After analyzing data from 237 studies conducted over the last forty years to determine whether organic foods provide additional health benefits, Stanford University scientists have concluded that organic fruits and vegetables are generally no more nutritious than their conventionally-grown counterparts. The scientists also determined that there were no major health advantages to organic meats, reports The New York Times.
The study’s findings, which were published in today’s issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, made an impact on the researchers, who sought to provide an objective resource for consumers to make more informed choices. “When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy and the senior author of the paper. “I think we were definitely surprised.” Read more.
We’re here in Iowa where Sec. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, just gave the welcoming address this morning at the “Global Virtual Town Hall: A Global Story of Crop Biodiversity Success” at Iowa State University.
He emphasized the need to utilize all tools for helping to meet the world’s demand to feed a growing population. However, these technologies must be developed and customized to meet the needs of the local community.
We must use all systems of food production to meet the need to grow more food. Science is essential in this process. Farmers around the world are also critical contributors to the global food system. We need sustainable land management practices and science-based systems that support not only feeding the world but also protecting the environment and maximizing opportunities for supporting biodiversity.
Divide and conquer approach won’t help feed the world. Agricultural biotechnology vs. local, organic will only result in losses on both sides; we need to bring the two together.
Bill Gates recently reviewed “Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food” on his blog, The Gates Notes. Gates believes that “this is an important book for anyone who wants to learn about the science of seeds and the challenges faced by farmers.”
He sums up the book nicely, writing:
“Tomorrow’s Table is a real education on the many choices farmers today must make regarding seeds. It’s very good in explaining genetically engineered seed, how it’s used today (mostly to help plants fight off insects and tolerate herbicide) and how it will be used in the future (to increase disease resistance, drought tolerance, vitamin content and crop yields, for example). The book separates out clearly the issues of how to make sure new seeds are safe, how to price them and how to treat them as intellectual property.”
The authors, CBI Expert Dr. Pamela Ronald, and Raoul Adamchak, are a married couple who present two different sides to the organic/biotech debate and how the two systems can complement each other -she is a plant geneticist at UC Davis and he is an organic farmer.
Forbes Magazine published an article titled Green Genes this month featuring CBI Expert Dr. Pamela Ronald. The article describes her work bridging the gap between genetic engineering and organic farming with her husband, organic farmer Raoul Adamchak. Dr. Ronald and Raoul hope to feed the world in a sustainable manner through “crops that limit the use of pesticides and fertilizers while delivering more food per acre planted.”
Dr. Ronald has developed rice that can resist the floods in India and Bangladesh that continue to destroy 4 million tons of crops each year. She also sees the value of genetically engineered rice that contains the vitamin A because this rice can reduce the number of children who die each year from vitamin deficiency (this rice was created by Syngenta and academic researchers).
In addition to Dr. Ronald, the article also features Karl Haro Von Mogel, a graduate student studying agricultural biotechnology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Karl writes Biofortified, a blog about the technology and the promise it holds for the future of agriculture.
Joel Kotkin of Forbes Magazine discusses the troubling “assault on mainstream farmers” that is slowly manifesting itself in policies that result in “cutoffs on water…and a growing movement to ban the use of genetic engineering in crops” at a time when the world population is multiplying rapidly. He reminds his readers that agriculture’s impact extends further than many assume, and a threat to mainstream agriculture and scientifically run farms will hurt the U.S. economy by adversely affecting growth in other sectors, including food processing, marketing, shipping and supermarkets.
According to Mr. Kotkin, a realist approach must guide our food policy because “scientifically advanced farming still produces the majority of the average family’s foodstuffs, as well as the bulk of our exports,” whereas “organic foods and beverages account for less than 3% of all food sales in the U.S.” He believes that this approach will help us feed the world while growing our economy and saving American jobs.
You can read Joel Kotkin’s entire piece here.