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Organic vegetablesWhat is organic food? Organic food is produced according to a set of principles and standards concerning such issues as pesticides, additives, animal welfare and sustainability. There are different forms of organic, some stricter than others. Is organic food 'better'? Many people turn to organic food because of concerns about pesticides. Around 350 pesticides are permitted in conventional farming and the Soil Association says an estimated 4.5billion litres of them are used annually. While there are Government rules for pesticide residues, they still end up in our food and nobody knows the long-term implications of their combined effect. Does organic food taste better? The best organic producers are committed to quality and their food is outstanding, but carefully produced conventionally grown food may well taste better than mass-produced organic imports. Unanswered questions Some people who turn to organic food have an almost blind belief in its superiority - even believing it is intrinsically 'healthier'. Organic farmers and food producers command a higher price because of the label and not necessarily because their produce is well-made and tasty. Some conventional growers say their hi-tech pest control and animal medication is better than the low-tech methods used in organic farming, and that in livestock farming this has implications for animal welfare. As organic food becomes big business, some of its green credentials can become diluted. Take air miles. While the Government aims to make 70 percent of organic food sold in England home-grown by 2010, around 70 percent of organic food sold in UK supermarkets is currently imported. As a broad response to such questions, organic systems offer a guarantee of standards. It is then up to the consumer to decide what is 'good' and what is 'less good'. From a farmer's perspective, to go organic is not an easy option. It is likely that most organic producers are part of the movement in the true spirit of sustainability and good food. If you shop directly from producers it helps you work out who you trust. Why does organic food cost more? Organic production is slower, more labour intensive and generally has lower yields than conventional methods. A Morgan Stanley study this year showed organic food could be up to 63 percent more expensive, but the premium is usually lower, especially if you are buying local, seasonal food directly from the producer. Furthermore, Government subsidies have focused on mainstream farming, artificially lowering the price of conventional foods. We still pay for pollution, through our taxes and higher water bills rather than at the checkout. (BBC- FOOD)

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