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Monday, January 17, 2011

Why organic food is better? Ten Reasons

By Guy Dauncey
1. Organic farming is better for wildlife
A report by Britain’s Soil Association shows that wildlife is
substantially richer and more varied on organic than on
conventional farms. A typical organic field has five times as many
wild plants, 57% more species, and 44%
more birds in cultivated areas than a
regular farm
that organic farms have twice as many
skylarks, and twice as many butterflies
Every time we eat an organic lettuce or
tomato, we help restore wildlife.
1. Two 1996 studies show2.
2. Organic farming is better for
the soil
Studies show that organic fields have
deeper vegetation, more weed cover, and
contain 88% more ‘epigeal arthropods’
(squiggly soil creatures)
study demonstrates that organic soils
have more soil microbes, more
mycorrhizae – the fungi that attach
themselves to the tips of plant roots and
help plants absorb nutrients - and more
are twice as abundant and more diverse
in organic plots, including pest-eating
spiders and beetles.
3. A new Swiss4. It found that soil insects
Organic food is better for animal reproduction
Out of 14 animal studies, ten showed that animals fare better when
fed organic food. Three showed no difference, and one showed an
improvement with conventional food. We are all mammals, so we
share a lot in common. Female rabbits fed on organic food have
twice the level of ovum production; chickens fed on organic food
have a 28% higher rate of egg production. Rabbits that were fed
conventional food saw a decline in fertility over three
generations, compared to no decline for organically fed rabbits
Meanwhile, many human couples find it hard to have a baby….
4. Organic food helps fight cancer, stroke and heart
In a recent study, Scottish scientists found that organic vegetable
soups contain almost six times as much salicylic acid as nonorganic
vegetable soups. Eleven brands of organic soup had 117
nanograms per gram, versus just 20 nanograms in 24 types of
non-organic soup
aspirin; it helps fight hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer,
and is produced naturally in plants as a defence against stress and
disease. If plants don’t have to resist bugs because of pesticideuse,
they generate less salicylic acid, and pass less on to us. The
same scientists found significantly higher concentrations of
salicylic acid in the blood of vegetarian Buddhist monks,
compared with meat-eaters.
6. Salicylic acid is the main ingredient in
5. Organic food contains more nutrients
According to a recent study by the Globe and Mail and CTV News
of the nutrient quality of fruit and vegetables, compared to 50
years ago, today’s regular fruit and vegetables contain
dramatically less vitamins and minerals
lost 100% of its vitamin A, 57% of its vitamin C and iron, 28% of
its calcium, 50% of its riboflavin, and 18% of its thiamin. Out of
seven key nutrients studied, only niacin levels increased. Similar
results applied to 24 other fruits and
vegetables. For broccoli, all seven nutrients
fell, including a 63% decrease in calcium and
a 34% decrease in iron. No wonder we are
gulping down the supplements.
In April 2001, however, a US study examined
41 comparisons of the nutrient levels in
organic and regular foods. In every case, the
organic crops had higher nutrient levels -
27% more vitamin C, 29% more iron, 14%
more phosphorus
of the American Chemical Society, a
chemistry professor reported that organic
oranges contained up to 30% more vitamin C
than regular oranges, even though they are
half the size
fed nitrogen fertilizer, causing the fruit to
absorb more water, which makes them
bigger.) In a French study, a cancer specialist
studying the nutrient qualities of food grown
in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of
France showed that for the twelve foods
where his study is complete, the organic
foods showed increased quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and the B
group, increased elements such as zinc, increased minerals such as
calcium, and increased fibre
7. The average potato has8. At the June 2001 meeting9. (Conventional orange trees are10.
6. Organic apples are …. just better!
From 1994 to 1999, a soil scientist at Washington State
University ran a series of tests comparing apple orchards. The
organic orchard had the best soil, held water better, and resisted
soil damage better. It was more energy efficient, and required less
labour and less water per apple. The organic apples were firmer,
tasted sweeter and were less tart to a non-expert panel. The organic
orchard also made more money, since the apples sold for a higher
organic apple. Contact Harry Burton, 250-653-2007).
11. (The Salt Spring Apple Festival is on Sunday Septemberth, with 14 orchards open to the public, and 350 varieties of
7. Organic farming can feed the world
In a 2002 Greenpeace report, the authors found that organic and
agro-ecological methods of growing in the Southern hemisphere
produced a dramatic increase in yields, as well as reduced pests
and diseases, greater crop diversity, and improved nutritional
content. In the Tigray, Ethiopia, organic crops raised 3-5 times
more food than chemically treated plots; in Brazil, maize yields
increased by 20 – 250%; in Peru, uplands crop yields increased
by 150%
In 1998, the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania,
published the results of a 15-year study that compared 3 ways of
growing maize and soybeans – a conventional chemical rotation
method, an organic system involving crop rotation and legume
crops, and an organic system using cow
