Organic food has no nutritional or health benefits over ordinary food, according to a major study published yesterday.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said consumers were paying higher prices for organic food because of its perceived health benefits, creating a global organic market worth an estimated US$48 billion (S$69bikkion) in 2007.
A systematic review of 162 papers published in scientific literature over the past 50 years, however, found there was no significant difference.
“A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced food-stuffs, but these are unlikely to be of an public health relevance,” said DR Alan Dangour, one of the report’s authors.
“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.”
The results of the research which was commissioned by the British government’s Food Standards Agency were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Sales of organic food, which is grown without pesticides and other chemicals, have fallen in some markets, including Britain, as recession has led consumers to cut back on such purchases.
The Soil Association, a Britain-based group which campaigns for planet-friendly organic food and farming, said in April that growth in sales of organic products in Britain slowed to just 1.7 per cent last year, well below the average annual growth rate of 26 per cent over the past decade, following a plunge in demand at the end of the year.
Mr Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said it was disappointed with the conclusions of the study and called for better research on the issue, according to the BBC.
“The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences,” he said.
“Although the researchers say that the differences between organic and non-organic food are not important, they report in their analysis that there are higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic compared to non-organic foods.
Also, there is not sufficient research on the long-term effects of pesticides on human health.”
In Singapore, the prices of organic food have been falling due to the increase in organic farms in the region.
However, prices remain higher than non-organic varieties.