm co-ops, and farm breed and crop associations and standards were intended to do. Have you ever been out of a city?

    3. Some Beggar

      Re: In an ideal world...

      "Do your bit too!"

      If you like birds and fish more than people then you should probably kill yourself and donate your remains to the nearest RSPB reserve.

  40. Zolko
    Holmes

    Fertility

    Not sure if it has been written here by others, but if this study only limits to the consumer's health, it forgets about it's descendants. I've read (somewhere) that fertility has decreased very strongly in the past 50 years, especially male fertility, that the spermatozoa are fewer and weaker now, and that this could be caused by pesticides. Which, come to think of it, is very plausible since life extermination is the very objective of those pesticides.

    Which, if true, means that people eating organic food will reproduce more than those eating industrial food. Darwinian selection.

    Which, in turn, makes me think I shouldn't write this and let the idiots eat their crap; we're already too many on this planet.

  41. Matthew Hale

    Research proudly sponsored by...

    ...Monsanto and friends!

    You're welcome!

  42. diego

    Tastes better

    For me, the main advantage of organic besides all of the environment thing is taste. Take up rocket, for instance, and you'll find the organic varieties to be much more spicy. Strawberries also taste much better.

  43. William Boyle

    "organic" vs "traditional" growing methods

    The nutritional values of food whether grown organically or otherwise, will be pretty much the same. The difference is that organically grown foods don't have pesticide and other residues in/on them (or much lower amounts) which have known deleterious affects on the consumer.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical mis-information

    Until you look at actual nutritional value, you aren't likely to understand that organiclly grown foods are much better than commerically grown foods and that organic foods lack the posion that is in commercially grown foods.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Typical mis-information

      Organically grown foods _are_ commercially grown. In fact, they are arguably _more_ commercial in the sense that the farmer is likely to be earning more for his produce and the consumer is certainly paying more at the till.

      Do you have some studies to back up your assertion that Soil Association labelled veg are nutritionally different to any others?

  45. Desert Davo

    This survey is transparent nonsense. Are they seriously trying to tell us that people who consume significant amounts of pesticides with their food/tea/coffee suffer no ill effects? And let's face it, most organic food (not all) tastes better, so it probably is better. Note that the fact that I said "not all". This means I am not deluding myself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, not as much as you would have been otherwise. Phew.

  46. Identity
    WTF?

    attributed to Monsanto

    "Of course it's natural! What do you think it is? Supernatural?"

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: attributed to Monsanto

      ""Of course it's natural! What do you think it is? Supernatural?""

      The antithesis of 'natural' would normally be considered to be 'unnatural'. I.e. does not occur in nature.

  47. ppp.an

    Sugar and salt in bun

    The industry's illusion that its plastic food preservation techniques, packaging and sweetly salty water pumed food is what people want should be challenged. Both organic and non-organic food processes suffer the same problems. In these cases both foods are bad for you.

    I do not want a bite of plastic wrapped food with glucose syrup and salt.

    When was the last time you bought a glass bottle of milk? From Unigate?

  48. HonourableTyr

    Nutrition never a benefit for Organic.

    The whole point of organic food is to reduce exposure to pesticides, fertilizers and hormones which can have harmful effects. Organic producers and promoters would like a nutritional difference but that won't happen. In fact some intensive grown hydroponic veg may have more nutrients thanks to the conditions they are grown in. Organic promotes biodiversity but it will cost because of reduced yield.

    My personal feelings are that organic food is a good idea for pregnant women, babies, toddlers whose development may be at risk with hormone and toxin ridden foods.

  49. JohnsonVonJohnson

    Research based on... research

    So they studied some studies that suggest this.

    I wouldn't go throwing out the organic veggies just yet.

    I like the flavour better, and surely fewer pesticides couldn't hurt you.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just to be clear...

    "This tends to greatly reduce yields from a given amount of land, making organic food very expensive compared to the regular stuff."

