07 janvier 2007

'No proof' organic food is better

There is no evidence organic food is better for you than conventional food, minister David Miliband has said.

The environment secretary said organic food was more of a "lifestyle choice that people can make".

There is no "conclusive evidence either way" concerning the health effects of pesticides, he told the Sunday Times.

The Soil Association, which regulates organic food, said studies show a difference between organic food and food produced using industrial methods.

It was critical of Mr Miliband's suggestion that food grown with the use of pesticides and other chemicals should not be regarded as inferior.

Mr Miliband: "It's only 4% of total farm produce, not 40%, and I would not want to say that 96% of our farm produce is inferior because it's not organic."

He said despite the rise in organic sales being "exciting" for shoppers, they should not think of conventionally-produced food as "second best".

According to the Soil Association, organic food sales in the UK increased by 30% to £1.6bn in 2006.

'Extra payment'

Robin Maynard, the association's campaigns director, said the environment secretary's comments were "slightly disappointing".

"It has been shown over the years that there is a difference between food produced organically and that produced using industrial methods.

"It is not just a lifestyle choice in terms of the environment, organic is better for that.

"Mr Miliband's own government has recognised in the past that organic food can be better for that. In fact organic farmers get an extra payment due to this."

Long-term research

However, Mr Maynard admitted there was a lack of studies showing how organic food could be healthier.

He said this stemmed from the difficulties of pinpointing exactly how such food was healthier and because research needed to be carried out over "tens of years".

The association's website says organic food does not contain many of the artificial additives used in modern food production, and also have more natural vitamins and minerals.

It also argues organic food is better for wildlife because it does not use pesticides or dangerous sprays.

Pressure from shoppers has boosted the volume of organic UK produce in supermarkets, the association said last year.

Si l'agriculture biologique évite de répandre des pesticides, elle n'a pas encore fait la preuve de ses bienfaits intrinsèques. Une députée européenne du groupe des Verts, mangeant pourtant 'bio' et résidant loin des centres urbains, avait été surprise de constater que son sang était encore plus pollué par les PCB que celui de ses collègues (Libération du 22/4/2004). En tout état de cause, la pollution des produits agricoles n'est probablement pas la source la plus importante et peut-être qu'il faudrait s'attaquer d'abord aux sources les plus significatives, afin d'améliorer rapidement la situation.