RESEARCH from Newcastle University has shown that organic crops and crop-based foods – including fruit, vegetables and cereals – are up to 60 per cent higher in desirable nutritional compounds, including a number of key antioxidants, than their non-organic counterparts.
The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, analysed the results of 343 previous studies and found that, as well as being higher in antioxidants, organic crops also contain significantly lower levels of toxic heavy metals and pesticides.
The results show organic is different for a number of reasons, most significantly because they highlight that the way we farm can affect the quality of the food we eat.
What happens next in Scotland is important. During the economic downturn, we lost a number of organic producers and processors. To ensure we grow a healthy organic supply chain, we need to support our skilled organic farmers. We can all help by buying a little more organic.
We know that people choose organic food because they believe it is better for them, as well as for wildlife, animal welfare and the environment. This research adds weight to those beliefs. For the last year or so, organic retail sales have been growing slightly faster in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK. This said, less than 1 per cent of all retail sales are organic in Scotland, compared to 2.5 per cent in France, 3.7 per cent in Germany and almost 8 per cent in Denmark. Across Europe, there are much higher levels acceptance of the benefits of organic food and farming. We hope these findings will help bring Scotland in line when it comes to both attitudes to organic food and support for organic farming.
This study comes at a critical time. We have a growing organic market in Scotland and an increasing interest in the quality and provenance of our food, alongside a decline in certified organic land.
Let’s turn this around. We can all help normalise organic food and farming, making it a healthy part of our food culture here in Scotland, as it is across Europe.
• Laura Stewart is director of the Soil Association Scotland