Antioxidant Power to the Organic Consumer…
…by Joska Ramelow
New international study on food quality of ‘organic versus conventional’ casts serious doubts on the recommendations. of the 2009 UK Food Standards Authority (FSA)
The much derided and pooh-poohed question of organically grown fruits and veg being better than conventionally reared produce has last week received a huge boost from academia. An international study led by the Department of Ecological Agriculture at the University of Newcastle (UK) came to the conclusion that organically grown food contains 18-69 % more antioxidants than conventionally produced crops. The same study revealed that contamination levels of heavy metals set by EU standards was on average 50% lower for Cadmium. Pesticide residues showed a staggering 400% decrease in organically produced foods than it’s counterpart produced conventionally on an industrial scale.
“Our results are highly relevant and significant and will help both scientists and consumers sort through the often conflicting information currently available on the nutrient density of organic and conventional plant-based foods.”
“The organic v non-organic debate has rumbled on for decades now but the evidence from this study is overwhelming – that organic food is high in antioxidants and lower in toxic metals and pesticides.”
“But this study should just be a starting point. We have shown without doubt there are composition differences between organic and conventional crops, now there is an urgent need to carry out well-controlled human dietary intervention and cohort studies specifically designed to identify and quantify the health impacts of switching to organic food.”
This story has already made the rounds in many mainstream news outlets including the International Business Times and the English Guardian newspaper.
”Many of these compounds (antioxidants) have previously been linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases, including neuro-degenerative diseases and certain cancers. They act by protecting healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.”
The UK Government reported via it’s FSA agency in 2009 that there were no significant differences in nutritional benefits between the two methods of rearing food, and thus, intimating that it was a wealthy man’s hobby to eat organic.
Now we have another significant shift in opinion in the offing and it can not be emphasised enough that these latest findings are much more significant than the UK’s own FSA studies from 2009. The differences lie in quantity and quality of the research conducted by Newcastle University. The FSA study based it’s findings on 46 studies, that included meat and dairy, whilst the Newcastle study looked at 343 different studies of plant crops alone within the framework of it’s international academic collaboration. The Newcastle study also looked at the data of it’s meta-analysis with more sophisticated techniques of analysis.
The study also tells us that concentrations of total nitrogen were 10 percent, nitrate 30 percent and nitrite 87 percent lower in organic compared to conventional crops.
Many of us have heard of algal blooms and other environmental hazards to do with excessive Nitrates washing out from agro-industrially farmed land seeping into the groundwater, rivers, lakes and oceans. The end result of which is the increased overgrowth in our oceans with red algae and a massive increase in the population of jelly fish that eat this stuff.
To understand what other consequences this has for our ecological balance and human health, particularly babies, the US Environmental Protection Agency holds the following view:
”Although opinions differ, the United States Environmental Protection Agency warns of the danger of nitrites causing methemoglobinemia (Blue Baby Syndrome) in infants and reports that excess nitrates in drinking water “has been linked to cancer and birth defects.” Other possible links, according to a report published in Environmental Health Perspectives (February 2007), include insulin-dependent diabetes, central nervous system malformations, neural tube defects and hyperthyroidism.
Just as excess nitrogen in the body may be harmful, excess soluble nitrogen creates massive problems in the ecosystem. Nitrogen encourages plant growth in water. According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), inorganic nitrogen runoff from agricultural fertilizer is mostly responsible for the eutrophication (increase in chemical nutrients) of an increasing number of lakes and oceans, which leads to harmful algal blooms (HABs), including red tides in the ocean and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in freshwater lakes.”
The same goes for Nitrates.
Children under the age of six months are more prone to developing methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, when consuming high-nitrate water, says Colorado State University. The condition is a form of nitrate poisoning. Nitrates convert to nitrites in the stomach by intestinal bacteria, especially among infants, because their stomach acid is not as strong as adults’. Nitrites alter hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. Hemoglobin changes to methemoglobin, and oxygen can no longer be transported, leading to oxygen deprivation. According to PubMed Health, infants who eat large amounts of vegetables high in nitrates or who are ill are more susceptible to the illness.”
