29 Aug 2009

Local group challenges FSA findings on organics

It was good to read in the SNJ that a research group in Stroud is contributing to the debate over organic food. 'Green' ie Gardening for Research Experiential Education and Nutrition – has found in a four year study that is due to be completed very soon, that the amount of living organisms in soil is a better indicator of the mineral take-up in plants than the level of nutrients in the soil. I am not the least bit surprised.

Photo: pinched from SNJ website

More minerals would seem to indicate that organic farming produces more nutritious food than standard farming. Mike Atherton, gardener at Green, is quoted in the SNJ saying: "The accepted idea is if you have a problem in your soil then all you have to do is put on chemicals. What we are suggesting is if you look after life in your soil you will get better plants."

See more about Green at their website which sadly looks like it hasn't been updated for a while: http://www.green-ug.org.uk/

Anyway it prompted me to rewrite a letter to the SNJ that I had originally sent to another paper in response to the Food Standard Agency's report:

I write to give a huge welcome to the front page of the SNJ (26/08/09) which covered the local group, 'Gardening for Research Experiential Education and Nutrition' (Green), who are challenging the new Food Standards Agency (FSA) report which concluded that organic food has no nutritional benefits over conventionally produced food.

They are not alone, many, including the Soil Association, have also criticised the report for looking only at papers written in English, excluding almost half the papers, and ignoring the most recent research from the EU that found large nutritional differences (i). In fact the FSA, despite their conclusions, also found very significant differences in nutritional content like 53.6 per cent more betacarotene in organic veg, 38.4 per cent more flavonoids and 12.7 per cent more proteins. Yet these findings were dismissed.

As most of us understand, the benefits of growing organic food go far beyond nutrition or taste: 50% more wildlife like birds, butterflies and bees, less fossil fuel use, less impact on our climate, better animal welfare and avoiding pesticides and herbicides that are increasingly being linked to health problems like cancer. Isn't it just common sense, that stuff that kills insects, will impact on humans when consumed?

The FSA has failed us. It is meant to be an organisation for improving our food, yet it is mistakenly pushes genetic modification and more intensification. We cannot continue to pump chemicals into our livestock and earth. It is great that a local group is playing it's part in demolishing the myths that more chemicals are the answer to problems.

Cllr. Philip Booth, Stroud District Green Party.

(i) The researchers also failed to include the results of a major European Union funded study (QLIF), which ended in April this year, and has already produced over 100 scientific papers. Results from this study include the findings that: 'Levels of a range of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g. antioxidants, vitamins, glycosinolates) were shown to be higher in organic crops' and 'Levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds (e.g. mycotoxins, glycoalkaloids, Cadmium and Nickel) were shown to be lower in organic crops'. See more here.

(ii) See Joanne Blythman 'A cancerous conspiracy to poison your faith in organic food' in The Mail.

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