Feeds

Organic food offers basically no health benefit, boffins find

Does offer prospect of grub grown in human excrement

Application security programs and practises

US medical scientists reviewing the state of knowledge on organic food have come to the conclusion that the pricey old-school grub offers no appreciable health benefits. However consumers may still wish to buy it for the purpose of promoting organic farming methods.

To be certified organic, food must be produced without the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals deemed to be a poor idea by certifying organisations such as the Soil Association. This tends to greatly reduce yields from a given amount of land, making organic food very expensive compared to the regular stuff.

"Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious," says physician-boffin Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler.

That's true: no less a figure than the heir to the British throne has said:

"I do not see why people cannot see organic really is better for us. Not only for the environment but for human health."

"We were a little surprised that we didn't find that," says Smith-Spangler.

"There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health," adds her colleague Dr Dena Bravata.

The scientists base these findings on a mass trawl through the available scientific literature on the subject. According to Bravata the area is submerged under a "confusing body of studies, including some that were not very rigorous appearing in trade publications."

That's not too surprising as organic grub is a huge money-spinning business, turning over $24.4bn in the US last year, and money like that tends to lead to a lot of ropey science and analysis.

"This was a ripe area in which to do a systematic review," says Smith-Spangler.

Once subjected to proper scrutiny, the idea that organic food is any healthier than ordinary products was exposed as a load of, well, crap. (One method of fertilisation which is allowed in organic farming is the use of animal manure.)

That said there are other reasons to cough up the double prices that may well be asked for organic grub. Agro-chemicals can undeniably cause pollution when misused, and supplies of some of them - for instance phosphorus - may be finite, or may involve the use of large amounts of energy and thus could be seen as a bad thing from a carbon-emissions point of view.

The Soil Ass., indeed, considers that humanity is facing a "peak phosphorus" situation, and that the best solution to this would be the use of human excrement as well as animal for fertiliser. Though this might well be approved by the organic certifier, it would at the moment be entirely illegal under the health laws, a situation which the Soil Ass. would like to see changed.

Bravata and Smith-Spangler's study will appear in today's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.