The Soil Association has gone on the defensive after a major new report yesterday said organic food gave consumers no significant health benefits over conventionally produced food.

The organic body said it was “disappointed” with the findings of the year-long study, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency and carried out by researchers from the London School for Hygiene & Tropical Health,

It found that a balanced diet was key to consumers’ health and that it made little difference whether their food was grown organically or not.

The Soil Association has called for further research into the area.

“The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences,” said Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett.

"Although the researchers say that the differences between organic and non-organic food are not 'important', due to the relatively few studies, they report in their analysis that there are higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic compared to non-organic foods.

“Without large-scale, longitudinal research it is difficult to come to far-reaching clear conclusions on this, which was acknowledged by the authors of the FSA review. Also, there is not sufficient research on the long-term effects of pesticides on human health.”