Early results of a £12 million four-year EU funded study indicate organic fruit and vegetables contain 40% more antioxidants compared to non-organic foodstuffs.
Levels of antioxidants in milk from organic herds tested were up to 90 per cent higher than in milk from conventional herds.
Antioxidants are believed to cut the risk of heart disease and cancer, Britains biggest killers.
The study also found that organic produce tested had higher levels of other beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc.
Food Standards Authority to review new info
The UK Food Standards Authority has confirmed that it will review the new evidence to decide whether it needs to change its advice that there are no significant differences between organic and ordinary produce.
The UK Soil Association said it agrees with the project's co-ordinator, Professor Carlo Leifert, that there is now enough evidence the level of good things is higher in organics.
"Therefore, we challenge the FSA to now recognise and publicly acknowledge the nutritional benefits of organic food produced through well-managed organic farming systems.," the association said.
FSA bias against organic
The soil association says the FSA has been reluctant to date to publicly back organic food and farming, despite several studies showing organic food to have better nutritional value. In 2000, the FSA’s former chair, Sir John Krebs was quoted on the BBC Countryfile programme questioning the value for money of organic food for consumers,"They’re not getting value for money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the FSA, if they think they’re buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra safety."
The Soil Association challenged Krebs’ and the FSA’s stance and in 2004 won a major retraction when the FSA’s own review reported that ‘the vast majority’ of people consulted felt the Agency had ‘deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence’ when ‘speaking against organic food and for GM food.’
Four plus organic a day
Professor Leifert says the latest study, the biggest to date, found that the differences between organic and non organic produce were so marked that eating organic produce would help to increase the nutrient intake of people not eating the recommended five portions a day of fruit and vegetables - children for instance.
The Quality Low Inputs Food study involved growing fruit and vegetables and rearing cattle on adjacent organic and non organic sites on a 725 acre farm attached to Newcastle University, and at other sites in Europe.
Growing body of evidence for organic
The Soil Association said the findings reinforce the growing body of scientific evidence that indicates significant positive nutritional differences in organic food compared to non-organic food said the Soil Association.
"On a far larger-scale, with much greater resources and more precise, modern analytical methods, this EU-funded project builds on what our founder Lady Eve Balfour sought to do on just 200-acres and with a shoe-string budget back in 1939," said association director Patrick Holden.
He said the proponents of industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture dismissed her theories and findings then on the basis of the limited scale and location of the experiment. But today’s growing body of evidence backing her instincts and practical observations comes from dozens of independent scientists from around the world – the early results of the work from the QualityLowInputFood project add to that wider body of work.
Numerous studies show benefits
In 2001, a review of over 400 scientific papers by an independent nutritionist, published by the Soil Association found indicative evidence of nutritional differences between organic and non-organic food – including higher levels of Vitamin C, minerals and trace elements.
These findings can be considered in the general context of the decline of key minerals found in UK produce as shown from long-term government studies, the association says.
The annual analysis carried out over 50 years by Defra’s predecessor, MAFF, revealed a 12 - 76% decline in the trace mineral content of UK grown fruit and vegetables between 1940 and 1991.
In Spring 2007, three independent EU studies showed higher nutritional values:
In March 2007, three new independent European research projects were published that revealed that organic tomatoes, peaches and processed apples all had higher nutritional quality than non-organic, supporting the results of research from America on kiwi fruit reported on just days earlier (26 March 2007).
Organic kiwifruit significantly better
The US research by Dr Maria Amodio and Dr Adel Kader, from the University of California Davies discovered that organically grown kiwis had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols. The researchers said: 'All the main mineral constituents were more concentrated in the organic kiwi fruit, which also had higher asorbic acid (vitamin C) and total polyphenol content, resulting in higher antioxidant activity. It is possible that conventional growing practices utilise levels of pesticides that can result in a disruption to phenolic metabolites in the plant that have a protective role in plant defence mechanisms.'
The EU researchers found organic tomatoes 'contained more dry matter, total and reducing sugars, vitamin C, B-carotene and flavonoids in comparison to the conventional ones', while conventional tomatoes in this study were richer in lycopene and organic acids. Previous research had also found organic tomatoes have higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene. In the more recent research, the scientists conclude 'organic cherry and standard tomatoes can be recommended as part of a healthy diet including plant products which have shown to be of value in cancer prevention.'
Organic peaches and apple puree
The EU researchers found that organic peaches 'have a higher polyphenol content at harvest' and concluded that organic production has 'positive effects ... on nutritional quality and taste'. Organic apple puree was found to contain 'more bio-active substances - total phenols, flavonoids and vitamin C - in comparison to conventional apple preserves' and the researchers conclude 'organic apple preserves can be recommended as valuable fruit products, which can contribute to a healthy diet'.
Omega 3 fatty acids in organic milk
In 2006, the Journal of Dairy Science published the results of a three-year study showing a direct link between the whole organic farming system and higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in organic milk. The study by the Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow, was the first to consider a cross-section of UK farms over a 12-month production cycle. According to the research, a pint of organic milk contains on average 68.2% more total Omega 3 fatty acids than non-organic milk and has a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, believed to be beneficial to human health.
This confirms the findings of earlier research conducted by the University of Aberdeen and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research which also found that organically reared cows, which eat high levels of fresh grass, clover pasture and grass clover silage, produced milk that contains higher levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids.
In total, five studies have now shown that organic milk has more beneficial levels of several nutrients than non-organic milk including omega-3 essential fatty acid, Vitamin E and beta-carotene.
New Scientist reported on published research from California that found organic tomato ketchup contains more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene than non-organic ketchup.