Organic vs Non-Organic with Carlo Leifert – March 2016

Organic vs Non-Organic, is There a Difference?

According to Professor Carlo Leifert, the short answer is YES!

Professor Carlo Leifert on Organic vs Non-Organic

Pictured at the Newcastle University's Nafferton Ecological Farm in Northumberland Prof. Carlo Leifert (Professor of Ecological Farming).
Pic: Mike Urwin. 030714

In this month's training we talk with Professor Carlo Leifert about Organic vs Non-Organic production practices to answer the question; Is there a difference in Organic vs Non-Organic production quality?  There have been a number of studies and findings that say that organic isn't really any better than non-organic but that is NOT what Prof. Leifert and his colleagues have found.  In reviewing 250+ different studies on organic and non-organic production practices, the findings are quite different than we typically hear but should still intuitively know ... there is a difference in health quality of organic products.

This issue goes beyond the organic label to knowing your producer and how they produce their product.  There are a number of producers that raise their products with an 'organic' standard but aren't willing to pay the USDA for an organic label, at least in the US.  In the US, there are many that were Organic before Organic was 'cool' and most of them no longer use the label of Organic because they feel the standard has been lowered to allow broader participation by big industry.  The folks I know tend to use the term bio-dynamicThe label that is used is NOT what is important is the whole point, the point is to know your producer and how they produce the product that you buy from them and do your best to buy local when possible.

What Prof. Leifert and his colleagues have found is that there is a dramatic difference between Organic vs Non-Organic and as producers we need to know what the differences are and be able to incorporate that into our story.  If you are selling direct, your story is what will sell your product the first time and the quality of the product is what makes them buy the second time.

So who is this Professor Carlo Leifert who is not being written about in the US to any degree?

Carlo Leifert has been a Research Development Professor of Ecological Agriculture at Newcastle since 2000 and Director of the Stockbridge Technology Centre Ltd (STC) since 2001. Between 2012 and 2014 he was also Dean for Business Development at Newcastle University. He leads the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG) and currently manages R&D projects focused on

  • applied agronomic R&D to improve quality and safety and reduce costs in sustainable and organic food production systems,
  • interactions between food production methods and food quality (especially nutritional and sensory quality) and safety characteristics and
  • the selection/breeding of crop and livestock varieties suitable for “low input” and organic production systems.

He is a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural science and a member of the academic advisory board of the Thünen Institute (the German Federal Research Institute for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries).

He has successfully coordinated large EU R&D projects under framework 4 (Improbioseed), 5 (BrightMOP) and 6 (QualityLowInputFood) and FP7 (NUE-Crops and LowInputBreeds) and is currently a partner in the FP7 HealthyMinorCereals project.

Between 1999 and 2009 Carlo was a member of TESCO’s Food quality and Safety expert panel and advisory board of Nature’s choice, which is TESCO’s quality assurance auditing system for its global produce supplier base.

Prior to his appointment at Newcastle University he worked as a research manager in a plant biotechnology/breeding company (Neo Plants Ltd. 1986-1990), as technical director of a vegetable production and processing firm (Howegarden Ltd.; 1996-1999) and as a research fellow/lecturer at Manchester (1990-1993) and lecturer/SL at Aberdeen University (1993-2000).

As an apprentice/student he worked on farms in Germany, Greece and Israel and he has a small farm in Crete, Greece producing organic olive oil and herbs.

Research Interests

Organic agricultural systems development (especially horticultural crop production and pig and poultry production systems)
Food microbiology and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems.
Food processing technology (including the development of alternative sanitation strategies to hypochloride)
Crop protection (biological control of diseases and pests; agronomic and physical control methods)
Soil Science and fertility management
Composting technology and quality assurance systems
PCR based GMO-detection methods
Control of gastrointestinal diseases in monogastric farm animals (pigs/poultry)

Reviewer for French National Research Agency Infrastructures.

Professor Leifert is a wealth of valuable information to any consumer or producer of food.  You will learn a lot from this month's training so sign up today and get immediate access.

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