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Organic vegetables no better for your health

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A new scientific study has found that organic food is no better for your health than vegetables grown with chemicals, reports today’s Irish Times.

The study suggests that traditionally grown vegetables, which are significantly cheaper, have virtually identical health properties.

As a general rule, it’s best to go with the science; I’ve yet to see anything that convinces me that organic veg have additional health properties, although there must be some health benefits to consuming less pesticides.

But I think this somewhat misses the point. If I had lots of money, which I sadly don’t, then I’d only buy organic vegetables. There is no evidence to suggest they’re better for your health but they’re likely to be of higher quality than so called “traditionally” grown vegetables (not to get too pernickity but,  traditionally, vegetables would have been grown without pesticides and fertilisers). Give me a plate of Tesco Value fruit and veg beside some organic Denis Healy’s in a blind taste test, and chances are that the organic will simply taste better. Actually, this might make an interesting taste test.

Organic veg are also more likely to be in season and have a much smaller environmental impact. But let’s face it: budgets are tight and organic is costly. Lidl have an affordable organic selection, but it doesn’t extend much beyond carrots, potatoes, and bananas.

Readers, would you buy more organic if you could?

14 Comments

  1. This is not the first study that has shown this, but I think a point is being missed here.

    It’s all well and good studying & comparing the benefits of organic and conventional growing but what about studying the potential harmful effects of the pesticides and chemicals that are used in conventional growing. I’d be much more interested in seeing that comparison.

  2. Terry, I totally agree. The fact that the vegetables are no more nutritious is irrelevant. I don’t know anyone who buys organic because the vegetables have more nutrients; they buy organic because they have less pesticides, which have harmful effects on humans and the environment (now, I know Wikipedia is not the most reliable source, but it’s a reasonable starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_effects_of_pesticides)

  3. I’m far less interested than veg being organic than I am animals/animal produce being free range. A lot of people believe a lot of crazy things about fertilizers/pesticides etc and their impact on the environment. Fertilizers etc DO NOT negatively impact their surrounding environment, what happens is that in third world countries they are not used responsibly – farmers use more and more to try and increase yields, they no longer rotate their crops or give the land a chance to rest, which leads to poorer quality soil, which leads to lower yields, which leads to more fertilizers which may THEN yes, lead to ‘chemical run off’ and such and such negative environmental impact.

    Sorry for the rant. I just dislike that the media scaremongers people into believing that such scientific methods are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with no grey area in between.

  4. Buy organic because

    1 tastes better
    2 climate friendly
    3 free from pesticides
    4 guarantees no GM ingredients
    5 highest animal welfare standards in agriculture
    6 protects our soil, water and natural resources

  5. Michelle,
    I made the shift to organic meat for precisely the reasons you say, animal health.

    What I found I had to do was add up what I would spend on meat, mainly chicken, every month- and spend the same amount on organic meat. It means I now eat a lot less meat, but a much healthier diet.

    Also I am not so convinced as you are about the safeness of industrial farming. Nitrogen run off from fertiliser use is a serious problem not just in the developing world/ Personally I am much happier with the soil management techniques we have to use in organic farming. But then I grow organic herbs on a small holding not cereal on a huge farm.

  6. I would think tesco value consists mainly of fruit and veg that are not perfectly shaped and sized…not that it actually contains more harmful chemicals!!

    Talking about rants, I hate when people blame developing countries for the food troubles of the world… I think they actually eat a far better diet than we do most of the time, and this even with the best of the crop/meat being exported somewhere.

  7. “A new scientific study has found that organic food is no better for your health than vegetables grown with chemicals”

    It’s commonly though that organic food is grown without chemicals, in actual fact, they just use non-synthetic chemicals in production, some of which aren’t as advanced as modern synthetic pesticides and some even more harmful.

    Penn & Teller Bullsh*t do a great episode on organic food, they even show a taste test which shows conventional growing yields better taste.

