In the largest study of its kind, an international team of experts led by Newcastle University found that organic crops are up to 69% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops, with significantly lower levels of toxic heavy metals and pesticides in organic crops, too. What’s more, it’s the first analysis to extensively review the results of hundreds of studies that have been published in the past few years. Over half of the research papers analysed in the Newcastle study were published after 2006, and therefore they were not considered or included in the much-criticised UK Food Standard Agency-sponsored study.
We’ve long known that organic farming is better for wildlife and better for the planet, and we also know it’s a key reason why our customers choose to buy our organic veg box. In fact, NO system of farming has higher wildlife benefits than organic farming. For example, research has found that overall plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms, and there are 30% more species. Organic farming also releases less greenhouse gases per hectare than non-organic farming, so choosing organic, local and seasonal food can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Organic farming is also better for animal welfare—another key reason why people are increasingly choosing to buy organic meat, eggs and dairy products.
But we also know that people often choose organic because they believe it has more of the “good” things, and less of the “nasties”. And this new research clearly supports this decision. Analysing over 340 studies into the compositional differences between organic and conventional crops, the researchers found that a switch to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals – and food made from them – would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Numerous studies have linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers. As organic grower, it’s just common sense: I don’t use pesticides, so I am banking on the innate health and vitality of my organic plants to enable them to fend for themselves. This means they develop greater concentrations of a range of a range of natural chemicals in order to fight pests and diseases—and it just so happen that these compounds contribute to nutritional quality of the fruit and veg! So organic food doesn’t just taste so much better; it’s actually better for you, too.
The researchers also found that eating organic can help to reduce the intake of potentially harmful heavy metals, such as cadmium, which are on average 48% lower in organic crops.
Finally, we know that eating organic can also help you to reduce your exposure to pesticides. Pesticides are found on one in three non-organic foods tested each year, and multiple residues of up to seven different compounds are not uncommon. But pesticide residues are rarely found in organic food.
As the Soil Association say, “organic is different, and the findings shatter the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat.” Let’s hope this ground-breaking research gives more people the confidence they need to make the switch and to choose organic.