    Is pure page. It is not found anywhere in the actual research he is supposed to be reporting on. He also somehow missed that the study showed that organic foods did drastically reduce overall pesticide levels. However, since the non organic foods were still below the accepted safety threshholds, the study writers said that the health benefits would be negligible.

    So basically, it comes down to the question of whether you trust the current safety threshholds. The study also highlighted a couple of very specific areas (including resistant bacterial infections) where there were solid provable benefit.

  51. Infernoz Bronze badge
    FAIL

    I take anything US _medical_ scientists say with a heap of salt.

    The level of corruption of medical scientists, peer review media, and regulators, by chemical and genetics corporations has become really quite shocking, and is pretty much out-of-control there, it often involve gaming like ghostwriting of plausible sounding studies containing critical lies, like cherry picked data and subtle statistical deceptions. Smaller scale and Organic farmers are being increasingly persecuted in the US, because local politicians have been bribed by corporate interests or by 'Watermelons' who want to usurp power for their cliche.

    Proper Organic food may look less attractive; however is often better quality that industrially farmed food, especially if it is fruit or other vegetables with thin or more permeable skins, because it otherwise it will absorb harmful pesticides into the fruit; the lack of pesticides and artificial fertilizers for Organic food, often means richer soil, and research has prove higher nutrient content in Organic food.

    I will _never_ buy any soft skin fruit or apples unless Organic; given these are part of a list of the vegetables which absorb the most pesticides, on the internet.

    Organic animals are of course fed an organic diet, often a natural diet too (e.g. grass rather than sickening grain for cattle), so they will be healthier and provided high value meat. An animals diet can have a dramatic affect on the fat ratios and vitamin content of the meat, this is one reason I will always avoid farmed salmon in preference for wild Salmon, and prefer organic meat when I buy fresh meat.

    You want to be very careful with human waste; it can contain nasty microorganisms and may be polluted with undigested pharmaceutical drugs and their metabolites, given sewage plants my not be able to remove all of these nasties.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: I take anything US _medical_ scientists say with a heap of salt.

      "The level of corruption of medical scientists, peer review media, and regulators, by chemical and genetics corporations has become really quite shocking"

      Can you give any specific figures for this alleged mass corruption? Or any citations for your claim that organic vegetables have a different nutrient content. Thanks.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I take anything US _medical_ scientists say with a heap of salt.

      But, is it "organic" salt ;)

  52. Infernoz Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    If you want the real story rather than this propaganda, see attached link

    http://www.naturalnews.com/037065_organic_foods_mainstream_media_psyop.html

    The real facts and the corporate/public corruption this website digs up reveals just how rotten things have got in the US and other areas of the world including UK; e.g. they reference UK media as one of the sources of a story on occasion.

    Shame on the Register; they should already be aware that corruption and creeping power crabs are going all over the place now, in the private sector, public sector, and their shadow sectors, and not just for Watermelon BS like AGW and their 'renewable energy' scams.

  53. ted b
    Mushroom

    Monsanto scientists

    are so supportive of their GM, non organic work, their head office cafeteria does not offer anything to eat that is genetically modified.

    If the scientists and management who are fiddling about with all these things wont eat the stuff themselves, ask yourself why that is?

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Monsanto scientists

      This is a myth that was debunked over a decade ago.

      You could have checked this for yourself by two minutes of jfgi.

  54. BJS

    diversionary tactic

    The so-called study finding that organic food is no more nutritious than "conventional" food is about as useful as one that found organic food to have roughly the same weight as "conventional" food.

    How about doing a study comparing the neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor content in organic versus "conventional"?

  55. BJS
    Thumb Down

    Love El Reg, but its science editor has a weakness for crap food

    Why is it that the science column in The Register celebrates every time an article appears somewhere in the world that claims "eating crap isn't as bad for you as we thought"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Love El Reg, but its science editor has a weakness for crap food

      Some of us here are older than you think, and "used to" buy organic..... the cognitive dissonance was a bitch, bit like getting deprogrammed from a cult ;)

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