Once again: No nutritional difference between organic and regular food

Organic food is not safer than conventional food. Organic food is not more sustainable than regular food. Organic food is not more nutritious than other food.

Organic is more expensive than other food, and verification of organic production practices is specious at best.

Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times figured this out a few weeks ago and wrote a column that began,

"I don’t believe in organics."

This morning he revisited the topic, noted that organics is an article of faith for a lot of people, highlighted some hate mail, and most surprising, revealed that mail supporting Parsons’ column was overwhelmingly positive by a ratio of 5 or 6 to 1.

This afternoon, the U.K. Food Standards Authority released results of a review it commissioned which found,

no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food.

The focus of the review was the nutritional content of foodstuffs.

Gill Fine, FSA Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health, said,

“Ensuring people have accurate information is absolutely essential in allowing us all to make informed choices about the food we eat. This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”

The FSA commissioned this research as part of its commitment to giving consumers accurate information about their food, based on the most up-to-date science.

A paper reporting the results of the review of nutritional differences has been peer-reviewed and published today by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dr Dangour, of the LSHTM’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, and the principal author of the paper, said:

“A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

The Times’ Parsons got it right in his original column when he said,

farming is a complicated enterprise and there is a huge gray area between certified organic and the stereotypical heavy-duty use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

Furthermore, a lot of the best farming practices of the original organic philosophy — composting, fallowing, crop rotation, the use of nonchemical techniques for controlling most pests — have been adopted by many nonorganic growers, even though they still reserve the right to use chemicals when they think it’s best.

The complete U.K. report is available at http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/organicreviewreport.pdf