Cornucopia’s Take: As evidence mounts that organic food is superior to conventional, the USDA’s refusal to admit it appears increasingly biased.
Year-End Gift to Organic Advocates: Study Shows Organic Foods Provide Health Benefits
by Joey DeMarco
A study conducted by the European Parliament’s Independent Research Service, titled “Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture,” has concluded that eating organic food improves early development, reduces pesticide exposure, strengthens the nutritional value of food, and mitigates disease risks.
The finding follows previous claims by the European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety that consumers who prefer organic food have healthier dietary patterns overall, which has been confirmed by other studies and publications.
Consumer demand for food labeled organic is rapidly expanding. In 2014, eaters around the world spent US$80 billion consuming organic products, according to the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). Some are motivated by a concern for the environmental ramifications of their decisions, while others are focused on the health benefits of eating sustainably.
An organic label indicates that almost all synthetic inputs like pesticides are prohibited. Also, crop rotations are required to encourage soil biodiversity. Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances ecosystem health.
While the authors agreed that more needs to be done to understand the evidence fully, the European Parliament’s research explored the benefits of organic food and farming on human health. Early studies have found numerous advantages for eaters to consume organic products, including:
- Reduced occurrence of adult obesity and type-2 diabetes
- Reduced incidence of cardiovascular diseases and other diseases
- Reduced environmental impact due to fewer greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduced exposure to pesticides through food, which improves cognitive development
- Reduced prevalence of adolescent allergies
- Reduced processing leads to higher levels of antioxidants like omega-3 fatty acids
- Reduced vulnerability to heavy metal cadmium, commonly found in artificial fertilizers
- Reduced risk of antibiotic resistance
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, says: “Organic food sales have been growing strongly for three years, and a key reason that people buy organic food is that they feel it is better for them and their family—that is why more than half the baby food sold in the UK is organic. This new, independent, scientific review confirms people are right.”
According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), consumer interest in organic food products has resulted in a 138-percent growth in retail sales since 2004. IFOAM values this sector of the food industry at US$36.2 billion, making Europe the second biggest market behind the U.S. for organic food. Plus, per capita consumption of organic food has almost doubled in the last decade.
However, the development of organically managed land lags behind demand. Organic in Europe: Prospects and Developments 2016 reports that 5.7 percent of the total agricultural area is used for organic farming, but annual growth of organically managed land slowed down to 1.1 percent in 2014. Thus, the organic food movement has plenty of room to grow.