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Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 17:14 GMT
Will you go organic in 2000?

Is it time to get back to our roots in the new millennium, and eat only organic food? Or is that a slap in the face of progress?

Researchers say there is now firm evidence that organically-grown produce is healthier than conventional crops.

Is that enough to make you switch to organic food?

Your Reaction

Natural food contains toxins but also contains other chemicals that neutralise the effects of these toxins. Pesticides and GM food do not contain such balancing ingredients. The effect of not including these balancing agents is increased risk of cancer!
Paul, USA

If I really wanted to go organic I would use my own garden. I'll never pay the over inflated prices that they charge in supermarkets.
Chris Welch, UK

Organic is fine provided the soil in which the food is grown is not already "infected" by pesticides. And, food must grow to full maturity on the vine if it is to be truly nutritional. Where can one find such food in a local market and at an affordable price?
Jim Rogers, Missouri, USA

I prefer organic food. I have possibility to grow most of our vegetables myself without using chemicals. But as a summer in Finland is short I also have to buy vegs from market. I try to do my best to choose "chemical-free goods", but how can I be sure about that? As a mother of 4 children I'm worried about their health and also about the nature in future, that's why "chemical-free" is better choice.
Jaana, Finland

I think everyone is taking an either / or attitude here. Just because something is natural doesn't make it good, despite what a lot of people seem to think. I believe that the way forward is to design chemical fertilisers, pesticides etc that will have a minimal impact on the environment; leading to the best of both worlds; no pollution & no dangerous pathogens in food. Sadly, there continues to be little financial incentive for anyone to do this, so they won't.
Chris McCormack, UK

Eat organic. Eat non-organic. Eat according to your wants, needs and budget. But above all, eat (and do) everything in moderation. Eat to enjoy and be happy. Eat in good company and be happier still. Happier is healthier.
Steve, UK

The trick with organic food is to buy food locally and in season, therefore avoiding needless packaging, storage and transport costs.
Rick Hurst, UK

I am happy that there seem to be so many pro-organic people around, but then I have a big vested interest - I want to eat organic food myself. As a lover of sci-fi who has an insatiable curiosity about the world we live in I am far from being anti-science but find myself very unconvinced by arguments such as the one that we need crops which will tolerate more pesticides. I see no evidence anywhere in the world that hunger and poverty bear any relationship with the overall resources of the planet.
Katherine, UK

Every week a small company called FarmAround delivers a small bag of organically grown fruit and vegetables to my home in London. The price compares well with the "normal" supermarket vegetables therefore the claim that organic is expensive falls down. In addition, the food changes from season to season - only what is currently harvested can be delivered. Now and then I find a creepy-crawlie in my lettuce as I wash it, but to me this proves how natural the food is.
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, UK

If I really wanted to go organic I would use my own garden and not pay the over inflated prices they charge in supermarkets.
Dave, UK

I buy as much organic food as I can afford. Although most products are higher in price, some are reasonably priced. But then my salary isn't too bad! The more that people buy the more the demand will be. That must lead to lower prices with increased production and a significant shift in farming subsidies to redress the balance. We are talking about our environment. There is only one. Lose it and we're dead. GM is not an option and chemical usage must be minimised.
Tony O'Keefe, England

Of course, a tomato grown in my garden tastes better than one bought from the store. However, it is simply not possible for me to grow all the food I need in my garden ... and I suspect that just about everybody else can say the same thing! In other words, if we want to enjoy affordable food, buying whatever we want, whenever we want it, we have no choice but to accept that farming techniques are going to involve some pretty radical ideas.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

On a global scale a move to organic food has to be the way to stop us poisoning the earth. I understand that organic food can seem expensive, especially for those on a restricted food budget. There are, however, economies of scale. As organic production grows, so the price should come down. Organic food is not only in the supermarket. You can grow it yourself in your own garden, window box or even in a plant pot.
Deborah Clarke-Topper, England and Austria

As someone who isn't fussy about organic or non-organic produced food, I can only admire those whose taste buds can notice a difference between the same variety grown using the two means of production. I certainly can't, and suspect that the real difference lies not in the method of growing, but in the variety used.
Terri, England