    At the end of the day, conventional growing is what’s better for the economy in fairness, it’s what people can afford, more yield, less spoilage, and a country of local farmers aren’t going to change their ways just because of the popular opinion of organic food.

  8. I buy Glenisk organic cows milk because I believe it tastes nicer. I buy their goats milk too as it makes extra creamy lattees. I’m just glad Irish cows are still free to roam the fields unlike some of their American cousins who are kept indoors for most of their lives (makes me understand the vegan argument a bit better)

    Also I buy organic free range chickens as they taste better, they are expensive 10 – 15 euro so of course not a viable choice for most families. My mother grew up on a farm and her family only had a chicken as a treat (one on a Sunday divided between a family of 6), chicken has got too cheap and I believe we’ve lost all respect for this meat.

    I believe organic eggs also taste nicer . . . and why do people on good salaries still buy battery eggs !

  9. I only occasionally buy organic veg (carrots, potatoes and onions) and don’t think I have ever bought organic fruit, I’ve never noticed it – apart from Fairtrade bananas but not sure if they are organic ?

  10. This does not suprise me it is like the sweet and low and sugar etc efter studies are done they are not better, but by that time they have had so many switch hmmmmmm

    http://swedish-recipes.net

  11. This is a perfect example of slanted sensationalist journalism (not by you Peter, the original article!).

    What the study finds is that there are lower levels of some polyphenols (not all of course, they are far too numerous to test) in the organic carrots and onions varieties their one study grew, but admit these are higher in the potatoes their study looked at. Polyphenol levels are not a reliable indicator of a foods health attributes nor is any particular single component.

    Why I wonder, does the headline not then run…..”Organic potatoes proven to have more benefits than conventionally grown?”…..since this is ‘proven’ by the study.
    Scaremongering sure gets you noticed, eh.

  12. I love all these comments, makes me glad to live in this country where most people think about food, where it comes from, and value it. Just because we are less well off now doesn’t mean we should buy loads of cheaper poorer quality food – it means we should value our food more, waste less, be more creative with cheap sources of protein that are more healthy 9like beans and lentils and seeds) and spend more on good quality fresher vegetables that haven’t spent months in storage! Often this does mean organic, as organic veg (well most of it – Lidl org veg is suspect in my opinion) doesn’t keep and so is by default fresher. And if it means chicken once a week – that’s better for our health also! (And it is what we had as kids and it was a real treat!). I agree with everyone above except James and the authors of the Irish Times article! Thanks folks

  13. How many times do we hear about conventional farmers using illegal pesticides? And of some pesticides that have been banned elsewhere but still used here? The reasons why I buy mainly organic, despite being on a tight budget, is that not only do these taste better (particularly true with citrus fruits and melons), the growers respect the seasons, and you can find more variety. Ever seen Jerusalem artichokes, mirabelles, greengages, round squash in supermarkets? And the packaging…. I hate buying chicory (when it’s available, not often) in supermarket: why is it packed in small plastic trays, wrapped in more plastic?
    Like other readers, I’m also more conscious about wasting less and eating free range, organic meat. And I feed a familly of four for 5 euros every night. How? Chicken is a 2 monthly treat that streches to 3 meals. I bulk up meat dishes with beans and spuds. Cheap cuts of organic meat are much better value than some expensive cuts of conventional meat. Buy seasonal. Befriend the market guys and avail of cheaper less than perfect vegs to make soup. Get a free apple or bunch of carrots here and there as a reward for your loyalty.
    The only thing I will not do is buy organic fruits and vegs from far afield when there is a non organic alternative grown locally

  14. You are CORRECT that maybe the nutrient content is not much different to conventional produce.
    with Organic produce you are PAYING FOR THE REDUCTION IN PESTICIDES!! (basically, we are having to pay for something that should be normal!!!) I know it sucks! but thats the truth!
    you want less toxins in your body, so you pay for it (with organic)

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