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Are Organic Foods More Nutritious than Conventional Foods


									  Are Organic Foods More
Nutritious than Conventional
          Created by Kasey Mixon
           Georgia Agriculture
        Education Curriculum Office
                July, 2003

   Define “organic foods”
   Introduce the issue
   Look at research
   Answer: Why isn’t there
    sufficient research?
   Conclude
                Organic Food

   USDA:
   emphasize use of renewable resources
   conservation of soil and water
   no conventional pesticides, fertilizers with
    synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
   no bioengineering
   no ionizing radiation
            Organic Farming

   been around for decades
   during past decade
    *became fastest growing sector in ag.
    *annual increase = 20% or more
            Organic Agriculture
   controversial claims

   one such claim: organic is more
    nutritious than conventional

   is this true? is there proof?
                 Is This True?
   The Soil Association says so:
        *Vitamin C
        *less water
   That sounds good, doesn’t
               Is There Proof?
   Alex Avery & Dennis Avery (Hudson
    Institute) say:
        *the organic industry is attempting
    to promote their products by degrading
    the foods that “made Americans taller,
    stronger, and longer-lived than any
    people in history” & there just isn’t
    enough evidence to prove their claims.
What Does Research Conclude?

   Virginia Worthington, M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S.,
    examined all of the 41 research studies on
    this issue
   compiled data
   calculated % difference between organic
    and conventional values for 35 vitamins
    and minerals
         Worthington’s Study
 Formula used:
organic value – conventional value
       conventional value            X 100
              Worthington’s Results
   Organic crops were:
       Higher in:
            Vitamin C
            Iron
            Magnesium
            Phosphorus
       Lower in:
            Nitrates
Nutrient Content of Organic Versus Conventional
Crops: Mean % Difference (Worthington, 2001)

      Nutrient            Mean % Difference
      Vitamin C                  +27.0
        Iron                     +21.1
     Magnesium                   +29.3
     Phosphorus                  +13.6
       Nitrates                  -15.1
       Worthington’s Comments
   no extensive research conducted to
    determine what health effects may result
    from the difference in nutrient contents:
        “if people stayed well on an organic
    diet but got violently ill as a result of
    consuming food grown with chemical
    fertilizers, then the difference would be
    perfectly obvious; however, that is not the
         Worthington’s Comments

   more research needed

   great amount of variability in agricultural
       fertilizing methods, sunlight, temperature,
        rainfall, shipping and storage handling
                 More Research
   Consumer Reports – researchers cannot
    give the nutritional edge to either group
       variability in crop or cropping system?
       report included quote from Willie Lockeretz,
        professor at Tufts University School of
        Nutrition and Science Policy: “the growing
        system you use probably does affect nutrition,
        but it does it in a way so complex you might
        be studying the problem forever”
          Organic Farming Research
   the definitive study has not been
   why? too many variables to
   like what?
       crop variety
       time after harvest
       post-harvest handling
       soil type
       climate
             The Soil Association
   Organic foods have higher levels of:
       Vitamin C, minerals, phytonutrients
   less water
   makes a real difference to people’s and
    animal’s health
   good results for alternative cancer
   no proof of research for these claims
      United States Department of
           Agriculture (USDA)
   non committal on the issue
   “USDA makes no claims that organically
    produced food is safer or more nutritious
    than conventionally produced food”
   why? not enough research, most likely
        Other Journal and Magazine
   Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter
    on this issue:
       “no one knows”
       “We just don’t have enough data” Kate
        Clancey, PhD of the Henry Wallace Institute
        for Alternative Agriculture
               Other Articles

   Andrea Chernus, MD, RN, CDN: “there is
    no scientific proof that someone eating a
    well-balanced organic diet is healthier
    than a person eating a well-balanced
    conventional diet”
              Other Articles

   Sir John Krebs, Chair of the United
    Kingdom’s Foods Standards Agency: “the
    current scientific evidence does not show
    that organic food is any safer or more
    nutritious than conventionally produced
               Other Articles

   Journal of Agricultural and Environmental
    Ethics: “under the basic standards of
    organic farming, there is no sufficient
    evidence for a system-related effect on
    product quality due to the production
    method” (Lotter, 2003)
                         Other Articles

   Journal of Sustainable Agriculture:
    “many of the health claims for organic
    products remain unresolved” (Ding, Wang,
    Xie, & Yang, 2003)
        Why Such Little Research?
   several parts to this answer
   organic farming just
    recently experiencing
    significant growth
       Sales:
            1990 - $1 billion
            1996 - $3.3 billion
            2000 - $7.8 billion
   Acreage:
       more than doubled between 1992-
       more than doubled again between

    The following table shows the
      changes by individual years
    US Certified Organic Farmland in
      1,000 of acres (Green & Kremen, 2002)
                                                        %        %        %
                                                        change   change

 Item      1992 1993 1994 1995     1997   2000   2001    92-      97-      00-
                                                         97       01       01

Pasture    532   491   435   279   496    810    1040     7       109      28

Cropland   403   465   557   639   850    1219   1305    111      53        7

Total      935   956   991   918   1357   2029   2344    44       74       16
      Why Such Little Research?

   Increased demand = recognition of a need
    for more research
   What do you need in order to conduct
   FUNDS!
         U.S. Research Funding
   1999 = $1.4 million
   2000 = $3.6 million

   Funding is growing,
    so answers should
      U.S. Research Funding

 2                        $ (millions)
       1999      2000
      Why Such Little Research?

   Such a complex issue with many different
    parts needing to be researched

   Hard to perform a fair comparison and
    analysis between the two systems
   Organic is most likely
    here to stay
   We need answers to
    the many questions
    about it, so….
What Have You Learned –
            What an organic food
             product is
            The issue = organic vs.
             conventional, is there a
             nutritional difference?
            What research says & why
             there is so little
Any Questions?

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