Review finds organic foods not nutritionally superior

by Keith Nunes
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LONDON — A scientific literature review commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency and conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (L.S.H.T.M.) found there is "no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food." The review did not address the health effects of bioengineered organisms, preservatives, additives or antibiotics.

The L.S.H.T.M. researchers reviewed all papers published over the past 50 years that related to the nutrient content and health differences between organic and conventional food. This systematic review is the most comprehensive study in this area that has been carried out to date, according to the F.S.A.

The research was split into two separate parts, one of which looked at differences in nutrient levels and their significance, while the other looked at the health benefits of eating organic food. A paper reporting the results of the review of nutritional differences has been peer-reviewed and published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance," said Alan Dangour of the L.S.H.T.M.’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, and the principal author of the paper. "Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority."

Peter Melchett, policy director for the U.K.’s Soil Association, a proponent of organic agriculture, expressed disappointment in the review’s conclusions.

"The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences," he said. "This was because these studies did not meet particular criteria fixed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which carried out the review."

The review process identified 162 articles published in peer reviewed journals since Jan. 1, 1958, until Feb. 29, 2008. A total of 3,558 comparisons of content of nutrients and other substances in organically and conventionally produced foods were identified for analysis, according to the L.S.H.T.M.

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