Is organic food a waste of money?

Many Brits like the idea of healthy, nutritious food that is free from pesticides, but according to US researchers organic food might not be worth the premium price tag.

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A team at Stanford University Medical Centre in California reviewed 200 studies comparing organic and conventional foods and found that when it came to health and nutrition, the organic variety is little better than conventionally-farmed goods.

Analysing the results of the studies - some comparing the health of people with organic or conventional diets, and others investigating nutrient levels, bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination - the researchers found no consistent differences between the vitamin levels in organic versus conventional food, and suggested there was no difference between the amount of protein and fat in milk.

The scientists also found that there was no guarantee that organic food remained pesticide-free, though it was 30 per cent less likely to have been contaminated.

Lead researcher Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler, whose report was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, said: "Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. We were a little surprised that we didn't find that.

"There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health."

However, critics here in the UK claim the research doesn't show the real picture.

A spokesperson for the Soil Association said: "Studies that treat crop trials as if they were clinical trials of medicines, like this one, exaggerate the variation between studies and drown out the real differences.

"A UK review paper, using the correct statistical analysis, has found that most of the differences in nutrient levels between organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables seen in this US study are actually highly significant."

What do you think? Are you an organic food advocate or is it a waste of money? Leave your comments below...