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.
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