Is Organic any healthier?
Anyone who has followed the cosmetic industry over the last couple of years will be well aware that organic products are the big thing, with rising sales and high levels of appeal to the consumer. People love natural, and hate synthetic. And organic is the ultimate in natural. It is obvious isn’t it.
Or is it? I was intrigued by the coverage in the main stream media given to a recent report that failed to find any health benefits from eating organic food. This got widespread billing and quite a bit of discussion. But to people who follow these matters, it was hardly news. There has never been any direct evidence of the benefits of organic food. Some studies have indicated higher levels of particular nutrients in particular crops, but that is a long way from proving you are better off including those in your diet. You could simply eat a bit more of the conventional stuff for example.
Organic – the Media View
But the interesting thing was just how the news was handled. Media organisations, unlike amateur bloggers, need to be aware of what their audience want to hear. They are well aware that confirming their readers’ views is a lot more profitable than challenging them. So running what was in effect an anti-organic story was either a very rare example of the main stream media risking upsetting their customers, or they have worked out that organic doesn’t have the appeal it once did.
Organic – what Google is telling us
I must say that I have noticed that the premium charged for organic vegetables has been gradually dwindling. I also hear less people referring to it. So has the organic bandwagon started to slow down? I had a look at Google Trends to find out.
This shows a steady decline in the number of searches online for the word organic over the last 9 years. Incidentally, I love the way the interest in organic plummets every Christmas. I suppose that is the time of year when the idea of being healthy is the last thing on everyone’s mind.
In contrast, the amount of coverage in the media has been increasing since 2007. I am not sure why that should be. But it does show that following the media doesn’t necessarily give you a clear idea of what actual people are thinking about an issue.
Organic – the Future
The conclusion I draw is that although the organic concept has had a pretty good run – it can be traced back to the nineteen forties after all – and is not going to disappear as a sector any time soon, it is now a sector in long term decline. This is not something I personally particularly welcome. In fact I think it is important to keep organic farming going as a viable option. Modern agriculture has done a great job of saving the world from famine, but it I don’t think we should put all our eggs in one basket when it comes to something as important as food production. None of us know what is going to happen next and keeping as much diversity as we can in terms of breeds and production techniques has to be a good investment. But ultimately, the truth will win out and if organic food is in fact no better for us then it is as well to face that fact up front and market it accordingly.
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Here is the Reuters report on the original story about how healthy organic is.