Supermarkets full of choice - but at the price of staying 'inorganic'

A A A

Organic farming began as an ideology in the 1920s with the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who wanted to capture "cosmic forces" through moonlight and the mystic qualities of soil. He saw the purified nature of artificial fertilisers as an abomination, whereas the stench of manure was something quite spiritual.

Organic farming began as an ideology in the 1920s with the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who wanted to capture "cosmic forces" through moonlight and the mystic qualities of soil. He saw the purified nature of artificial fertilisers as an abomination, whereas the stench of manure was something quite spiritual.

Organic food has since become inextricably linked with all that is good, wholesome and safe in life. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that organic food is any more nutritious than its "inorganic" cousin. Meanwhile, there is abundant data to link some of the worst cases of poisoning with food produced by traditional, organic methods.

The very word "organic" is synonymous with health and well-being, when in fact it merely means that the produce is derived from living organisms. Organic chemistry is therefore about carbon-containing substances produced by animals and plants. Inorganic chemicals lack a carbon component but can be just as natural as organic chemicals.

Even organic food is rich in inorganic toxins. Every day we each eat about a quarter of a teaspoon of chemicals that are known to have a potential ability to cause cancer. Something near 99.99 per cent of these toxins, however, are quite natural and are produced by the crops we grow as a form of chemical defence against insects and other pests.

Spreading manure on a field is good farming practice and improves soil structure but it also carries a greater risk of food poisoning than spraying with the recommended amounts of agrochemicals. One of the most dangerous organisms that can contaminate food is E.coli 0157, which lives happily in the gut of many farmyard animals. Several outbreaks of E.coli 0157, some causing the deaths of children, have been linked with organic strawberries, lettuce and home-made organic goats' cheese.

Many organic products, such as nuts, also carry a higher risk of being contaminated with other toxins, such as that produced by a fungus called aspergillus. This poison, called aflatoxin, kills many hundreds of people in the world each year. It is also one the most potent carcinogens in nature.

The abundance and variety of food we can buy on supermarket shelves owes little to organic farming methods, and a lot to the artificial chemicals available to farmers. We all want cheap food but we also have to realise there is a price attached. Modern farming methods have produced the safest, most nutritious food in history yet it does so at the expense of the wildlife in the countryside.

Sir John Krebs is right about organic food being a rip-off. As an expert on biodiversity, and the effects of agricultural intensification on wildlife, he also knows what the real costs are of us all wanting our cake and eating it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Y5 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Long term position for a KS2...

Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

£24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week