Nutritional value and taste
In April 2009, results from Quality Low Input Food (QLIF), a 5-year integrated study funded by the European Commission, confirmed that "the quality of crops and livestock products from organic and conventional farming systems differs considerably." Specifically, results from a QLIF project studying the effects of organic and low-input farming on crop and livestock nutritional quality "showed that organic food production methods resulted in some case: (a) higher levels of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g., vitamins/antioxidants and poly-unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and CLA); (b) lower levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticide residues and glyco-alkaloids in a range of crops and/or milk; (c) a lower risk of faecal Salmonella shedding in pigs." but also showed no significant difference between traditionally grown foods on other studies.The QLIF study also concludes that "further and more detailed studies are required to provide proof for positive health impacts of organic diets on human and animal health." Alternatively, according to the UK's Food Standards Agency, "Consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view." A 12-month systematic review commissioned by the FSA in 2009 and conducted at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine based on 50 years' worth of collected evidence concluded that "there is no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health in relation to nutrient content." Other studies have found no proof that organic food offers greater nutritional values, more consumer safety or any distinguishable difference in taste. A recent review of nutrition claims showed that organic food proponents are unreliable information sources which harm consumers, and that consumers are wasting their money if they buy organic food believing that that it contains better nutrients.
Regarding taste, a 2001 study concluded that organic apples were sweeter by blind taste test. Firmness of the apples was also rated higher than those grown conventionally. Current studies have not found differences in the amounts of natural biotoxins between organic and conventional foods.
Meaning and origin of the term
In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (1940), out of his conception of "the farm as organism," to describe a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming—in contrast to what he called chemical farming, which relied on "imported fertility" and "cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole." This is different from the scientific use of the term "organic," to refer to a class of molecules that contain carbon, especially those involved in the chemistry of life.
Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.For the vast majority of human history, agriculture can be described as "organic"; only during the 20th century was a large supply of new synthetic chemicals introduced to the food supply. The organic farming movement arose in the 1940s in response to the industrialization of agriculture known as the Green Revolution.
Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, distinct from private gardening. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as "organic" within their borders. In the context of these regulations, "organic food" is food made in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations. In the United States, organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. If livestock are involved, the livestock must be reared with regular access to pasture and without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce may not be genetically modified. It has been suggested that the application of nanotechnology to food and agriculture is a further technology that needs to be excluded from certified organic food. The Soil Association (UK) has been the first organic certifier to implement a nano-exclusion.[5
Demand for organic foods is primarily concern for personal health and concern for the environment. Organic products typically cost 10 to 40% more than similar conventionally produced products. According to the USDA, Americans, on average, spent $1,347 on groceries in 2004; thus switching entirely to organics would raise their cost of groceries by about $135 to $539 per year ($11 to $45 per month) assuming that prices remained stable with increased demand. Processed organic foods vary in price when compared to their conventional counterparts.
While organic food accounts for 1–2% of total food sales worldwide, the organic food market is growing rapidly, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations.
World organic food sales jumped from US $23 billion in 2002 to $52 billion in 2008.
The world organic market has been growing by 20% a year since the early 1990s, with future growth estimates ranging from 10%–50% annually depending on the country.
Organic food is the fastest growing sector of the American food marketplace
Organic food sales have grown by 17 to 20 percent a year for the past few years while sales of conventional food have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year.
In 2003 organic products were available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and 73% of conventional grocery stores.
Organic products accounted for 3.7% of total food and beverage sales, and 11.4% of all fruit and vegetable sales in the year 2009.
Two thirds of organic milk and cream and half of organic cheese and yogurt are sold through conventional supermarkets.
Organic food sales surpassed $1 billion in 2006, accounting for 0.9% of food sales in Canada.
Organic food sales by grocery stores were 28% higher in 2006 than in 2005.
British Columbians account for 13% of the Canadian population, but purchased 26% of the organic food sold in Canada in 2006.
In the European Union (EU25) 3.9% of the total utilized agricultural area is used for organic production. The countries with the highest proportion of organic land are Austria (11%) and Italy (8.4), followed by Czech Republic and Greece (both 7.2%). The lowest figures are shown for Malta (0.1%), Poland (0.6%) and Ireland (0.8%).
11.6% of all farmers produced organically in 2007. The government has created incentives to increase the figure to 20% by 2010.
In 2006, 4.9% of all food products sold in Austrian supermarkets (including discount stores) were organic. In the same year, 8,000 different organic products were available.
Since 2000, the use of some organic food is compulsory in Italian schools and hospitals. A 2002 law of the Emilia Romagna region implemented in 2005, explicitly requires that the food in nursery and primary schools (from 3 months to 10 years) must be 100% organic, and the food in meals at schools, universities and hospitals must be at least 35% organic.
In 2005 168,000 ha of land were under organic management. 7 percent of Polish consumers buy food that was produced according to the EU-Eco-regulation. The value of the organic market is estimated at 50 million Euros (2006).
Organic food sales increased from just over £100 million in 1993/94 to £1.21 billion in 2004 (an 11% increase on 2003).
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, agricultural inputs that had previously been purchased from Eastern bloc countries were no longer available in Cuba, and many Cuban farms converted to organic methods out of necessity. Consequently, organic agriculture is a mainstream practice in Cuba, while it remains an alternative practice in most other countries. Although some products called organic in Cuba would not satisfy certification requirements in other countries (crops may be genetically modified, for example), Cuba exports organic citrus and citrus juices to EU markets that meet EU organic standards. Cuba's forced conversion to organic methods may position the country to be a global supplier of organic products.
Although certification seals have become more common on Mexican produce, mainly for export, there have been strong internal movements to block GMOs and decrease pesticide practice. As the country does not have as long a history of using pesticides as developed nations, it is striving to regain the purity of much of its arable land.
Much of its internal and domestic produce consumption is not labeled as organic, even when the practice is sustainable. This is mainly due to cultural differences.