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Organic Industry hits back at dubious findings

31/07/2009 11:25:00 AM

AUSTRALIA'S largest organic body - Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) – has rejected claims by Britain’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) that organic produce has no health or nutritional benefit over conventionally produced food, labeling the results incomplete.

Nutritionist spokesperson and researcher for the BFA, Shane Heaton, says despite the review finding that organic produce contains only slightly higher nutrient levels, the wider health and environmental benefits of organic over non-organic production are in no way ‘insignificant’.

“Proof of the nutritional benefits is there, which adds to the raft of other benefits of organic food and farming,” Mr Heaton says. “Fewer pesticides in foods, fewer additives, better taste, animal welfare, no hyperactivity-causing food additives - which the UK FSA finally confirmed in 2007 - and important environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration in organically-managed soils,” he says.

The findings revealed by the FSA support previous research that organic produce is in fact more nutritious, but found no ‘statistically significant differences’ or any ‘additional public health benefits” of organic produce.

“This review is little more than a rehash of the UK Food Standard Agency’s long standing stance,” Mr Heaton says. “All they’ve found is that more substantial research is needed, and we’ve known that for a decade.”

The BFA has referred to preliminary findings from the largest ever study of organic and non-organic production commissioned by the European Union (EU), which found overwhelming evidence that organic produce has significantly higher nutrient levels, results the FSA failed to include in the study.

Evidence from the $27million, four-year EU study found organic fruit and vegetables contained between 20 and 40 percent more antioxidants, which scientists believe can cut the risk of cancer and heart disease, Australia’s biggest killers.

The research also found organic produce contained higher levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc and substantially higher levels of compounds thought to boost health and combat disease.