Rozanne Gallon, co-founder of The Organic Pet Food Company, says the results could do lasting damage to small businesses and farmers. “The issues regarding the benefits of organic vs non-organic food shouldn’t be separated from the environmental and pesticide effect on the food chain. The FSA’s research doesn’t take into account these vital areas. It’s tantamount to looking at global warming without the sun,” says Gallon, whose products are certified organic and contain only 100 per cent human-grade ingredients.
She says it’s irresponsible to publicise limited research like this without looking at the wider implications. “This research will have a huge negative impact on the organic food sector especially in these tough economic times. It has the potential to do real and lasting damage to our industry and halt the growth of farmers, manufacturers and companies wanting to offer the public wider choice.”
George Shaw owns an organic smallholding with rare-breed sheep, geese and poultry. “Health benefits from organic production aren’t just those found under analysis in the lab,” he says. “Organic food requires less carbon than non-organic food stuffs, and doesn’t use harmful toxins (pesticides and herbicides), which poison our air and leach into water, to the destruction of our wildlife and general well being.”
He also points out that the level of animal care on organic farms is far higher: “The fat on grass-fed animals is far healthier than that on artificial-fed animals,” he explains. “My sheep are slaughtered at just over a year, rather than at a few months, and the taste is much better. There’s far more to the organic food debate than scientifically provable chemical differences.”
Dr Damien Downing, president of the British Society for Ecological Medicine and a specialist in ecological medicine, says it’s not the first time the FSA has tried to “change the subject” on organic food. “On the same day as the FSA’s press release came the news of the victory in court of the children damaged by toxins in Corby,” he says. “The reason I and others eat organic food, and recommend organic food to patients, is to avoid toxins of the kind that damaged those children (dioxins, heavy metals and so on). I do this for my personal health. And if we can grow our food without poisoning the planet, we should – even if it costs a bit more money – because we won’t be sh**tting on our own doorstep.”
Rupert Clevely, the chief executive of Geronimo Inns, says his company’s philosophy is to use the freshest and best quality ingredients – whether organic or not. "We don’t push organic food as a prominent feature or gimmick in itself. But if organic food happens to provide the best quality, we will use it," he explains. "As such, the recent FSA studies don’t prove at all damaging to Geronimo as we don’t fall into the trap of using organic food as a hook to attract customers. Nor do the recent studies make Geronimo any more averse to organic food than before – if organic food lives up to our standards, we’ll continue to use it. Rather than being anti organic food, we are anti mass-production, which often leads to artificiality and uniformity within the produce."
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