Are Organic Foods More Nutritious than Conventional Foods? Created by Kasey Mixon Georgia Agriculture Education Curriculum Office July, 2003 Objectives 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 *minerals *phytonutrients *less water That sounds good, doesn’t it? 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 case” Worthington’s Comments more research needed great amount of variability in agricultural measurements 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 Foundation the definitive study has not been done why? too many variables to control 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 therapies 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 Articles 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 food” 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 Growth Acreage: more than doubled between 1992- 1997 more than doubled again between 1997-2001 The following table shows the changes by individual years US Certified Organic Farmland in 1,000 of acres (Green & Kremen, 2002) % % % change 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 research? FUNDS! U.S. Research Funding 1999 = $1.4 million 2000 = $3.6 million Funding is growing, so answers should come U.S. Research Funding 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 $ (millions) 1.5 1 0.5 0 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 SO…. Organic is most likely here to stay We need answers to the many questions about it, so…. MORE RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE CONDUCTED! What Have You Learned – Hopefully? 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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