Recent research, highlighted in Chemistry and Industry magazine, carried out by Dr Maria Amodio and Dr Adel Kader, from the University of California Davies, gives new strenght to the belief that Organically grown Food is Superior
The American researchers discovered that organically grown kiwis had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols - compounds associated with health benefits including reducing cholesterol, improving circulation and preventing cancer.
Writing in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, they said: "All the main mineral constituents were more concentrated in the organic kiwi fruit, which also had higher ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and total polyphenol content, resulting in higher antioxidant activity.
"It is possible that conventional growing practices utilise levels of pesticides that can result in a disruption to phenolic metabolites in the plant that have a protective role in plant defense mechanisms."
The researchers compared organic and non-organic kiwis grown next to each other on a farm in Marysville, California, at the same time. They found levels of sugars and acids were almost identical, so the flavour would be similar.
The organic fruit was darker and had thicker skin - likely to have developed as part of its defense against pests in the absence of pesticides.
It had 17 per cent more polyphenols - antioxidants that reduce the production in the body of harmful chemicals called free radicals. The organic produce was also found to have 14 per cent more vitamin C and greater concentrations of several important minerals such as potassium and calcium.
While DDT is banned for use in this country it is still manufactured here, and then it is shipped to other countries for use in agriculture and mosquito control. DDT makes its way back into this country on the food raised in those countries, or in the livestock that was raised on contaminated feed.
Apart from several health and safety issues there are numerous benefits to both eating organic foods, and to organic gardening. I personally believe that a huge benefit comes from a renewed relationship with nature. Doing your own organic gardening makes this a personal commitment. Gardening is just plain good for the soul. Time spent in the garden is maybe every bit as good a therapy as seeing your therapist." There is nothing quite like getting your hands in the soil for really good "grounding".
In addition to the mental and emotional benefits of growing and eating organic food, there are also the physical benefits. These physical benefits can be boiled down to nutrients present in organic foods that are not in commercial foods and toxins not in organic foods that are present in commercial foods. A recent article in the Journal of Applied Nutrition gave credence to the notion that organic foods have higher nutrient levels that non-organic food. In this study the mineral content of organic apples, pear, potatoes, wheat, and sweet corn were compared to commercial varieties. Overall the organic foods showed much higher levels of nutrient minerals and much lower levels of heavy metals. In fact it was the same result as was noted in the above article mentioned in the Daily Telegraph in March 2007.
Here are a few of the nutrients that were found in higher levels in the organic foods: (Journal of Applied Nutrition)
* Chromium is a micronutrient that is low in Western diets. Its deficiency is associated with the onset of adult diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Chromium was found to be higher in organic foods by an average of 78%.
* Selenium is one of the antioxidant nutrients that protects us from damage by environmental chemicals. It is protective against cancers and heart disease. It was found to be an average of 390% higher in organic foods.
* Calcium, needed for strong bones, averaged 63% higher in organics. You don't need calcium tablets
People who eat a healthy balance of organically grown food have absolutely no need for calcium supplements.
Calcium levels are very carefully regulated by the body. The amount of calcium in the blood stream is within a very narrow range. Most of the calcium is excreted in the urine. The urinary calcium excretion appears to be directly linked to the kind of protein that was taken in . People on a diet of animal protein had a 50% greater excretion than people on a vegetarian diet.
This was a study done at the University of Texas Medical School and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.. There are quite a number of studies that confirm these findings.
* Boron, which has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis (along with calcium), averaged 70% more.
* Lithium, which is used to treat certain types of depression, was 188% higher.
* Magnesium, which reduces mortality from heart attacks, keeps muscles from spasming, and eases the symptoms of PMS, averaged 138% more.
In short, many of the minerals that we often supplement ourselves with are found in much higher levels in organic foods.
Other studies have looked at vitamin levels of food plants treated with certain pesticides. They showed that application of some pesticides would significantly lower the vitamin levels in the plants they were applied to. This is different than the notion that plants raised with chemicals are low in nutrients because the soil is depleted. This shows that chemicals actually reduce the amount of nutrients in plants after application. The nutrients most often affected are vitamin C, beta carotene, and the B vitamins. These nutrients are vitally necessary for the body to withstand the onslaught of chemical toxins. Vitamin C has been well documented by two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling to prevent and treat cancers. Beta carotene has been shown to be a stimulant of the immune system, and is sometimes able to prevent lung cancer.
When they studied organic food for mineral levels, the researchers also looked for the amount of the heavy metals aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury. Aluminum has been implicated for years in the development of Alzheimer's disease. It's content in organic food averaged 40% less that in commercial foods. Lead toxicity, which has been in the new a lot lately, can adversely affect our children's' IQ. It averaged 29% lower in organic foods. Mercury, which can cause neurologic damage, averaged 25% lower in organic foods.
Besides the lower levels of heavy metals, there are the chemical residues themselves. The big question is whether or not the accumulation of pesticide residues in non-organic foods is a real health concern or not. Studies have never been able to conclusively show a direct correlation between residues in food and a decline of human health, but there are numerous problems in doing any such study. The first is that you would need a population of people who are free of chemical residues to compare to, and no one has been able to find such a group. According to an ongoing EPA study of fat samples taken from surgeries and autopsies across the country, we are all loaded with chemical residues. Similar studies done on other countries all show the same results.
The clearest studies that we have about pesticide residues and disease are those looking at breast cancer. In the last few years there have been a series of studies, each building upon the other, looking at the level of DDT, DDE, and PCB in women, They have very clearly shown that chemical residues in the serum and fat cells of women greatly increase the risk of breast cancer. Since breast cancer is a major killer of women in this country it is reasonable to say that avoidance of pesticide residues in food (the only known route of exposure to DDT in this country, since we no longer use it to spray for mosquitoes) could save numerous lives and reduce our health care cost dramatically.
'Natural,' 'free-range' not necessarily organic
If you thought that organic means pesticide-free, you may be surprised to find that's not true.
Pesticides are so pervasive in the air and in our environment that no crop can be declared totally free of synthetic chemicals.
If you buy poultry that's labelled as free-range, you cannot assume that it is also organic. The same holds true for the word "natural." There are currently no standards on the use of the word "natural" when labeling agricultural products.
Tough standards for organic farms
When it comes to organic farming, the existing standard details the agricultural practices that are acceptable on organic farms. Among the substances that are banned from use are:
Synthetic pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides and wood preservatives.
Materials and products produced from genetic engineering.
Synthetic veterinary drugs, including antibiotics and parasiticides.
The standards are maintained by 27 certifying bodies across the country. Each certifying body works with trained independent inspectors who visit each certified organic farm annually to ensure compliance with the standard.
The problem is: Inspectors lack teeth
Under the current guidelines, a farmer has to pay several hundred dollars a year to be certified as an organic grower. Much of that money goes to the inspectors who make sure the organic standards are met. The inspectors might give a couple of days' notice of a visit – or a couple of hours.
The final aspect of the "certified organic" process is the paper trail. Organic farmers are required to keep detailed records.
And if an inspector decides that a particular farm is violating the standard, the inspector can tell the farmer that products produced there won't be allowed to carry the "Certified Organic" label.
There's not much else the inspector can do. No fines. No threat to shut down the farm. No seizing of substandard products – unless the producer is in Quebec or British Columbia, where organic produce is regulated.
However help may be on the way: EU threatens to ban Canadian produce
The industry has been asking for tougher regulations for years. It's about to get them. It took a trade deadline from the European Union to get the Canadian government to commit to a plan to regulate and certify organic foods.
The EU will close its doors to organic produce from Canada on Dec. 31 unless the federal government establishes a national certification program. Canada's biggest organic cash crop is wheat. Half of it is exported to Europe. Most of the rest goes to the United States, which has had government regulations on organic farming for several years.
It's estimated that losing the European market could cost Canada's organic farmers half a billion dollars over the next decade.
Ottawa plans to regulate organic foods
On Sept. 2, 2006, the federal government announced its plan to regulate and certify organic foods.
Instead of more than two dozen bodies overseeing voluntary standards, one body – the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) – would be trusted with the job of ensuring mandatory regulations are followed.
Under the proposed rules, farmers who want their produce to carry the new "Canada organic" label would have to apply in writing for certification. The application must include:
The name of the agricultural product.
The substances used in the production of that product.
The manner in which those substances are used.
A report setting out in detail the methods of production used in the production of the agricultural product and the control mechanisms in place to ensure that those methods comply at all times with the organic standards.
As well, product labels would have to comply with the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and their regulations.
The CFIA is recommending that the existing bodies that currently monitor the voluntary standards be accredited and regulated so that they can govern the proposed new mandatory certification process.
The CFIA has invited the public to comment on the process until the middle of October. If there are no changes, the new regulations would go into effect as soon as they are published in the Canada Gazette – before the end of the year, when the European trade ban would begin.
Guidelines for Healthy Food
So it short , this is what it is all about:
Whatever food you’re looking to eat, whether imported organic or locally grown, from either your local supermarket or a farmer’s market, here are the signs of a high-quality, healthy food:
It’s grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods)
It’s not genetically modified
It contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
It does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
It is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh conventional produce, the latter may be the better option)
It did not come from a factory farm
It is grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
It is grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)