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Organic food ‘good for you’ says EU

By Laura Crowley , 28-Jul-2008
Last updated on 28-Jul-2008 at 13:22 GMT

The European Commission has launched a campaign to inform consumers of the benefits of organic food and support those involved in the ever-growing organic market.

The promotional campaign focuses on increasing awareness of organic produce among young people to ensure a future market for organic, under its main slogan: “Organic farming: Good for nature, good for you.”

Professionals in the industry can use the slogans for marketing purposes. But despite undertones that imply health benefits from organic produce, the European Commission is denying its support for organic farming over conventional, saying is merely seeking to help the organic sector.

“We are not favouring organic as an alternative to conventional,” Michael Mann, agriculture spokesman for the European Commission, told FoodNavigator.com.

“Merely we are providing the marketing tools to aid progress in the organic industry while helping consumers make their own choices on which products to buy.”

However, Soil Association said the message that organic is good for you and for the planet is more “bold and upfront” than previous information put out to the public.

Promotional campaign

Aside from the main slogan, the Commission has developed a list of slogans and key messages for use by professionals, such as: Organic farming. The natural choice”; “Organic farming. In nature we trust”; “Organic farming. In goodness we trust”; and “Organic products meet consumer demand for authentic, high quality and tasty food”.

It has also announced a competition to develop a new organic faming logo, which will be compulsory on all organic products in Europe from mid-2010, as long as long as at least 95 per cent of the ingredients are organic.

The campaign has been launched within the framework of the European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming, which also sets out 21 initiatives for developing the organic market and improving standards by increasing efficiency and transparency and thereby increasing consumer confidence.

Mariann Fischer Boel, European commissioner for agriculture and rural developments, said: “Consumer demand for organic products is growing, offering business opportunities for all sectors of the food supply chain. In launching this campaign, I call on all stakeholders involved in organic farming to promote the organic idea.”

Already in place is a scheme enabling European countries to offer help to farmers and producers wishing to convert from to organic.

The organic market has been experiencing considerable growth in recent years of between 5 and 30 per cent depending on the country, according to the European Commission.

Demand is driven by an increasing move away from produce grown using pesticides as consumers become more aware of the effects diet can have on their health.
The UK Soil Association, advocates of organic food, expects a healthy 10 per cent growth for sales of organic products this year, which it says if four to five times higher than sales growth for the general food market in a good year.

Organic controversy

As the organic market has seen increasing popularity, scientists have been debating the differences between the health benefits of organic and conventional produce.

For example, in a report published in March, the Organic Center at America's Organic Trade Association argued that organic produce is 25 per cent more nutritious than conventional foodstuffs.

However, only last week, a report by Joseph Rosen, emeritus professor at Rutgers University and scientific advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) disputed claims by a previous study that organic produce is 25 per cent more nutritious than conventional food.

Rosen concluded that conventional products are actually 2 per cent more nutritious than organic varieties.

A review from the British Nutrition Foundation last June said that the overall body of science does not support the view that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.

"Organic farming represents a sustainable method of agriculture that avoids the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and makes use of crop rotation and good animal husbandry to control pests and diseases," wrote BNF's Claire Williamson.

"From a nutritional perspective, there is currently not enough evidence to recommend organic foods over conventionally produced foods."

Meanwhile, Amarjit Sahota, director for the UK's Organic Monitor, said: "Over the last few years, more and more research has shown that there are more vitamins and nutrients in organic food than in conventional food. And there is far more research coming out with this conclusion than vice versa."

In terms of organic farming being better for the planet, the UK government has concluded that organic farming uses 26 per cent less energy than conventional practices.

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