The research team included co-author Craig Weakley of Small Planet Foods, an active and always constructive member of the Center's scientific advisory committee.
The crops were grown using the same tomato varieties on each of four participating farms. Each farm was operated by experienced producers who have excelled, for many years, in the production of both conventional and organic tomatoes.
Organic fields were farmed in accord with the USDA's National Organic Program rule, and conventional fields were managed using typical and recommended commercial fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. Because of differences in tillage, irrigation, and soil types across the farms, this study's findings cannot be extrapolated beyond these four farms. Still, some interesting and highly significant results emerged.
Quality testing was done on tomatoes after they were heat treated in a microwave, to mimic the impact of tomato processing. The team reported that there were significant differences in a number of quality parameters across growers, but also between the conventional and organic systems. For this reason, results across the four growers could not be pooled to increase the statistical power of tests comparing conventional and organic varieties.
The team reports several significant differences between the conventional and organic processing tomatoes. The organic tomatoes were superior in: brix levels, tritratable acidity, Bostwick consistency, catsup yield, and Hunter b value. The conventional tomatoes were superior in LED color, ascorbic acid, and total phenolics in micro-waved juices. There were no statistically significant differences in sensory color, texture, flavor or overall quality, nor organic and conventional yields.
This study reports two highly significant findings for the processing tomato industry, and consumers and farmers. First, processing tomato yields were basically the same in the organic and conventional production systems on four farms run by seasoned, skilled management teams. Second, the brix levels and soluble solids of the tomatoes were higher in the organic system, which lowers processing costs, reduces energy requirements, increases catsup yield, and likely enhances some flavor attributes.
The authors state that:
"One important result of this work was the finding that the agricultural production system is a critical factor in determining the quality of fruit produced."
But perhaps the most important conclusion from this important study is that:
"The potential exists to affect both positive and negative attributes of fruit quality through a better understanding of the production system, whether it be conventional, organic, or something else."
This is an important message for all farmers, researchers, and consumers, and why The Organic Center is committed to peeling back layers of the onion, toward the goal of figuring out how to grow more nutritious and safer food for all.
Source: D. M. Barrett, et al., "Qualitative and Nutritional Differences in Processing Tomatoes Grown under Commercial Organic and Conventional Production Systems," Journal of Food Science, Vol. 72, No. 9, 2007
Apple Peels Deliver a High Percent of Total Nutrients
Apple peels contain up to 40% of the flavonols in an apple, about a third of the ascorbate/Vitamin C, and one-fifth of total phenolics. When moms peel conventional apples before giving them to their children to reduce pesticide exposures, their kids loose much of the fruit's nutritional benefits. This is one reason the Center stresses the need for consumers to choose organic apples whenever possible for their children.
Plants concentrate polyphenols, many of which are vitamins and antioxidants, in the peel and surface layer of fruits and vegetables because these secondary plant metabolites have two primary jobs - protecting the maturing fruit from the damaging rays of the sun, and warding off or defending against insects and plant pathogens that land on the surface of fruit. Organic farming methods deliver benefits on both fronts - essentially eliminated residues of toxic synthetic pesticides, and increasing average antioxidant content (in the peels and the flesh of fruit).
Mammals exposed to DON exhibit a range of symptoms from GI tract effects, vomiting, feed refusal, and growth retardation. DON can also impair the immune system. This mycotoxin is produced by Fusarium fungi that are common pathogens in wheat and small grain fields. Wet conditions at harvest, high levels of nitrogen fertilizer use, and use of fungicides have been identified as key risk factors for DON contamination.
Source: P.C. Turner, et al., "Urinary Deoxynivalenol is Correlated with Cereal Intake in Individuals from the United Kingdom," Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2008
We found that the frequency of mycotoxins in conventional grains and food was about twice as high as the frequency in organic foods, plus the levels found in conventionally grown foods were, on average, twice as high as in organic foods.
DON is a far bigger problem in E.U. wheat production than in the U.S. because European farmers strive for much higher yields than in the U.S. To protect high-yield wheat crops from intense fungal pressure and quality losses, fungicides are routinely applied to wheat in the E.U.
Scientists in both the E.U. and U.S. have shown in multiple studies that fungicides do not kill all Fusarium fungi, although they do impose minor to major stress on them. Any factor that places a fungal population under stress increases the likelihood of mycotoxin formation.
Plants produce secondary plant metabolites when under stress, many of which are valuable antioxidants for humans. Fungi produce mycotoxins when placed are under stress, some of which are dangerous toxins to mammals, and none of which are nutrients.