Of course organic food is better with non-organic food linked to such diseases as cancer and it is good for the environment. However, before we hurry to punch the last nail on GM foods, we should first reflect as to why the food came about. This was mainly because of the exponential increase of population. Right now, even with the abundant food, thanks to the non-organic food, we cannot claim to have sufficient food to feed the planet, considering that many are going hungry in less developed countries such as those in Africa. Efforts should first be focussed on population planning practices to control the population, then slowly, we can popularise the organic foods.
Samuel Mikenga, Uganda

I would much prefer to eat organic food. What keeps this to a rare occasion for me, instead of a lifestyle, is the poor selection, past-their-prime-looking specimens, and rather absurd pricing. However, I really dislike the thought of eating genetically modified foods and, if there isn't some form of labelling implemented soon, I believe I'll be forced to overcome my squeamishness and bite the organic bullet, or apple.
Wes Machnio, Canada

Most Organic foods are ,in my experience better tasting, textured and are more identifiable as food. I don't think GM foods should be banned though, for the simple reason they provide a staple source of sustenance to many people who could otherwise not afford the "natural" thing. I believe genetic modified crops/livestock could be improved to exclude less of the nutrients of the natural product but still be easier to grow.
Timothy Gibbons, UK

I will not be eating any food produced by so-called "Organic" methods. The whole idea is a paranoid luddite nonsense. If conventionally produced food was as bad as the "greenies" say then life expectancy would be falling instead of rising as it is. The fear of chemicals is the beginning of ignorance.
G.S. Brown, New Zealand

You mess with nature, Nature will mess with you. Not immediately but it will show after a couple of generations Watch out all those of you who eat the so called "conventional food" instead of organic. It is ironic that the artificial produce is now called "Conventional Food".
Prashant Godiwala, India/U.S.A

How can we afford not to eat organic? I too am a struggling college student but knowing that organic food will help me maintain my health, make a political statement against processed foods, and enrich the environment that our food is grown, I can not afford not to eat organic whenever I have the choice.
Jennifer Fleming, USA

As a student, I can't afford it. If I could, I definitely would. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy GM food.
Alex Banks, Wales

Organic is the real food, the other is synthetic.
R Cliff, UK

Doesn't the same chemical filled rain that falls on non-organic crops fall on organic crops?
Mike, England

I find the cynics' views on this subject indicative of the ignorance about organic food and typical of a consumer society that has come to believe that big business has their interests at heart. I regard organic food as better for me, the environment and the people who produce it - I also see it as a rejection of the trans-national corporations that are dominating the food industry in every aspect - production, transportation, processing and retailing. Small is beautiful.
Austen, England

The green revolution based on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, genetically modified seeds etc., came about over the years because organically produced food was not enough to feed the world's ever-increasing population and cultivable fields to produce sufficient food were diminishing with pressure on land for housing, factories, offices, roads expanding. If modern farming practices are abandoned in favour of organic food, I wonder if we would be able to feed the six billion people of this planet. On the other hand, intensive farming backed by powerful chemicals with unknown long-term side effects has been encouraged by the mighty commercial interests who downplay and even hide the harmful effects of such practices because the totem pole around which they prance around is the return on capital employed. It would seem to me that whatever created the species of homosapien also cursed them with a Hobson's choice.
Mohansingh, India

This isn't just about the health of individuals. This is about the health of the planet. We should buy foods that don't pollute the environment. We should avoid pesticides and chemicals. Not just for the good of our bodies but for the much, much greater good.
Cath, UK

As a toxicologist, I am far more concerned about manure-derived bacteria and bacterial toxins than minute traces of pesticides. I avoid organic food on principle. the pro-organic, anti-GM lobby are motivated by genocidal racism and a hatred for the human race, particularly the poor.
Rosalind Dalefield, UK

Not only does organic food taste better, but it's better for the environment, utilises better farming practices, and is healthier for both human and animal kind.
C Neil, Scotland

We have Brie and Chardonnay by the gallons here, but little real organic food. Our grandparents were raised organic, but since then, it's like true sincerity: very hard to attain. Let's look at the root, not the leaves. We want to drastically reduce pesticide content in the food chain. Above ground vegetables have high pesticide levels -- the more surface area, the higher the pesticide content, with broccoli topping the list. Belowground veggies have almost no pesticides. Sea fish have no pesticides. Organic grains here are about 20% more expensive than non-. No one is going to hand you organic produce on a silver platter - you have to actively seek to get it into the market. People who want it must put on some pressure, and the best way is by phoning your markets and requesting it. In California the farmers are putting on the most pressure to have organic food available in the markets, for their own families' consumption!
Kim Salisbury, USA, Northern California