One can clearly see the significance in the finds of the Newcastle study why a lowered content of the chemicals Nitrogen, Nitrate and Nitrites to such a large extent alone is a very desirable fact that clearly pronounces the positive differences between organically raised crops and the conventional methods of farming. What is really marvellous about this study is that for the first time it really tells us something about the positive and health promoting content of food ingredients such as anti-oxidant concentrations together with it’s usual quantitative measurements of chemicals with a negative health impact. Hitherto it was always said that pesticide levels had the greatest impact on people’s health and therefore entered the catalogue of criteria for government sponsored research. It was always the safety question and how much one could get away with. We just saw it in the attempted removal of the safety margins by the EU for the herbicides containing the banned substance neonictoninoid, that destroy bee populations and irrevocably confuse baby’s central nervous systems. Here has been a long standing legal battle between the Bayer company of Germany and several groups from bee keepers to fruit farmers that took the company to court back in 2009. (William Engdahl, ‘Target China’, 2014)
A consortium of big agribusiness companies withdrew an application for a very controversial herbicide recently.
Preposterous verdict of “acceptable” risks for glyphosate
Germany, acting as the European Union rapporteur member state (RMS) submitted their glyphosate renewal assessment report (RAR) to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in January 2014, recommending re-approval of glyphosate for use in Europe with increase in the acceptable daily intake (ADI) from 0.3 to 0.5 mg per kg body weight per day .
EU rapporteur state Germany recommends re-approval with daily intake increased by 67 %; its re-assessment was carried out by Monsanto and a consortium of chemical companies in Europe based almost entirely on studies from industry; it should be rejected outright.
The reader is well advised to take it as a spotlight being cast on a practise that is absolutely routine for lobby groups that tirelessly work governments around the planet without letup. Here we can see how blatantly and forcefully the points are made with a breathtaking nonchalance overriding EU sponsored bee studies, which led to a ban of neonicotinoids in many european contries in first place. The ban in Italy has, according to Engdahls research, led to an increease in bee populations again.
However, here is what the industry sponsored studies reccently suggested to the German geovernment.
”The overall findings of the RAR are that glyphosate poses no unacceptable risks. Glyphosate is not metabolized or accumulated in the body, not genotoxic, not carcinogenic, not endocrine disrupting, and not considered persistent or bioaccumulative; it has no reproductive toxicity, no toxic effects on hormone-producing or hormone-dependent organs, and no unacceptable effect on bees. Therefore any risks are within acceptable standards. The only risks noted were that glyphosate is a severe eye irritant and is persistent in soil.”
This article posted on July 11th is a wake up call for everyone to realize how scientific studies can be selectively interpreted, particularly when the respective industry itself has spayed a bunch of academics to carry out and explain the studies of their own making to the politicians and public alike.
It just goes to show when talking about plant chemicals in agribusinesses, we cannot just look at heavy metals and Nitrates alone, but have to include pesticide residues too. However the quantification of ;like for like’ comparisons is a rather delicate balancing act, since most pesticides conventionally in use are not allowed in organic agriculture.
All this can lead to rather conflicting information and Professor Calo Leifert who has been at the helm of the Newcastle study mentioned that there is confusing and conflicting data out there regarding the quality of food we eat.
“This study demonstrates that choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals. This constitutes an important addition to the information currently available to consumers which until now has been confusing and in many cases is conflicting.”
The articles that appeared in the mainstream and alternative news outlets all seem to agree with Professor Leifert and his colleagues that there is now a clear study out there that for the first time pronounces food grown according to organic principles and standards provides superior quality of nutrition and vastly decreased hazards for human health, particularly our offspring. In conclusion the Newcastle study is definitely a big step in the right direction for the health and well being of all consumers up and down the country.