Global sales of all organic foods was recently reported as having reached 97 billion Euros in 2018 1 For example, just in the USA the sales of organic foods, of all types, reached more than 40 billion Euros in the same year. The organic fresh produce market is therefore the fastest growing such markets in world agriculture 2 .
As pointed out by Smith-Spangler and colleagues, 3 although there is some variation throughout the world, in general organic foods are usually grown without artificial or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Also, the routine administration of antibiotics and/or growth stimulating hormones are not used. In addition, regulations governing the production of organic foods dictate that they are processed without recourse to irradiation or chemical food additives and are not grown from genetically modified organisms.
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements states that “the Principles of Health, Ecology, Fairness, and Care are the roots from which organic agriculture grows and develops. They express the contribution that organic agriculture can make to the world, and a vision to improve all agriculture in a global context.” 4
Clearly the production and consumption of organic foods are major economic and nutritional considerations for many industries, organisations and consumers.
Numerous reasons are cited in the contemporary literature to account for this burgeoning consumption of organic food, including the perceived potential harmful effect of what is usually termed chemically grown food, on both the environment and human health5-8 . Some of this reasoning is based on the reported community and consumer beliefs that because of the regulations and practices outlined above, organic foods are more environmentally friendly (9 and healthier 10 than chemically grown foods.
To expand on one particular aspect of the above reasoning, it has been calculated that up to 2.5 million tonnes of active pesticide ingredients are used each year, mainly in agriculture 11. Their residues often take a significant period of time to degrade in the environment thus posing a potential threat to health 12.
However, it has been reported that consumption of organic products greatly reduces the amounts of pesticide residues in the body 13. In this study Curl and co-workers measured urinary dialkylphosphate metabolites (DAPs) in nearly 4500 subjects. DAPs are common by-products of the metabolism of most organophosphate pesticides and are often used as a suitable biomarker for such pesticides. In this large cohort DAP concentrations were significantly lower in groups reporting more frequent consumption of organic produce (p < 0.02).
A key finding in the literature is that there have been many reports of relationships between health consciousness and positive attitudes towards organic foods, as well as a willingness to purchase such foods and the frequency of purchases 14-17. Earlier in 2021 it has been reported that in the last decade 68 countries have totally implemented regulations around the concept of organic agriculture and hence organic food production. A further 17 countries are in the process of implementing appropriate regulations and finally another 18 countries have regulations in a draft form 18.