Organic foods are produced in a way which is significantly less damaging to the environment. In addition, they do not deplete petrochemical (fossil fuel) resources as fertilisers. It offers real, new opportunities for employment in rural areas, which is not the case with conventional farming currently. It is safer for developing-country cultivators to farm organically, since it has been show then often cannot afford the necessary protective gear when using herbicidal and pesticide sprays. It is cheaper for poor farmers not to have to use expensive fertilisers, or pay for costly GM seed. Organic production is explicitly committed to offering animals better standards of maintenance-welfare and slaughter.

Comments about the global poor 'needing' conventional or GM food seem likely to come from those who do not work in the area of environment or development, indeed those who just use the poor as a justification for their own preferred practices. Organic farmers are often some of the most professional - they have to be, with so little support. Buyers of organic food tend, nowadays, to be those who have thought the issues through (and perhaps are working professionally on them). Why not opt for organic food? It's just so much simpler.
John Manoochehri, Switzerland

"Organic" food has many chemicals added to it, furthermore no study has shown it has superior health advantages to regular food.
Imran, UK

Organic food sure is better for health than inorganic food. In reality though, cheap food is best to everybody's health because it keeps the poor food buyer happy and happiness increases well being.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Those who say that their grocery bill has gone up so much that they can't afford organic food are missing one very important point. A properly balanced diet should include much more grain and pulses than most of us eat, and those are relatively cheap, even if bought from organic sources. If you change to organic food without changing your diet, your grocery bill will soar.
James Madison, USA (ex-UK)

I am not prepared to buy poor quality organic produce from the other side of the world (this seems to defeat its purpose), but I will always buy good quality European organic food over chemical-ridden versions. We are just beginning to see the effects of the over use of highly toxic chemicals in our countryside - what will be the long term effects on us - is it too late for those who have been forced to eat it since birth. I look forward to the day that everything I buy is organic. Logically though it must be healthier.
Sam King, UK

Of course I prefer organic foods. The trend here in Sweden is that supermarkets offer a wide variety of delicious organic foods. I think we'll see a growth to about 20 percent in this sector within two years.
Martin, Sweden

Not only does it taste much better but also now we learn it is healthier. Yes organic food is more expensive at the moment but as more people are converted the price will drop.
Jon Pell, United Kingdom

I think organic foods are important. The government should encourage much more organic farming. There is absolutely no reason why organic foods should cost a lot more than non-organic foods. If organic farming becomes the main stream, I think the process would come down considerably. Not only are organic foods much better for you but they are much better for the environment too. The more pesticides we spray the more wildlife that suffers and the more these toxic chemicals build up in the fatty tissues of animals that consume them. Autopsies have found hundreds of man made chemicals building up in our fatty tissues and it is about time we realised the damage we are causing to our environments and our own bodies.
Nicholas Allen, Guernsey

With about 20% of the population of the planet starving, I doubt if organic food will be much help. I am sure it will appeal to the Brie and Chablis crowd.
Reynard, USA

Not only do I intend to eat only organic food, but I am going to give up my car, stop using electricity, and will be moving to a cave as soon as one becomes available. I have already worn nothing but poorly cured goatskins for the last 6 months. My wife and I are as yet undecided as to whether or not to give up fire as well!
Max Sommers, Greece

As a mother of three young boys, I long to be able to give my sons a healthy totally organic diet. But on a limited budget, I find this virtually impossible. I'm fed up of reading that eating an organic diet is not that much more expensive. Really! My shopping bill was increased by approximately 50 per week trying to implement a totally organic diet. The cost is so prohibitive. How many people can afford to eat this way, even if they wanted to? Yet, again, the well off can have the best diets and health care while the rest of us have to muddle through the best way we can. Nothing changes!
Pamela Young, England

I think we should seriously consider whether we need to increase crop yields in countries like the US and Britain where there are already food overproduction problems. What will the future reveal about crops that have been genetically altered to benefit a small group of businesses and not humanity in general.
Matt, England

