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    Eco-Wealth Leads To Eco-Fraud: But Science Can Help
    By News Staff | January 12th 2012 08:02 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    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. 

    Comments

    I think your whole premise (as stated in your first paragraph) on why people buy organic food is wrong. We don't buy it for purported superior nutritional value (I didn't know there was any), we buy it because we think it tastes better (maybe the jury is still out on that one, maybe not), but perhaps mostly because the level of synthetic pesticide and herbicide residues in non-organic food is, we believe, unacceptably high and extremely detrimental to our health. Some of us also buy organic because it supposedly is more sustainable for the land.
    Apart from that, yes, let's face up to Big Organic, as you encourage. One way we do is by buying at our local Farmers' Market--cheaper than the supermarket non-organic even!

    Hank
     we buy it because we think it tastes better (maybe the jury is still out on that one, maybe not), but perhaps mostly because the level of synthetic pesticide and herbicide residues in non-organic food is, we believe, unacceptably high and extremely detrimental to our health.
    Taste is subjective - placebos work for 25% of people so that's okay, anyone can concede it might taste better to you, though blind taste tests don't show it.  But organic food is not required to use no toxic pesticides, it is required to only use 'organic' ones.  A toxic pest/herbicide is a toxic herb/pesticide.

    What we all agree on is that buying locally gives you a better idea how they grow it and ship it.  While large farmers will sell to anonymous people without any qualms, most people who look you in the eye will not lie; so if you ask, 'were any toxic chemicals, 'natural' or synthetic, sprayed on this food during growth, storage or shipment?' most will not lie to you.  You will also find, uncomfortably, that the vast majority of them do use chemicals - the fact that the PR campaign spins some toxic chemicals as superior than others is evidence of their brilliant (and apparently pervasive) marketing.

    Strychnine is not better for my family but organic farmers use it.

    First, the snarky dismissal of peoples motives for buying organic shows the authors ignorance. Most people buy organic because organic methods are more sustainable and have positive effects on the land. Second, big, industrial agriculture moving into the organic market is the problem. These people are just getting into the market for the higher margins. They mostly sell crap food already so it's not much of a stretch to commit fraud to make a buck.