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Organic vs. Conventionally Grown Food: Are We Missing the Forest for the Trees?

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According to a British agricultural scientist, the key question is: “How can we make all of agriculture more sustainable?”

The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissioned a report that appears to pit organic food against food grown conventionally. After a team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined 162 papers, they concluded that organic food is no more nutritious than that grown conventionally.
However, the Soil Association, based in the United Kingdom, noted that a recent important study commissioned by the European Union was not included in the FSA report. A closer examination of the report also found problems with the team’s findings. For example, of the 13 different nutrients examined by the study, there was a significant difference in three, all of which favored organically grown food.
Additionally, the FSA-commissioned research failed to include 15 studies, published in 2008, that uniformly confirmed organic food’s nutritional advantages.
There was further concern that the study included crops raised in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s but no longer grown, producing a skewed analysis. Click here to read an excellent further analysis by the Alliance for Natural Health.
A New Scientist article entitled “Why Food Is About More Than Nutrition” fails to point out the study’s shortcomings but does note that organic farming has been shown to be more energy efficient than conventional farming. A British agricultural scientist is quoted as saying, “It’s not about whether organic food is good or a sham. That’s the wrong question. We should be asking how we can make all of agriculture more sustainable.”
Consumers should be insulted by the bias in this report. And let’s give consumers some credit. The better taste of organic food, its environmental friendliness and the absence of chemicals are but a few of the reasons why organic food has enjoyed double-digit growth for more than a decade in the United States. For years, Americans were trapped by an experiment in factory farming and pushed toward eating processed foods. But having read the studies overlooked by the FSA, consumers are educating themselves and “going organic” in increasing numbers. Mainstream grocery and big-box stores are selling more organic food than ever before.

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