Organics Supporters Disagree

July 30/Hong Kong/South China Morning Post -- The Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre says organic food must be better for humans than conventionally produced food because it is less contaminated by chemicals, despite a recent British study's conclusion that organic food provides no extra significant nutritional benefit.

The independent study, funded by the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, looked into studies comparing the nutritional values of organic and conventionally produced food and found that the results were based on the assumption that eating organic food was beneficial to health. However, the study concluded organic food was "unlikely to be of any public health relevance."

However, resource center director Jonathan Wong Woon-chung said, "We found parallel studies conducted by the European Union, comparing the nutritional content of organic and conventionally produced food more convincing [than the British one]."

"This is because the nutritional values of food depend very much on the farming environment, including fertility of soil and weather," Wong said.

"Simply comparing the nutritional breakdown of organic and inorganic food without looking into their growth background is unreliable."

The resource center is a non-profit, local certification body for organic products.

Wong said the most important reason to eat organic food was not because it had more nutrients but because it contained fewer harmful substances. "Organic farming emphasises sustainability -- no artificial fertilisers and pesticides. This farming rationale minimizes the amount of harmful substances left in the end product." However, he said, "Consumers don't know if the 'organic' products bought in markets are really organic. The Hong Kong government lacks a labelling system for organic food."

All organic food certification in Hong Kong is developed by the private sector.

Legislative councillor Joseph Lee Kwok-lun said legislation on organic food labelling was "out of the government's scope" and suggested public education and the development of manufacturer standards instead.

From the August 3, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition