Healthy Organics
Healthy Organic Food Makes a Big Difference

Earthworks Sustainable Research Center will be exploring sustainable agricultural methods using organic methodologies.

We are convinced that a permaculture approach to organic food production is not only healthier, but much more sustainable. We will be testing and evaluating a wide variety of organic agricultural technologies.

Our research has reflected the fact that organic crops, on average, contain higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C, and antioxidant phytonutrients.

Official food composition tables, including data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture, reveal that since the 1940s the mineral levels in fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy have declined substantially in conventional foods. Combine this with earlier (pre-ripened) picking, longer storage, and more processing of crops, and it's not surprising that we may be getting fewer nutrients in our food than we were 60 years ago.

The artificial fertilization associated with conventional crops produces lush growth by swelling produce with more water. On a pound-for-pound basis, organic food has more "dry matter" (i.e. food). Partly because of this (and for other reasons too), there are higher levels of nutrients in organic produce.

Research by American nutritionist Virginia Worthington has confirmed that, based on current dietary patterns, the differences can be enough to help you achieve the recommended daily allowances for certain nutrients that you otherwise may not get.

We can expect also that phytonutrients, many of which are antioxidants involved in the plant's own defense system, will be higher in organic produce because crops rely more on their own defenses in the absence of regular applications of chemical pesticides. Evidence is emerging that confirms this expectation.

Higher levels have so far been found of lycopene in organic tomatoes, polyphenols in organic potatoes, flavonols in organic apples, and resveratrol in organic red wine. A recent review of the subject estimated that organic produce will tend to contain 10-50% higher phytonutrients than conventional produce.

LOWER PESTICIDE RESIDUES

Consuming more organic food certainly isn't the only way to improve one's nutrient intake, but it may be the safest. It's regularly claimed by the mainstream food industry that pesticide residues in foods are known to be safe on the basis of total diet surveys that supposedly find the levels of pesticide residues in our food to be very low and within acceptable safety limits.

But monitoring programs consistently show that around one in three non-organic food samples tested contains a variety of pesticide residues, with far lower levels being found in and on organic produce.

Conventional-food proponents also claim that rigorous safety assessments show that pesticide residues are no threat to human health. Yet consumers intuitively know this is a false assurance.

Most pesticide-residue safety levels are set for individual pesticides, but many samples of fresh produce carry multiple pesticide residues. Rules often do not take into account the "cocktail effect" of combinations of pesticides in and on foods.

Research is emerging confirming the potential for such synergistic increases in toxicity of up to 100-fold, resulting in reproductive, immune and nervous system effects not expected from the individual compounds acting alone.

Israeli researchers have linked symptoms such as headaches, tremor, lack of energy, depression, anxiety, poor memory, dermatitis, convulsions, nausea, indigestion and diarrhea with dietary intakes of pesticides. Belgian research has found that women diagnosed with breast cancer are six to nine times more likely to have the pesticides DDT or hexachlorobenzene in their bloodstreams compared to women who did not have breast cancer.

Hawaiian researchers following 8,000 people for 34 years have found that increasing consumption of conventional fruit and juice (and the pesticide residues they carry) raises the risk of Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Vyvyan Howard, toxic-pathologist at the University of Liverpool, UK, comments on the trend towards organic food on the part of health-minded consumers:

"People are applying the precautionary principle to their own lives by purchasing food that has not been produced by industrial methods. From the simple stance of hazard avoidance, organically produced food is the best option that we have."

The British Medical Association appears to agree:

"Until we have a more complete understanding of pesticide toxicity, the benefit of the doubt should be awarded to protecting the environment, the worker, and the consumer—this precautionary approach is necessary because the data on risk to human health from exposure to pesticides are incomplete."


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