No I won't be wasting my money on overpriced, poor- quality "organic" stuff. The supposed health-claims are bogus - OK, the vitamin-levels in "organic" stuff may be higher, under some circumstances, but nobody in the UK really suffers significant vitamin-deficiency these days, so what's the point? So, no thanks - I'll save my money and buy conventional food (whether or not it's been genetically enhanced).
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

Pay more for wrinkled up veg with dirt still on them - you must be joking! This is yet more hype and food fad nonsense. Since WW2 cheap veg via the supermarkets etc has been widely available to the ordinary working classes. Thus the drop in rickets and other such diseases of deprivation common in the 1930s. I prefer to know I can get the fruit and veg I want at any time of the year at a low price and of consistent size and quality, not be a martyr to the seasons. Strawberries at Xmas, why not? To moaning farmers, and growers, I don't recall you complaining when market forces took out the miners, steelworkers, ship yards etc. Finally, will someone expose the Soil Association for what it is, nothing more than a pressure group. The pompous name and the deferential way it is treated by the news media etc, would make you think it was part of the Government and not a collection of diet freaks, representative of nobody but itself.
Steve Foley, England

I already choose to buy organic products wherever possible and the food I eat does taste better. It is not that much of difference in cost from when I bought mass-produced food. The total cost of my weekly shopping has gone up only a fiver! The government should de more for organic farmers and consumers. It is our health we are talking about.
Natacha Fernandes, England

I will continue to buy whatever I fancy. If I want organic vegetables, I plant my own organic vegetable garden in the spring. I really do not understand what the hoopla is over organic vs GM foods. Mostly everything we eat is processed in some form or another with chemicals and other additives that we do not know about. Until we can prevent crop damaging weather patterns, figure out how to stop insects from damaging crops without using pesticides, prevent developers from buying up farmland to build shopping centres, and learn to feed the masses, GM foods are necessary. It is a shame that the only countries worried about GM foods are the ones that go to bed with full stomachs and have the worst record for drug and alcohol abuse in the free world. Maybe our priorities are mixed up.

I very much agree that Organic Food is good for humans and the environment. Agriculture scientists should develop sustainable technologies that support organic farming on a larger scale so as to feed all the humans on earth.
Bala, USA

The price of organic food was my big complaint, until we joined a food co-operative. Because we have a group of 8 families that buy together from Federation of Ohio River Co-operatives, the prices are drastically lower than what you can buy for the same products at a market.
E. McKinney, USA

I wish that people who natter on about organic food would spend their time getting a balanced diet. I'm constantly being encouraged to eat foods that are loaded down with sugar and fat, and then told that they're OK because it's raw sugar and Canola oil. I'm starting to think that people who go on about organic food do so as a way to avoid managing their diet, not as a way to get a healthy one. Jon livesey
jon livesey, USA

I find that if I eat vegetables within their growing season, the price for organic is comparable to conventional. I would rather eat organic than to take the risk of conventional veggies...
Angela, U.S.A

PLEASE, one study does not make scientific fact!
Michael Tarantelli, USA

The whole concept of organic foods is a good one, but it falls short in many areas. First, it should be affordable. Many sellers of organic foods charge more because consumers expect to pay more. Secondly, there is much sham. Some level of pesticide or toxin probably winds up in most consumables due to the pervasiveness of such substances in the environment. Therefore, it's a matter of more or less, very little food will be completely toxin-free. I find "organicker" foods tastier, and that's why I like them. Healthier and more wholesome foods are only one important component in a happier and healthier lifestyle. Attitude and exercise weigh heavily as contributing components toward good quality of life. Most important of all, in my opinion, is a spiritual base from which to experience life and cope with hardships.
Terry Guild, USA

I wonder who funds the research of a scientist that makes a statement such as "the pro-organic, anti-GM lobby are motivated by genocidal racism and a hatred for the human race, particularly the poor" (see previous comment). hardly an un-biased statement, or indeed a rational one. Unfortunately, it is difficult nowadays to know whether or not to believe scientists, they often project little more than 'proof' of what their masters wish them to say. The constant squabbles between opposing viewpoints make it difficult for those of us without specialist knowledge to make an informed decision. 'Scientific' claims concerning GMO's, however, hark back to the old days when research (funded by tobacco companies) into the affects upon health of cigarettes was suppressed at the order of the benefactors of the project. I, for one, find it difficult to accept that organic foodstuffs, produced in a way proven safe by centuries proof a significant health risk over products treated with pesticides, herbicides and preservatives. GMO's offer no advantage to the human race that cannot be sought elsewhere - without direct fiscal advantage to Monsanto and friends. Oh - and yes, they do taste better!
Alex Penn, UK

