No, organic is not necessarily cheaper in the supermarket

Everyone is getting up for the organic! French production has doubled in five years and products labeled AB now represent 5% of the French food budget. Thanks in part to mass distribution, which made it more visible and today represents half of the market. But is it still advantageous to buy organic products in supermarkets? No, reveals “What to choose” in its September 2019 issue, which appears on newsstands this Thursday, August 22.

The association has indeed compared the prices charged in 712 stores specializing in organic products and on the sites of 3,350 supermarkets, for an organic basket comprising 39 products. “Reflecting the purchases of the French” : fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, groceries …

The result: large-scale distribution offers an organic basket that is less expensive overall, managing, better than organic stores, to negotiate large volumes, to stock them, and to play on promotions. This basket thus amounts to 133 euros against 169 in specialized stores. Leclerc is proving to be the most competitive chain in large and medium-sized stores (GMS) (127 euros per basket), followed by Carrefour (131 euros), and Casino comes last with a basket of 163 euros. Among the organic brands, Satoriz offers the lowest prices with a basket of 167 euros, followed by Biocoop, L’eau vive and Naturé (167 euros), when this one reaches a record at Bio c’Bon (178 euros) .

“Excessive margin”

So much for the general view. But it has some exceptions. Thus, there is one type of product for which specialized brands are more competitive: fruits and vegetables. In this case, the basket amounts to 25 euros in organic stores against 31 euros in supermarkets.

Why such a gap? The fragility of vegetable products, the low number of small suppliers with which to negotiate, the lack of labeled products in the face of the need for large volumes… All this works against supermarkets and hypermarkets and contributes to bidding up prices on the stalls. But it is not the only reason.

Because the UFC-Que Choisir survey shows unvarnished that the mass distribution “An excessive margin” on fruits and vegetables – a situation that the association had already denounced two years ago. The gross margin – which the distributor pockets when he has paid his supplier – is certainly always higher on fruits and vegetables than on other foodstuffs, but “She explodes” in organic. So much so that the survey speaks of a ” organic margin “.

For example, each kilo of organic golden apples will have, on average, an additional margin of 1.30 euros compared to one kilo of non-organic golden apples (more than a third of the price!). For all the fruits and vegetables during an average year of consumption by a French family, this makes a significant difference: 114 euros.

Don’t just look at the price

This ” organic margin Is on average 75% higher than conventional foodstuffs, but this may vary depending on the season and strategy. Less on certain products such as melon (+ 22%), it literally flies away on others, such as the golden apple: + 149%!

The price criterion should however be handled with caution, warns the UFC-Que Choisir, if we do not want the organic sector to suffer the price war that rules in the conventional. Because this war risks betraying the “organic spirit”, as the recent debate on cultivation in heated greenhouses has shown: until the decision of July 11 to supervise production, they made it possible to offer organic whole. year round, ignoring the seasons and at the cost of a disastrous carbon footprint. From 2025, they must be supplied with renewable energy and production cannot be marketed before April 30.

Should organic tomatoes grown in a heated greenhouse have been banned?

This battle over labels is also likely to put producers and processors in difficulty, who today claim to be ” under pressure “, but still in a strong position. A producer of jams thus observes in “What to choose”: “There is a war between GMS [grandes et moyennes surfaces] and traditional distributors, and we’re stuck in between. Supermarkets do not want to make organic more accessible, but more competitive. The price levels are still correct but, by dint of looking for organic at all costs, they will end up importing it. The risk is to have industrial bio that comes from afar. “

Some brands want to be reassuring, playing on the overbidding of commitments: Carrefour Bio ensures the 100% French origin of organic fruits, vegetables and chickens, Casino does away with palm oil… Not enough to convince Sophie Lakhdar, President of Bio Consom ‘ actors: “If volume is needed, and therefore yield, production is traced to conventional methods, which is total nonsense”, she insists in “What to choose”. The study does not say whether the organic consumer is necessarily a responsible consumer …

Traces of pesticides on our plate

Consuming a conventional diet (that is to say non-organic) is to expose yourself to the risk of consuming pesticides. A risk that is not totally non-existent in organic, but beyond measure. The UFC-Que Choisir had the contaminants analyzed on six foodstuffs.

On the potato side for example, the consumer association reveals the presence of chlorpropham residues, used for preservation during storage, in five brands out of thirteen tested, including one organic: Pom’Alliance (Monoprix, organic), Princesse Amandine , Lidl Market side, Intermarché My pleasure market, Carrefour, Our Garden brand. The last three, as well as the Mark Bio village potatoes also contain a heavy metal, cadmium.

On the lens side, residues of glufosinate (probable reprotoxic, banned in France but not throughout Europe), or deltamethrin (endocrine disruptor), or carbendazim (mutagenic and reprotoxic), were identified in five of the fourteen brands analyzed. . Clementines, endives and pineapples have also been tested and the results are no better. The only good news: no drug or pesticide residues in the fifteen milks analyzed, organic or not.

Should we be alarmed by the presence of these residues on our plate? If we are not yet certain of their toxicity to human health, “The body of evidence grows”, alert the UFC. The study published in the “Journal of the American medical association” (JAMA) at the end of 2018, which covered nearly 69,000 adults for 4.5 years, thus showed “That a diet rich in organic foods is associated with a significant drop in the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). “ Another epidemiological study, published in 2014 on 600,000 British women had already observed a lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma in organic consumers.

Finally, a study, published in 2018 under the direction of Laurence Gamet-Payrastre, analyzes the effect of a set of six pesticides used for apples on mice. Result: “The active substances, each present in amounts which are not toxic to health, can induce a deleterious effect when mixed”, explains the researcher in “What to choose”. A “cocktail effect” that is never taken into account in the marketing authorizations for pesticides … A word of advice, however: better to eat conventional fruits and vegetables than not at all!

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