Organic farmers have hit back over a government minister’s claims their produce is no healthier than food grown conventionally.
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, David Miliband said there was no conclusive evidence that organic food was better than products grown by conventional methods.
He described organic produce as ‘a lifestyle choice’ and said that food grown with the use of pesticides and other chemicals should not be regarded as second-best.
But Pete Glanville, Secretary of the Shetland Organic Producers Group, which farms vegetables and sheep, said: ‘You only have to look at the list of things that goes into creating lots of things to realise just how much we are not putting into our bodies by eating organic.’
Liz Lawrence, from the website faceofflowers.com, which specialises in organic produce said: ‘Organic produce is the only legally guaranteed food that you know what you’re getting, you know there’s no chemicals in there. To sell organic produce you have to be registered and you’re inspected very thoroughly.’
The Soil Association, which promotes organic farming, says that sales of organic food increased by 30 per cent to £1.6 billion in the UK last year.
Campaigns Director Robin Maynard said: ‘It has been shown over the years that there is a difference between food produced organically and that produced using industrial methods.’
Mr Maynard admitted there was a lack of studies showing how organic food could be healthier, but research had shown higher levels of Vitamin C in organic produce, and recent research into organic milk had proved it contained higher levels of Omega 3.
But the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) threw its weight behind Mr Miliband.
NFU President Peter Kendall said he had seen ‘no evidence’ to prove organic food is healthier.
He added: ‘If there’s a small but growing percentage of consumers who want a different product, then that’s a great opportunity for members.’
The Food Standards Agency said they were neither for nor against organic food, and consumers may choose to buy it for many reasons, including concern for the environment and animal welfare.
A spokeswoman added: ‘Consumers may also choose to buy organic food because they believe that it is safer and more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view.’