Organic Food Is Better For You,
UK Farm Group Says
By Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should stop treating people like laboratory animals and start producing more natural organic food products that are safer and healthier, a report said on Monday.
The report by the Soil Association, which campaigns for organic agriculture, rejected claims by some food experts that organic food was no better for the public than most of the products found on supermarket shelves.
It said organically produced fruit, vegetables, meat and crops had steered clear of a raft of British food scares, including mad cow disease, and was a healthier option that shunned additives and most pesticides.
``It is almost as if consumers have become laboratory animals in the huge experiment that is industrialized agriculture, storing up untold health problems for the future,'' Patrick Holden, director of the association, said in the report.
``On average we found that organic crops are not only higher in vitamin C and essential minerals, but also higher in phytonutrients -- compounds which protect plants from pests and disease and are often beneficial in the treatment of cancer.''
The report, based on 400 published papers comparing organic with non-organic food, said more research was needed but the evidence suggested widespread organic crop cultivation could boost the public's health and well-being.
UK consumers have been shaken by a series of food scares, including E-coli, salmonella and mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which has spread from Britain to other parts of Europe.
The government has also started looking at alternatives to post-World War Two intensive farming methods, which are also blamed for the UK's latest foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.
But organic farming has been questioned, with the head of the Food Standards Agency, the UK's food safety watchdog, saying last year that there was not enough evidence to support claims that organic food was better for the public.
The Soil Association said its report had now redressed the balance.
``This report contradicts Sir John Krebs of the Food Standards Agency, who said last year that there was not enough information available to be able to say that organic food is nutritionally different from non-organic food,'' Holden said.
It also said intensive farming methods had drained the goodness out of everyday produce like fruit and vegetables.
Other food experts agreed with the report and demanded the government invest more in organic production and research.
``Eating organic is neither a fad nor a luxury,'' Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, said.
``This comprehensive scientific assessment shows that it is a necessity.''


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