Rightly or wrongly, the marketing campaign for organic food has worked. People have demonstrated that they will overpay for organic food despite their being no difference in nutritional value, the same way they will pay for homeopathy or magic crystals.
But the billions that the organic food industry now generates means there is ample opportunity for fraud - and that's just wrong. If you go into Whole Foods to spend your Whole Paycheck, you should at least be assured the country of origin is what they say it is.
A European research project is developing methods capable of determining both the geographical origin of a food product and whether or not it is organic - not organic in the science sense, obviously all food is organic in the science sense, but organic in the sense that it only used organic toxic pesticides rather than synthetic toxic pesticides.
AuthenticFood is a new European research project headed by researchers from the Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen. It brings together researchers from 11 European countries to develop reliable analysis methods they hope will determine the geographical origins of food products and whether or not it was actually grown the way it is claimed to be grown.
"Nowadays, consumers are very interested in the origins of food products and if they are what they claim to be, e.g. whether they are organic. Responsible food producers are therefore extremely keen to ensure that consumers can trust their products," says Project Manager and Professor Søren Husted from the University of Copenhagen. "Our results will undoubtedly increase the credibility of organic production and thus prevent future eco-scams."
More credibility would be good. Right now organic farmers just pay a fee and fill out some paperwork. It isn't like Big Organic is sending out inspectors to confirm any of this and since the FDA does not recognize any difference in organic food other than slight changes in the growing process (and the list of inorganic ingredients allowed in 'organic' food is quite long) they aren't spending much time verifying organic growers either. Science could make that possible by analyzing the chemical composition of fruits and vegetables and detecting trace differences between conventional and organic growing methods.
The kinds of pesticides used and the geographical differences in soil characteristics leave 'fingerprints' which can be measured on the food by the researchers. Funded by CORE Organic II, the project will run for the next three years as a part of the FP7 ERA-NET project: "Coordination of European Transnational Research in Organic Food and Farming Systems". It has 16 partners from 11 EU countries.
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