The difference in taste between organic food and your normal 'off the shelf, supermarket brands' is obvious in the taste. I am very concerned about the increasing need we have to change the genetic make-up of plants and animals and would be much happier eating natural food with a good taste rather than these 'super plant' equivalents.
Michael Amherst, ENGLAND

Rich, old, northern hemisphere people whose only problem is that the BMW is parked behind the Rolls Royce in the drive can afford the luxury of chosing organic food if they think it is better. The rest of us have to buy the cheapest food we can get.Or starve. If your life expectancy is 40 odd years, the subtle difference between GM and organic food is not an issue. If the rich would sell both the Rolls and the BMW and buy a couple of minis, and give the difference to the poor, your question might have some meaning to the majority of human beings on the planet. As it is, the question merely emphasises the gap between the rich and the poor.
Mike Newton, South Africa

From scrolling through the various contributions to this debate, three issues seem to dominate: 1. Organic food is not "chemical-free". It avoids synthetically-compounded chemicals. 2. The reason for supporting it should be far broader than self-centred health worries. Organic production works with, rather than against, the environment. It would be fair to suggest that the environment is the central political issue of the next few decades. 3. GMOs are not about providing enough food for the world. Seeds are a more valuable commodity than almost anything else, including oil. Why does anyone think that companies, particularly those with powerful lobby muscle in the world's most powerful country, the USA, are running around patenting their new seeds? GMO is about profits, and power. The "feeding the world's poor" is a piece of spin doctor's gloss, to make it palatable for the masses. From the correspondence on your page, there are more than a few gullible victims of this propaganda.
Dominic Miles, Ireland

One study that has not been subjected to peer review does not prove anything. I will change my eating habits when there are 40 or 50 studies that have survived peer review saying something is healthier or not healthier.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

I notice that those who belittle organic food do not mention having tried it. I myself was sceptical of its merits until years ago when I went on a fully organic diet. The transformation in my health and vigour was total. I only stopped because of problems of availability where I live now. If one can afford it, it is unquestionably worth the additional cost in my view. I would say to the detractors: speak from personal experience; don't rely on data put out by a food industry with vested interests! There is no hype in the unselfish advice of those advocating organic foods. It is a wonder they can be heard at all above the promotional fanfare put out by the "big boys" in food retail, who would have us eat nothing but chemicals if they could arrange it. Incidentally, my fruit and vegetables were not "wrinkled up" at all, nor did they have "dirt" on them. They were the best looking, most healthy and most tasty examples of their species that I ever experienced, before or since!
Simon Cameron, UK

Of course Organic is best. The reason chemically produced and pesticide-ridden food sells so well is down to marketing. We have all become conditioned to buying "perfect" looking fruit and veg from the supermarkets. If these pesticides are so safe how come farm workers have to wear protective clothing to handle them? A modern potato crop is sprayed 28 times from sowing to harvesting; it's even sprayed again after harvest in order that it will store better and won't produce shoots. I help to keep the cost of eating organically down by growing my own vegetables and buying what I am unable to grow direct from organic farm shops. In order to prosper, modern farmers must see that we, the consumers, now call the shots. It was belief in the scientific and chemical methods that gave us the beef crisis and that has backfired on the farming industry in a big way.
Peter Kidds, UK

Not only are there fewer pesticides in organically grown food and meat but eating organic foods also helps reduce the pollution load from farming e.g. reducing the need for expensive water purification.
Nielsen, Denmark

Yes we will switch to organic food because it is healthier.
mozhgan, IRAN

How soon will it be before the suppliers start cutting corners to meet the demand for home grown produce, that can't be met by the producers, as the avilability of organic land to grow on runs out. Can we be sure that what we are eating is truly organic?
john jackson, uk

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See also:
03 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Organic food 'proven' healthier
08 Jan 99 |  UK
Organic food demand 'threatens standards'
22 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
Health risks reduced by GM corn
18 May 99 |  Food under the microscope
Special report: Food under the microscope

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