manure. The yields were similar for all three
systems, debunking the myth that organic
methods cannot feed the world
an experiment run at Broadbalk by the
Rothamsted Experimental Station for 150
years has shown that wheat yields on
manured plots average 3.45 tonnes per
hectare, compared to 3.40 tonnes on the
chemically fertilized plots
A recently completed 21-year Swiss study,
on the other hand, showed that organic
yields were 20% smaller than conventional
yields. The organic plots required 34% to
53% less fertilizer and energy and 97% less
pesticide, however, and produced more food per unit of energy
and fertilizer. The soil microbes, flora, fauna and soil fertility also
increased, leading the study’s authors to conclude that the ecological
benefits of organic farming make up for the reduced
12.13. In Britain,14.15.
8. Organic farming protects the climate
Organic soil is full of living creatures, which carry carbon. In the
Rodale experiment, the organically managed plot stored much
more carbon than the conventional plot. In the Broadbalk
experiment, soil fertility increased by 120% in the manured plots,
versus 20% in the chemical plots. The same results occurred in the
Swiss experiment. A study in California’s Central Valley showed
that as well as producing similar yields and suffering similar pest
damage, organically managed fields produced 28% more organic
carbon. By storing more carbon in the soil, organic farmers help
to stop global climate change.
9. Organic farming produces higher yields in drought
In a review of comparative studies of grain and soybean
production in the US Midwest, organic growers produced higher
yields in drier climates and during droughts (and similar yields
in regular conditions)
Rodale experiment. Organic matter makes the soil less compact
and more moisture retentive, allowing the roots to penetrate more
deeply to find water.
16. The same results were found in the
10. Organic food is safer
Organic farming generates more jobs, produces more profits, and
doesn’t pollute groundwater with nitrogen run-off. It also avoids
all the risks associated with GM crops. But let’s finish with the
reason why many people start eating organic food – because they
believe it is safer. Farmers in Canada, Kansas and Nebraska who
use the pesticide 2,4-D suffer a higher rate of non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma (a cancer). The same applies to dogs which play on
lawns that have been sprayed. In Sweden, exposure to phenoxy
herbicides has been shown to increase the risk of contracting
lymphomas six-fold
cancer) are highest in rural farming areas
Migrant farmworkers suffer an abnormally high rate of multiple
myeloma, stomach, prostate and testicular cancer
farming carries none of these risks.
There is a strong association between breast cancer and exposure
to chemical pesticides. Atrazine, a common ingredient in
pesticides, causes breast cancer in rats, chromosomal breakdown
in the ovaries of hamsters
Finnish study showed that women whose breasts stored the
highest levels of a lindane-like residue were ten times more likely
to have breast cancer than women with lower levels
a pesticide).
We can end all this by shifting to organic food. We can be
healthier. Our children can be healthier. Our farmers and farm
workers can be healthier. Frogs, worms, butterflies, skylarks and
the soil itself can be healthier. All that it takes is to turn away
from chemically grown food, and embrace
organic food.
Guy Dauncey is the author of
Stories from a Sustainable World
short stories) and
Solutions to Global Climate Change
Nautilus Award at the New York Book Expo (New
Society Publishers). He lives in Victoria.
This article originally appeared in
Ground Magazine
to photocopy and distribute.
17. In the US, the death rates from myeloma (a18. And so it goes on.19. Organic20, and hind-limb deformities in frogs. A21. (Lindane isEarthfuture:(ecotopianStormy Weather: 101, winner of aCommon, August 2002. Please feel free
Organic Food Resources
Blue Moon Organics (Port Moody, Pitt Meadows):
Canadian Organic Growers: www.cog.ca
City Farmer (Vancouver): www.cityfarmer.org
FarmFolk/CityFolk: www.ffcf.bc.ca
Greater Victoria Organic Food Guide:
Organics@Home (Vancouver): www.OrganicsAtHome.com
Rodale Institute: www.rodaleinstitute.org
Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) (Vancouver): www.spud.ca
South Island Organic Growers Association: www.siopa.org
Willing Workers on Organic Farms: www.wwoofusa.com/canada
New Scientist, June 3, 2000. www.soilassociation.org
Ecology and Farming Magazine, IFOAM, Sept/Dec 1996
Ecology and Farming Magazine, IFOAM, Sept/Dec 1996
BBC News, May 30th 2002. Study by Paul Mader
Virginia Worthington, Alternative Therapies, 1998:4.
‘Effect of Agricultural Methods on Nutritional Quality’ by Dr.
New Scientist, March 14th, 2002
Globe and Mail, July 6th, 2002
Vegetables and Grains. Journal of Alternative and Complementary
Medicine, by Dr. Virginia Worthington. Vol 7, No 2, 2001.
Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits,
Kirksville, Mo. American Chemical Society, June 2, 2002
Research by Professor Theo Clark, Truman State University,
Reported in the newspaper ‘Ouest-France’, August 16th 2001
New Scientist, April 18th 2001
Greenpeace, 2002. www.farmingsolutions.org
The Real Green Revolution’ by N. Parrott and T. Marsden.
Drinkwater, Wagoner and Sarronio, Nature 396, (1998).
Vasilikiotis, Ph.D.
“Can Organic Farming Feed the World?” by Christos
See Note 5
See Note 13
‘Living Downstream’, by Sandra Steingraber, page 52.
Steingraber, page 64.
Steingraber, page 65.
Steingraber, page 162.21 Steingraber, page 11.

