Pulling the grass out from under the organic industry

Yesterday's Food Standards Agency report found that organic vegetables aren't necessarily healthier for people to eat than normal vegetables. Apparently, the vitamin and mineral content is the same as in conventional vegetables.

So what?

This report got enough negative media attention, it could single-handedly quash the nascent organic industry. I woe the day my supermarket's organic section shrinks even further. What a huge, massive shame. The main reason for buying organic is not to fulfil some pipe dream that one is going to get super charged with vitamins. Vegetables already have amazing nutritional benefits that one shouldn't live without, and expecting organic vegetables and fruits to have 'more' is just quack science. The point of buying organic is that small goal called 'saving our planet,' or how about 'treating farm animals with humanity.' Not to mention 'fighting the case of the small farmer,' 'defending our precious farmland against the negative effects of intensive farming' and 'not wanting our nice, vitamin-filled fruit to be covered in a white ash of pesticides.'

During the BBC's broadcast coverage last night, out of an approximately 1 minute long piece, these other positive impacts of organic were only mentioned in the last 2 seconds and only the environmental benefit was mentioned.

Congratulations to the media, who have (largely) focused yet again on the wrong headline and irresponsibly reported a story with the power to kill an industry that has done nothing but good things for our communities.

It cannot feel good to go home at the end of the day, as a journalist, knowing how the power of your pen can be so perverse at times.


  1. Well posted - as they say.

    I think the somewhat 'loutish' Venessa Phelps (is that how you spell it) used this as the platform for her BBC radio in this morning. No doubt fueling the subject and causing further pesticide-driven harm to England's green and pleasant land.

    - and green a pleasant lands elsewhere for that matter.

    I don't always buy organic, but if you do choose items like carrots and bread, organic food just TASTES so much better too doesn't it?

    Shouldn't we also mention that point?


  2. Yes! TASTE! I knew I was forgetting one of the main benefits of organic. Like you, I don't 'always buy organic' but I do buy it as much as makes sense for me, because I think it does great things for our planet. And I think it's such a shame to see a well-meaning industry get pummelled at a time when it is already suffering the economic downturn.

  3. Reasons to buy Organic:

    1) Taste
    2) Texture (meat slowly matured)
    3) Antibiotics only to treat illness so less risk of resitant bacteria developing
    4) Minimum pesticides so minimum pesticide residues (though someone should study natural pesticides for residues)
    5) No growth hormones/promoters so, again, no residues
    5) Ethics / animal welfare
    6) Less environmental impact

    The list goes on but has never, for me, included any idea that organic food might be providing more nutrients. Its what I don't get that I'm interested in.

    The organic products I don't buy are ones that are transported long distances increasing their carbon-footprint in which case, I'll buy fresh local produce if available. OK, that's a tough call since we're encouraging poor African and other farmers to produce quality crops and I end up not buying them. It's also a difficult argument when a heated greenhouse can add more carbon footprint to locally grown food than flying something in from Kenya.

  4. Good post, got me annoyed last night and again this morning.

    Trouble is that the media just can't do science, they invariably get it wrong and labour the smallest point to sensationalise the story. Its the same media that a few years ago, after the 'scientific' report du jour, was telling everybody to buy organic 'BECAUSE IT"S BETTER FOR YOU, WILL MAKE YOU MORE ATTRACTIVE AND LIVE FOR LONGER, PROBABLY'

    The Soil Association and organic producers are not trying to scare or force people - many who can't afford it - to buy organic food. What they are doing is offering an alternative to people that care about the environment we live in, how the animals we eat are treated and those who don't particularly like apples that taste of cardboard and tomatoes that taste like water.

  5. Tim - I love your list - much more eloquent than mine - and the points you brought up. Gavin - completely agree with you that the media mucks up science and belabour minor points. I hope the Soil Association and other organic communities are doing with they can to quietly fight the misconception this story created.