It is ironic that applications of fungicides in conventional wheat systems actually increase the risk of mycotoxins, just the opposite of the often-repeated claim that organic foods are more prone to mycotoxin contamination because of the lack of fungicide treatment.
New Link Found Between Animal Stress and Disease Susceptibility
For the first time, Canadian scientists have shown that stressed animals are more susceptible to disease. Surprisingly, this ccommon senseconnection has been difficult to prove.
The team discovered a stress biomarker in cattle and showed that animals under higher levels of stress were more likely to become infected with bovine respiratory disease.
The team reports significant adverse impacts on sperm quality and male reproductive hormone levels among adults who were 1-9 years old at the time of the accident, but essentially no effects among men who were 18-26 years old in 1976.
Just to keep things interesting, the team also reported an increase in sperm quality and motility in the middle group of exposed individuals - those who were 10-17 years old at the time of the accident. Several possible explanations for this ccounterintuitivefinding are presented that relate to the early-life programming of genes responsible for the production of male hormones, genes which in turn govern the health of the male reproductive system later in life.
There are profound scientific, regulatory, food safety, trade, and cultural issues wrapped up in this FDA's decision. For example, the January 12th story in the Washington Post on the release of the final risk assessment notes that FDA scientists found that:
"÷ newborn cattle are often unhealthy, probably because of epigenetic changes. They are usually extremely overweight and have respiratory, gastrointestinal and immune system problems. (Cloned pigs and goats are mostly healthy from the start.)"
As this issue unfolds, remember to use as a resource the Center's April 2007 report on cloning by Jim Riddle entitled "Is the FDA's Cloning Proposal Ready for Prime Time?". This report discusses why epigenetic changes are in fact important in terms of animal health and food safety, and exposes the total lack of a scientific basis for the FDA's standard for judging that a cloned animal is safe to eat - "substantial equivalence" (i.e. the animal "looks" normal).
Our "Critical Issue Report" provides an easy to understand explanation of what the FDA is proposing, the findings in the risk assessment, and why the organic food and farming community is so firmly united in opposition to animal cloning.
New Study in Science Projects that Fish Farms will Drive Some Wild Salmon to Extinction - and FAST
Sea lice that parasitize salmon in fish farms off the coast of British Columbia are moving onto wild fish with devastating consequences. One species, pink salmon, is projected to drop in size by 99% in four salmon generations (just 8 years). The scientists state that:
"These results suggest that salmon farms can cause parasite outbreaks that erode the capacity of a coastal ecosystem to support wild salmon populations."
The $450 million aquaculture industry has challenged the results and, in a radical move, is calling for more research.
In noting that U.S. agriculture has focused on increasing yields to keep food prices down for the last half-century, Pollan writes that "It would be too much to hope those goals [high yields, cheap food] could be achieved without sacrificing at least some of the nutritional quality of our food."
Another passage drives home a point familiar to readers of "The Scoop":
"A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species."
More Worries re Bt Resistance from GM-Corn
For years, farmers planting corn that is genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis toxins have been required by the EPA to plant 20% of each field to conventional corn, to serve as a refuge where insects will not be exposed to Bt. At the insistence of EPA, refuges are required as part of Bt-corn resistance management plans. The hope is that some insects in the refuge will remain susceptible to Bt toxins, and will subsequently find and mate with resistant insects in the 80% of a field planted to Bt-corn. The mating of two such insects will produce offspring still susceptible to Bt, and hence, delay the onset of resistance. So far, the strategy seems to be working.
Purdue entomologists, however, have raised concern about another potential source of Bt resistance -- unwanted
"volunteer" Bt-corn plants that emerge from seed produced the previous year. It turns out that such
volunteer Bt-corn expresses a far lower level of Bt, and hence exposes insects to sub-lethal doses.
This is a perfect prescription for accelerating resistance. The problem is expected to worsen as farmers plant more multi-trait
GM-corn varieties engineered to express two types of Bt toxins, and to be resistant to two types of herbicides.
The 14% Solution
Some studies suggest that as much as 14% of greenhouse gas emissions come from cow flatulence. In an effort to reduce these emissions, Australian scientists are trying to figure out ways to colonize the digestive system of cows with special bacteria found in kangaroos. These bacteria are considered the major reason why kangaroos emit essentially no greenhouse gases.
According to one of the Australian scientists working on this novel approach to curb greenhouse gases, the bacteria from kangaroos, if successfully transplanted to cattle, would also significantly increase feed efficiency.
