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Forum Nutr. 2005;(57):62-72.

Organic foods: do they have a role?

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Institut für Organischen Landbau, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


Nutritional quality is defined as the value of the product for the consumer's physical health, growth, development, reproduction and psychological or emotional well-being. This extended definition of nutritional quality can be divided into two terms. One term is for the effects of food determined by its substance, i.e., the sum of all ingredients, beneficial and harmful compounds and their nutritional (or biological) aspects. As a function of inherent inconsistencies ranging from soil and climate differences to effects of cultivars, seasons and agricultural practices, differences in desirable ingredients are less pronounced compared with undesirable ingredients. Where differences are detected, the higher product quality is mostly found in organic produce. A potential advantage of organic agriculture in producing healthy foods is based on higher concentrations of beneficial secondary plant substances in organically grown crops compared to nonorganically grown crops. The second term of nutritional quality covers the feelings of well-being (or indisposition) that certain foods can induce in consumers. Organic agriculture has been confirmed as environmentally sound and more sustainable than mainstream agriculture. Related to this knowledge, the consumer's well-being is based on indulgence and the certainty that by purchasing, eating and enjoying organic food, one has contributed to a better future and an improved environment. These effects with their social implications along with improved animal welfare may, in the end, be more important than any measurable contribution of balanced Western diets to individual nutritional health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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