What is behind an organic label?

The label. An organic label indicates that a product has been certified against specific organic standards. The label carries the name of the certification body and the standards with which it complies, (e.g. EU 2092/91). To the informed consumer, this label can function as a guide. Certification bodies evaluate operations according to different organic standards and can be formally recognized by more than one authoritative body. The label of a given certification body, therefore, informs the consumer on the type of standards complied with during production and processing as well as on the type of recognition granted to the certification body. Many certification bodies operate worldwide, most of which are private and originate in developed countries.

International voluntary standards. At the international level the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission (the inter-governmental body that sets standards for all foods) has produced international guidelines for Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods to guide producers and to protect consumers against deception and fraud. These guidelines have been agreed upon by all member states of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The private sector's equivalent to the Codex Alimentarius guidelines is the International Basic Standards for Organic Production and Processing, created by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements - IFOAM. Codex Alimentarius and IFOAM guidelines include accepted management principles for the production of plants, livestock, bees and their products (IFOAM makes provisions also for fibres, aquaculture and non-wood forest products); for handling, storage, processing, packaging and transportation of products, and a list of substances permitted in the production and processing of organic foods. These guidelines are regularly reviewed, particularly the criteria for permitted substances and the process by which inspection is carried out and certification held.

National mandatory standards. The Codex Alimentarius and IFOAM guidelines are minimum standards for organic agriculture, intended to guide governments and private certification bodies in standard setting. As such, they can be considered as standards for standards. Governments can use these texts to develop national organic agriculture programmes which are often more detailed as they respond to specific country needs. Most national standards (e.g. EU countries, Japan, Argentina, India, Tunisia, USA), are specified in regulations which are legally binding.

Local voluntary standards. In some countries (e.g. Germany), individual certification bodies may produce their own standards which can be more stringent than the regulation in force, usually in response to specific consumer demands. Although these are not legally enforceable, private certifiers may be more restrictive than is required by law.

Accreditation. Accreditation is a procedure by which an authoritative body evaluates and gives formal recognition that a certification programme is in accordance with the standards of the authoritative body. For organic agriculture, certification bodies can apply the voluntary international standards and/or the national mandatory standards and be accredited by the related "authority". At international level, the International Organic Accreditation Service. (IOAS) accredits certification bodies according to IFOAM Accreditation Programme criteria by delivering the "IFOAM Accredited" logo (click here to read more about IFOAM Accreditation Program). IOAS is an independent NGO which ensures global equivalency of certification programmes and attempts to harmonize standards, whilst taking into consideration local differences. It must be noted that membership of IFOAM by certifying bodies does not constitute IOAS accreditation. At national level, governments or national accreditation bodies accredit certification bodies operating in their country, if their country has an organic agriculture legislation. Both private and public bodies adhere to the International Organization for Standardization basic standards for accreditation of certifiers (ISO 65) in addition to their specific requirements.

For further details on national certification bodies, consult your own government. The IFOAM website provides information on becoming a certifying body, together with the IFOAM Basic Standards and Accreditation Criteria.

What are certified organic products?

Certified organic products are those which have been produced, stored, processed, handled and marketed in accordance with precise technical specifications (standards) and certified as "organic" by a certification body. Once conformity with organic standards has been verified by a certification body, the product is afforded a label. This label will differ depending on the certification body but can be taken as an assurance that the essential elements constituting an "organic" product have been met from the farm to the market. It is important to note that an organic label applies to the production process, ensuring that the product has been produced and processed in an ecologically sound manner. The organic label is therefore a production process claim as opposed to a product quality claim.

What is organic agriculture?

There are many explanations and definitions for organic agriculture but all converge to state that it is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. It is a system that begins to consider potential environmental and social impacts by eliminating the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified seeds and breeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation. These are replaced with site-specific management practices that maintain and increase long-term soil fertility and prevent pest and diseases.

"Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system." (FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999).

Organic agriculture systems and products are not always certified and are referred to as "non-certified organic agriculture or products". This excludes agriculture systems that do not use synthetic inputs by default (e.g. systems that lack soil building practices and degrade land). Three different driving forces can be identified for organic agriculture:

  • Consumer or market-driven organic agriculture. Products are clearly identified through certification and labelling. Consumers take a conscious decision on how their food is produced, processed, handled and marketed. The consumer therefore has a strong influence over organic production.
  • Service-driven organic agriculture. In countries such as in the European Union (EU), subsidies for organic agriculture are available to generate environmental goods and services, such as reducing groundwater pollution or creating a more biologically diverse landscape.
  • Farmer-driven organic agriculture. Some farmers believe that conventional agriculture is unsustainable and have developed alternative modes of production to improve their family health, farm economies and/or self-reliance. In many developing countries, organic agriculture is adopted as a method to improve household food security or to achieve a reduction of input costs. Produce is not necessarily sold on the market or is sold without a price distinction as it is not certified. In developed countries, small farmers are increasingly developing direct channels to deliver non-certified organic produce to consumers. In the United States of America (USA), farmers marketing small quantities of organic products are formally exempt from certification.