A cancerous conspiracy to poison your faith in organic foodby Joanna Blythman
Aug. 01, 2009
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Despite its obvious benefits for our health and for the environment, organic food continues to be denigrated by the political and corporate establishment in Britain.
The food industry, in alliance with pharmaceutical and big biotechnology companies, has waged a long, often cynical campaign to convince the public that mass-produced, chemically-assisted and intensively-farmed products are just as good as organic foods, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
The latest assault in this propaganda exercise comes from the Food Standards Agency, the government's so-called independent watchdog, which has just published a report claiming that there is no nutritional benefit to be gained from eating organic produce.
Those forces bent on promoting GM crops and industrialised production, would have been delighted by the widespread media coverage of the Agency's report, portraying enthusiasm for organic foods as little more than a fad among neurotic consumers that would pass once the public is given the correct information.
But what is truly misguided is not the increasing popularity of organic goods, but the Food Standards Agency's determination to halt this trend and instead promote genetic modification.
The new report from the FSA highlights this. For all the publicity it has attracted, the document does not contain any new material.
In fact, it is just an analysis of existing research carried out by other bodies. Moreover, the organisation that conducted this second-hand study, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is not renowned as a leading centre in this field.
Indeed, there is far more significant work currently being done on organic foods by several other bodies, some of it funded by the European Union, though the FSA has chosen to ignore it.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the FSA has decided to give such loud backing to this report because it can bend the findings to suit its political, pro-GM, anti-organic agenda.
Ever since its creation in 2000, the Food Standards Agency has been biased against organic farming. The first chairman, Sir John Krebs, was supportive of the biotechnology lobby and only too keen to promote GM as the future of farming.
In fact, one early review of the FSA's work, by the Labour peer Baroness Brenda Dean, warned there was a risk of the Agency losing its 'objectivity' and 'rigour' in its support for GM crops and its opposition to organic production.
The departure of Sir John Krebs has not brought any change in policy, since the Agency is now largely run by plodding bureaucrats all too keen to follow the correct official corporate line.
Yet even in the context of the latest report from the FSA, the spin does not match the reality. For, contrary to all the hype this week, the Agency's own published research shows that organic foods are clearly far better for the consumer even just in nutritional terms.
According to the FSA's findings, organic vegetables contain 53.6 per cent more betacarotene - which helps combat cancer and heart disease - than non-organic ones.
Similarly, organic food has 11.3 per cent more zinc, 38.4 per cent more flavonoids and 12.7 per cent more proteins.
In addition, an in-depth study by Newcastle University, far deeper than the one conducted by the FSA, has shown that organic produce contains 40 per cent more antioxidants than non-organic foods, research the FSA appears to have overlooked.
But the concentration solely on nutrition is to play into the hands of the anti-organic, pro-industrial lobby.
As most of the British public understands, but the FSA fails to acknowledge, the benefits of organic food go far beyond this narrow point.
The fact is that organic production is much better for personal health, food quality, the environment and the welfare of livestock.
Organic farming works in tune with the rhythms of the earth, gently harnessing the changing seasons, the natural cultivation of crops or the rearing of animals for our benefit.
In contrast, the vast biotech, processed food industry is at permanent war with nature, continually trying to manipulate, overwhelm and conquer. Organic farming is all about harmony, non-organic about chemicalised ascendancy.
The most obvious way this difference is manifested is in the use of pesticides on crops, banned from organic farming but eagerly promoted by big industry.
Fifty years ago, agro-chemicals hardly existed in British farming, but today they dominate this sector. But their rise has not been without justifiable concerns about the side-effects.
here is now a wealth of evidence to show that pesticides not only poison the soil and harm wildlife, but also promote cancer and a host of other diseases because of their toxicity.
This is, after all, only common sense. Anything that can kill insects is bound to have an impact when consumed by humans.
It has been shown that ordinary pears are sprayed with pesticides no fewer than 17 to 18 times during one seasonal growing cycle. A third of all the food we eat, and no less than half of all our fruit and vegetables, contains such chemicals.
The Government airily dismisses any worries about the risks, but this kind of complacency is based on old, outdated science.
As the agro-chemical industry tightens its grip, the worse the dangers become. Organic farming, however, offers the opportunity to eat without these dangers. All organic food is free from chemical residues and thus the health threats are much lower.
Even the most die-hard GM enthusiast would have to admit that organic meat, fruit and vegetables taste much better than the mass-produced fare turned out by major suppliers.
Non-organic produce is not just grown with chemicals, it is also filled with additives, colourings, flavourings, salt and water simply so it has an acceptable appearance to the consumer once it reaches the shelves.
Again, this battery of synthetic additives which appears in many processed foods, ready meals and take-aways has a detrimental effect on our health, something that is avoided with organic produce.
Intensive farming also has a brutal impact on the well-being of animals, which in turn undermines both the quality of meat and our own health.
Organic poultry, eggs and bacon not only taste much better, but they have also not been pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics, like industrialised produce.
Putting pigs and hens in battery cages inside vast hangars is a sure recipe for the spread of disease, akin to locking up a large group of children in an overheated, overcrowded nursery.
In this environment, the only way to combat germs is to dish out the antibiotics, but there are now scientific concerns that the overuse of such chemicals is weakening resistance in animals and also reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics among humans.
Giving animals a decent life through organic, traditional husbandry is better for them - and for us. All the cheerleading for the agro-chemical giants cannot hide the fact that industrialised farming represents a cul-de-sac for mankind.
We cannot go on as we are, pumping chemicals into our livestock and into the earth. The future has to be organic.
If it has any genuine interest in nutrition, the Food Standards Agency would be supporting a shift away from intensification, not pushing for more of it.
The FSA was meant to be an organisation for improving our food. Now it is just getting in the way.