The subject of organic vs non-organic produce is always a tricky one. There isn’t a straightforward answer to which is better. Most people will tell you they buy organic produce because it’s better for the environment, it tastes better or it’s healthier. But is it really?
My family live on an organic farm near Tamworth in NSW and they fully support all of the above claims – it’s their livelihood. We always talk about it when I’m home and I always hear how the beef has “more omega-3s”, the cows are “happier” and the country has “never looked better!” since they began farming more sustainably.
The reason this topic has come back into the spotlight over the past few weeks is because of a big US review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study concluded there was no significant nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce. This has actually surprised many people, including some of us at the HFG office, who seemed to think that an organic apple would be just bursting at the seams with extra nutrients that you wouldn’t get in a conventional apple.
While there may have been no nutritional difference, the study did find the organic produce was lower in pesticides, which is what you would expect given that farming without pesticides and herbicides is at the core of the organic farming philosophy. In saying that, there were only very few items in the study that actually exceed the US limits for pesticide residue, whether they were organic or not, so it wasn’t that the conventional produce was unsafe to eat.
The thing that really makes this debate so interesting is that when you put nutrition, and even taste, aside; there are many other arguments for and against buying organic – the ‘ it’s healthier’ claim is only a very small part of the story. Environmental sustainability, animal welfare, crop productivity, and even price at the supermarket are all enormously important, yet quite complicated, factors that need to be considered.
Ultimately, when you’re pushing your trolley through the supermarket, it’s a personal choice as to whether or not you head down the organic aisle. I don’t know which is the best choice for everyone, and I certainly don’t only eat organic, but vegemite soldiers for breakfast with fresh eggs “straight out of a happy chook’s bum”, as my mum would say, definitely taste better to me!