Scientists in the U.K. Describe Biofuels as a "Scam"
Well-known scientists involved with the Royal Academy of Engineering are describing a plan to promote bioethanol and biodiesel produced from plants as a "scam". The problems with biofuels, according to U.K. scientists, include:
Germany Moving Toward Allowing GMOs in Food Labeled Non-GM
The German government has decided to allow foods containing certain GM additives, or using GM processing aids to be labeled as non-GM, if there is no alternative. This uncharacteristic move has been justified as a way to encourage use of non-GM labels.
Few food companies have chosen to label their food products non-GM, because of the extensive paperwork and documentation required, and the fear that an independent group might find GM-ingredients in a brand name product. This change would take away one major source of industry reticent to label food products as non-GM, but consumer activists have questioned the value of a non-GM label that explicitly allows certain GM-ingredients.
Organic corn is selling for $10.00 to $12.50 per bushel this winter in the Midwest. For most of the last 10 years, conventional corn has sold in the $1.75 to $2.75 per bushel range.
Jon Wheeler, a Washington State dairy farmer, has written several hard-hitting op-eds critical of organic dairy production for papers in the Pacific Northwest. His December 19th piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran under the title "Organic milk production leaves big footprint" and claims that organic dairy production causes a 20% increase in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk produced.
An expanded version ran in the January 11, 2008 edition of The Capital Press under the title "Wake up, America: Milk is milk - and it's safe." The January 11th piece starts with the plea "Wake up, America, before this great country of ours is destroyed÷not by foreign terrorists, but by ignorance amidst our own people." Pretty strong stuff.
Wheeler says that "÷our societal ignorance about agriculture and organic standards has been the cornerstone of organic marketing." In naoth pieces, he asserts that organic dairy farming takes 80% more land. An editorial "Viewpoint" in the December 31, 2007 Feedstuffs ups the ante in asserting that:
"÷.a check of the facts demonstrates that three times as much land is needed for organic than conventional production."
Welcome to the Twilight Zone, where the productivity of organic farm land sinks into the abyss, drawn down by unnamed forces, and conventionally managed cows fly, and rarely fart.
In the face of such nonsense, the best way to respond is to challenge and refute factual assertions that are flat wrong or maliciously misleading. In the open-access media world we live in today, credibility is hard to earn and easily lost.
Wheeler argues that organic dairy farming is harder on the environment, requires 80% more land, and releases 20% more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Really? No data or published science is offered in support of these remarkably specific claims. It is hard to imagine how a thinking person would reach such conclusions given that solid, widely accepted science has shown, repeatedly, that organic farming builds soil organic matter more effectively than conventional farming, sequesters far more carbon, dramatically lowers the amount of nitrous oxide released from over-fertilized fields, uses less energy, does not rely on routine applications of toxic synthetic pesticides, and promotes biodiversity.
Picking up on the biotech industry's campaign theme " milk is milk," Wheeler states that there are no differences between the milk produced on conventional and organic dairies. But many research teams in the U.S. and Europe have found differences, particularly in the levels of heart-healthy fats, and traced the differences to the impact of organic management on dairy cow health and physiology. Plus, USDA data shows that milk from organic farms contains marginally higher levels of protein and some vitamins. While it is wrong to say there are no differences, debate is legitimate, and will go on over the public health significance of the differences.
Both op-eds state that "÷tests ensure that all milk is pesticide and antibiotic free." I suspect the author is not aware of the latest test data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on pesticide residues in milk. USDA tested 788 samples of milk in 2005 and found, on average, residues of more than 2.5 pesticides per sample. Most worrisome are residues of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides and other developmental toxins in nearly half of the samples of conventional milk. (For more details on USDA milk testing for pesticides, see "Pesticides in Milk FAQs").
I wish it were true that conventional milk contains no antibiotics, as Wheeler states. It is true that all milk is tested for antibiotics, and that only milk with residues below government-set standards is marketed, but it is not true that conventional milk is free of antibiotics. It is also worth pointing out that the public health threat posed by antibiotic use on dairy farms, and large-scale confinement chicken and hog farms, stems from the creation of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, not antibiotic residues in milk or meat.
Comparing the environmental "footprint" and greenhouse gas implications of organic and conventional farming is a complicated technical challenge, and an exercise that will likely lead to valuable insights into how dairy farmers of all strips can become more sustainable. But Wheeler is wrong to make it seem that we know enough about the greenhouse gas emissions from either conventional or organic dairy farms to support conclusions that one system is superior to the other. Published, credible research points to several significant differences, some favoring conventional systems, others organic production, but rest assured, the net differences will not come close to 80%.
