Margaret Wente's opinion that organic food is not safer or more nutritious (Tastes good, but better for us? No – July 11) ignores mounting scientific findings that organic foods do contain more nutrients. Research also shows that the nutritional advantage increases over time when soil is managed organically. Just of few of these research findings are listed below.
The fact that Wente finds a variety of colourful carrots at her farmers market would indicate that organic farmers are bringing back some of the hundreds of vegetable varieties that have disappeared in the last century.
Organic farmers are also bringing soil back to life. At last count, in 2007, Canada had 3,782 certified organic farms -- that’s 1,374,536 acres -- an increase of more than 100 per cent in ten years. Changing to organic methods means farmers can increase income and stop exposure to costly and persistent toxic chemicals. After the first three years of transition, organic farmers find their soil fertility has improved to such an extent that their crop yields match or better those of conventional farmers. Over time, conventional farms lose fertility, and need to increase application of fossil fuel fertilizers, while organic farming methods build fertility by maximizing biological soil activity.
Wente misses the significant point that the fossil fuels are a finite resource that throw soil life and aquatic life dangerously off balance. Ongoing organic research is actively developing more effective agricultural systems that support soil life, rather than relying on dwindling sources of fertilizer.
It is worth noting that the Canadian Cancer Society held a scientific conference last November exploring the connection between agricultural pesticide use and cancer, probably an indication of some concern in medical circles
Matthew Holmes, managing director
Organic Trade Association in Canada
* Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 56, July 1, 2008.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory and at Rutgers University found organic blueberries had significantly higher fructose and glucose levels, malic acid, total phenolics, total anthocyanins and antioxidant activity than fruit grown using conventional methods.
* A report by The Organic Center and professors from the University of Florida Department of Horticulture and Washington State University provides evidence that organic foods contain, on average, 25 percent higher concentration of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts. The report was based on estimated differences in nutrient levels across 236 comparisons of organically and conventionally grown foods.
* The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001, “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains,” by certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington: Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, significantly more of several nutrients were found in organic crops. These included: 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus. In addition, organic products had 15.1% less nitrates than conventional counterparts. Worthington also noted that five servings of organic vegetables (lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes and cabbage) provided the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for men and women, while their conventional counterparts did not.
•Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 23, 2007: Research at the University of California-Davis compared levels of key flavonoids in tomatoes harvested over a ten-year period from two matched fields—one farmed organically and the other with conventional methods including commercial fertilizers. They found that flavonoids levels increase over time in crops grown in organically farmed fields, but did not vary significantly in conventional treatments. Study results found that organic tomatoes contain on average 79 and 97 percent more quercetin and kaempferol aglycones (beneficial flavonoids) than conventionally grown counterparts.