Doubts raised about organic food
Certified organic food seller Penny Mossop of Wambyn Olive Farm. Picture: Michael Wilson / The West Australian.

Organic food is growing in popularity across Perth's fresh markets but academics say there is little evidence conventionally grown fruit and vegetables are less healthy or nutritious.

A Stanford University report released last week said findings from 237 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in food and humans had revealed there was 30 per cent less chanced of finding pesticide residue in organic produce.

But the differences in risk were small and there was no strong evidence that organic foods were more nutritious or carried fewer health risks.

Organic foods are in high demand in the US and Europe, but at one per cent of Australia's food industry they are still very much a niche market.

Vegetables WA executive officer Jim Turley said unlike many parts of the world, Australian consumers had easy access to high quality, locally produced fruit and vegetables.

Mr Turley said the younger generation of local growers were more environmentally conscious and specialised than their predecessors, leading to greener farming methods and higher quality fresh produce.

But for the privilege of eating foods that are pesticide or artificial fertiliser-free, consumers can pay up to twice as much.

Organic Federation of Australia spokesman Tim Marshall said the Stanford report was not "particularly surprising" and it was hard to make the comparisons the university was attempting.

"We do still believe there are nutritional benefits but it's very, very difficult to make this comparison," he said.

Perth City Farmer's Market nursery and market manager Jane Davis said more people wanted to know where their food came from and how it was produced. She said though organic was popular, so was biodynamic and spray-free fruit and vegetables.

The West Australian

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