Archie Bland: Why we just can't stomach the truth about organic

Freeview from the editors at i

Share

Organic food just sounds better for you. It conjures images of ruddy-cheeked farmers dusting the soil off charmingly nobbly, inimically British potatoes, and delivering them to their local Tesco in wooden boxes; wholesome, well-adjusted, tolerant cows, roaming the countryside unfettered and turning down unhealthy foods before cheerfully volunteering for a painless death. Enough people like those sorts of ideas for the industry to be worth £1.64bn in the UK.

It was curious, then, to read yesterday a news story that would seem to throw doubt on the idea that organic food is quite so wonderful. Refreshingly enough in a field in which most consumers seem to rely simply on the soothing sound of one word – organic – against the creepier overtones of another – pesticide – this story actually had hard serious evidence behind it. Scientists at Stanford University took a comprehensive look at the studies done so far on the benefits of organic food, spent four years applying rigorous statistical analysis to the data, and found… no discernible health benefit whatsoever. There's no proof it's better for you, but also no proof it isn't. There was no need for a study, on the other hand, to establish that it is eye-wateringly expensive.

Now, a lot of people who eat organic say it just tastes better, although I should like to blindfold them and see if they can really tell when I offer them a pint of delicious, chemically-enhanced milk. Also, maybe more impressively, the organic lobby will claim that consumers know just what they're after in organic food – that, as the study confirmed, it is less likely to retain traces of pesticide. But such a claim is disingenuous. People like the sound of less pesticide because they think pesticide sounds dangerous, not because of some obscure moral objection.

I don't expect any of this to make the slightest difference, though. The organic steam train is way too far along for any mere synoptic study to derail it. That's frustrating enough, when people are parting with so much of their money for an imprimatur that doesn't mean what a lot of them think it means.

Worse still is the marketing blather that organic has brought with it; everything advertised as if it was made by an elderly couple living next to a bubbling brook, and everything being bloody NATURAL, or if not natural at least part of NATURE'S HARVEST, or ENERGY BOOSTING, or LOCALLY SOURCED WHERE POSSIBLE, and all of it also being NOT NECESSARILY ANY BETTER FOR YOU AS A RESULT. Organic food, you have a lot to answer for. And you're not even doing me any good.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nai or Oxi: whether Greece says Yes or No today its citizens will continue to struggle  

Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy

Rupert Cornwell
George Osborne likes to think of himself as the greatest political mind of his generation  

Budget 2015: It takes a lot of hard work to be as lucky as George Osborne

John Rentoul
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test