Summary FAQ Organic Food
This answer is brought to you by many of the Australian nutrition professionals who regularly
contribute to the Nutritionists Network (‘Nut-Net'), a nutrition email discussion group.
Date of last Revision: February 2005
Although minor variations in standards exist across countries, the term 'organic food' is usually taken to
mean a food that has been produced without artificial fertilisers and that has not been subject to treatment
with synthetic pesticides or growth promoters of any type, including hormones and antibiotics.
Because production costs are generally higher for organic than for conventional foods, Australians
can expect to pay at least 20% more for the organic alternative. This raises the question: are organic
foods worth the extra cost in terms of nutritional quality, acceptability and safety?
There is evidence of higher nutrient levels in at least some organic foods, but the nutritional
consequences of this for people over the long term are unknown.
At least in well-regulated countries, organic foods are probably not appreciably safer in terms of
reducing the risk of food-poisoning, but it is possible that longer-term adverse effects from inputs
such as pesticides and antibiotics are lower for organic than for conventional foods.
Some studies indicate noticeably better taste in at least some organic foods.
Perhaps the most convincing arguments for paying the extra for organic produce is that organic
farming is safer for food producers and their families, and is kinder to the environment and more
likely to be sustainable.
Organic foods may be healthier and safer for people and the environment, but this may not always
apply. Consumers should not deny themselves access to healthy fruit, vegetables and whole grains
because of the unavailability of organic produce or because of a preference for some heavily
processed organic product of dubious nutritional quality.
Organic food production is increasing rapidly and it is clear that organic foods are ‘here to stay’—
they are not a fad or ‘flavour of the month’ phenomenon. However, because organic farming has
strict rules of production and often lower yields, organic food as a percentage of total food
production is likely to remain small, particularly as the world population increases and places ever-
greater demands on food production systems.
Disclaimer: This material is provided on the basis that it constitutes advice of a general nature only.
It is not intended to replace the advice of a physician or a dietitian.