Organic Food: healthier, more nutritious and sustainable according to a report from the European Parliament.

The European Parliament has published a report in December 2016 detailing the consequences of organic food and organic farming on our health.

The study is prepared by the Science and Technology Panel of the European Parliament and analyzes the current scientific evidence on all kinds of issues related to organic food, organic farming and health, such as:

ºº Studies on human health of organic foods> epidemiological studies, effects of a diet based on organic products on allergies and immunological diseases, comparative clinical studies between organic and conventional foods, effect of pesticides present in food on health, conclusions.

ºº Studies on the consumption of organic food and sustainable diets> environmental sustainability of organic food, potential of organic production for a more sustainable diet, conclusions.

ºº Experimental in vitro studies carried out on animals> on the immune system, fertility and health effects, conclusions.

ºº Pesticides> exposure to pesticides of producers and consumers, health effects, conclusions.

organic food ºº Crop composition and production system> fertilization in conventional agriculture and its effects, concentrations of vitamins, phenols and toxic metals, conclusions.

ºº Foods of animal origin> How feeding affects the animal, effects on the composition of food of animal origin, conclusions.

ºº Bacteria resistant to antibiotics> use of antibiotics in animal production, resistance to antibiotics and threats to human health, conclusions.

This report prepared by the European Parliament has not only sought to investigate which food, organic or conventional, is healthier, but also which production system is more sustainable.

The report offers data as interesting as that organic food could reduce the risk of allergies or obesity, since, in general, consumers of organic products are more aware of the importance of eating a good diet to maintain health and usually carry out a healthier diet.

When a comparison of the nutrients of organic food and conventional food is made, the following data is obtained:

  • Organic foods have higher vitamin C content
  • Organic foods have a higher content of vitamin E
  • Organic foods have a higher content of vitamin A (β-carotenes)
  • Organic foods have a higher content of phenols, substances that play a very important role in the prevention of diseases such as cardiovascular, neurodegenerative or cancer.
  • Conventional foods have a higher content of toxic metals such as cadmium.
  • Organic foods of animal origin have higher omega 3 content
  • Conventional foods that come from animal production develop bacteria resistant to antibiotics (restricted in organic production). The use of antibiotics in conventional animal husbandry represents a concern for the European Parliament and the WHO because they interfere with medical treatments in people and create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is considered a public health risk.

On the other hand, epidemiological studies on the effect of pesticides such as insecticides and pesticides , which are restricted in organic farming but not in conventional farming, point out the negative effects of phytosanitary products on the development of cognitive functions (memory, attention, planning , learning, orientation, language, reasoning …) of children according to current levels of exposure to these chemicals. These serious risks can be minimized with the consumption of organic food, especially during pregnancy and childhood.

organic fruit

As for crops from organic farming and those from agriculture based on pesticides, it is known that there are differences in the composition of one and the other. Other organic products of animal origin, such as milk and meat, have a higher content of Omega 3 essential fatty acids compared to those that come from conventional livestock.

Another parameter that has been studied when comparing organic crops with conventional ones is cadmium (mentioned above). This toxic metal is found in higher quantities in conventional crops due to the use of manures and synthetic fertilizers. Cadmium accumulates in the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, causing all kinds of adverse health effects:

  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Problems during growth
  • Bone abnormalities (osteoporosis, osteomalacia)
  • Kidney damage
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Pulmonary emphysema
  • Infertility
  • Central nervous system damage
  • DNA damage
  • Immune system damage
  • Cancer development.

But in addition, cadmium can accumulate in natural ecosystems, mainly in rivers and soils where it is absorbed by plants and animals that live in these environments and from there pass into the food chain. Another great damage of cadmium is the damage caused in beneficial microorganisms of the soil for the fertility of the earth and of the worms. For this reason, the use of synthetic fertilizers in conventional agriculture is associated with the impoverishment of organic matter in the soils and their low fertility .

Recall that in the European Union there are 389 substances approved for use in conventional agriculture compared to 35 for use in organic farming. According to EFSA, of these substances there are 28 that are categorized as carcinogenic, 2 categorized as DNA mutagenic agents, 28 are toxic to the reproductive system and 5 are endocrine disruptors, all of them are currently used in conventional agriculture but not in organic farming.

The agroecological perspective on how to prevent and combat pests and diseases in food production reduces exposure to these toxins for both producers and consumers and this also reverts to lower public spending to address health problems caused by pesticides from conventional production.

The objective of this research is to open access to current knowledge about organic food and organic production and how they contribute to improving human and environmental health.




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