For citizens and consumers, the important differences between organic and conventional dairy production involve the nutritional quality and safety of milk, especially for pregnant women and children, the health and well being of cows, and impacts on the environment. More research is needed to identify the sources, and quantify the magnitude of these differences, and will over time help consumers better understand the many consequences of an act as simple as reaching for a gallon of milk.
When: Friday, March 14, 2008, 7:30 - 9:30 PM at Natural Products Expo West
Where: Platinum Ballroom, Anaheim Marriott, Anaheim, CA
Join us for the 5th Annual VIP Dinner: "Serious Science, Serious Benefits" and enjoy an informative and lively evening with a welcoming address by world renowned holistic physician and author Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. VIP Dinner Tickets are $175 and include a pass to the Organic Trade Association's 2008 Organic Industry Reception, 6 - 8PM in the Grand Ballroom, Anaheim Marriott, with a Silent Auction to benefit The Organic Center. For OTA members, tickets to the dinner are being offered for $150, a $25 discount.
This is an important annual fundraising gathering for The Organic Center. We welcome organic business leaders, old friends and extend a warm invitation to new friends to gather with us. Come learn about our ongoing efforts to generate credible, peer-reviewed scientific information and communicate the verifiable benefits of organic farming and products to society.
Your company can participate in several ways
To buy tickets, become a sponsor, host a table or donate product please contact, Development Director, at 303.499.1840, Seleyn DeYarus
Chuck will also participate in a workshop entitled "Organic Food and Nutritional Value: Current Research on the Benefits of Organic Eating."
Dr. Benbrook has also been invited to present at a session Thursday afternoon, January 24th from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. entitled "Strategies for Dealing with Food Safety and Environmental Protection." This session will focus on efforts to address E. coli O157 and related food safety challenges in the Salinas Valley and other intensively farmed regions of California.
Chuck will draw on the "Unfinished Business" Critical Issue Report in his presentation.
Core Truths includes facfascinatingsearch about why:
The Organic Center is pleased to announce our new on-line fundraising program - Become a Friend of The Organic Center
We can now accept secure on-line donations with both yearly and monthly giving options. We also have wonderful gifts to say thank you for your support Ů including a free one-year subscription to Organic Gardening magazine, organic t-shirt, organic tote bag, our book, Core Truths and Dr. Alan GreeneŪs new book, Raising Baby Green. We have many ways to say thank you for supporting our work.
The Organic Center announces new fundraising program featuring Jerry Garcia artwork
A new fundraising initiative to benefit the scientific research mission of The Organic Center features a series of prints from Jerry Garcia original artwork. The series, "In the Garden," is made possible through the generosity of filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia.
Five series of high-quality Giclee' prints featuring the artwork of Jerry Garcia will be offered for sale over the next three years through The Organic Center website, www.organic-center.org. Each series will include four to six prints made from original artwork created by Garcia, the late lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead.
The first series of prints, "In the Garden," is now available and includes five prints, each priced at $250. The full series is offered at $1,000. The series includes such works as "Snail Garden," "Another Butterfly," "Beehive," "Banyan Tree II," and "Butterfly Study." Images of the prints can be viewed above with more information available on the Center's website.
"The Scoop," is an electronic newsletter published monthly by The Organic Center. For a free subscription, visit www.organic-center.org.
© 2008, The Organic Center. All rights reserved. Permission for reproduction of these materials for educational purposes will be granted by contacting The Organic Center at email@example.com.
Backed by the world's leading scientists, physicians and scholars, The Organic Center is committed to two goals.
1) RESEARCH: providing free, peer-reviewed, credible science that explores the health and environmental benefits of organic agriculture.
2) EDUCATION: helping people and organizations access and better understand science that sheds light on the organic benefit.
To access free downloads of the latest in organic science, or to Join the Mission, go to: www.organic-center.org.
Managing Director: Steven Hoffman
Development Director: Seleyn DeYarus
TOC Board Chair: Alan Greene, cofco founderrGreene.com
Chair Elect: Michelle Goolsby, Executive Vice President, Chief Counsel, Dean Foods
Treasurer: Mark Retzloff, President, Aurora Organic Dairy
Secretary: Katherine DiMatteo, Senior Associate, Wolf, DiMatteo & Associates
The Organic Center
P.O. Box 20513
Boulder, CO USA 80308