Food scientist queries organic food benefits

Related tags Organic food

Organic food is not necessarily better for our health than
conventional equivalents, say food scientists speaking at a meeting
of the world's largest science society this week in the US.

The popularity of organic food is creeping up across the western world as retailers to farmers start to favour this pesticide-free way of food production on the back of growing consumer demand.

In the UK alone a government boost to organic farming has helped the country to a 46 per cent rise in organic produce provided by UK farms. The market is projected to grow by 9 per cent per year until 2007.

Claims that organic food may be healthier than conventional food products on the market could be partly responsible for the lift in organic sales, but Joseph D. Rosen, a food scientist at Rutgers University in the US, said at the 228th American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Philadelphia this week that "while many Americans believe that organic food is healthier than conventional fare, the scientific evidence does not necessarily support that belief".

"Consumers are drawn to the organic food movement and are spending unnecessary dollars on wishful thinking,"​ said Rosen. He claims that 'seemingly authoritative sources', such as consumer reports, have fed false beliefs in the consumer.

While the scientists seek to uncover the truth about the health benefits of organic foods when compared to their conventional equivalents, the European Commission in June launched an EU-wide plan to stimulate the organic food chain in the 25 member states.

The EU organic market was worth around €10 billion in 2002, according to data from market analysts Organic Monitor​, but growth has slowed in recent years: an increase of 8 per cent between 2001 and 2002 shrunk to an estimated 5 per cent between 2002 and 2003.

The 21-point plan covers all areas of the organic trade - from rural development and improving farming standards to improving consumer information and the introduction of an EU-wide organic food label.

"Promoting environmentally friendly quality products is one major objective of the new, reformed Common Agricultural Policy,"​ said Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, at the time. "This is why we want to boost organic farming by stepping up information for consumers, strengthening the control system and improving research."

Details of the two-part symposium hosted yesterday by Joseph D. Rosen, the food scientist at Rutgers University, are available on the ACS​ website.

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