These are good times for those who grow and sell organic foods. But there may be trouble in paradise.
Prompted by a quest for safer, healthier diets and a cleaner environment, more American consumers are buying the bountiful harvests of organic farmers. Last year, U.S. spending on organic foods reached close to $10.4 billion, making this the fastest-growing segment of the American food industry. Amid scares over mad cow disease, mercury in fish and produce tainted with harmful bacteria, new customers are joining existing ones in embracing organic foods as a sanctuary from harm and a surer route to long life and good health.
But as organic products â€” and their claims to superiority â€” have grown more common, scientists, policy analysts and some consumers have begun to ask for proof. Where's the evidence, they ask, for the widespread belief that organic foods are safer and more nutritious than those raised by conventional farming methods?
The short answer, food safety and nutrition scientists say, is that such proof does not exist.