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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Organic Center Response to the FSA Study July 2009

Author(s): Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. Chief Scientist, The Organic Center
Donald R. Davis, PhD. Retired Research Scientist, University of Texas at Austin
Preston K. Andrews, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architechture, Washington State University

An advance copy of a study appeared today that will be published in the September edition of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The published paper, "Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review," was written by a team led by Alan Dangour, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and funded by the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency (FSA).In their written report, the London team downplayed positive findings in favor of organic food. In several instances, their analysis showed that organic foods tend to be more nutrient dense than conventional foods. Plus, their study omitted measures of some important nutrients, including total antioxidant capacity. It also lacked quality controls contained in a competing study released in 2008 by The Organic Center (TOC). Last, the FSA-funded team also used data from very old studies assessing nutrient levels in plant varieties that are no longer on the market.

The London team reported finding statistically significant differences between organically and conventionally grown crops in three of thirteen categories of nutrients. Significant differences cited by the team included nitrogen, which was higher in conventional crops, and phosphorus and tritratable acids, both of which were higher in the organic crops. Elevated levels of nitrogen in food are regarded by most scientists as a public health hazard because of the potential for cancer-causing nitrosamine compounds to form in the human GI tract. Hence, this finding of higher nitrogen in conventional food favors organic crops, as do the other two differences. Despite the fact that these three categories of nutrients favored organic foods, and none favored conventionally grown foods, the London-based team concluded that there are no nutritional differences between organically and conventionally grown crops.
A team of scientists convened by The Organic Center (TOC) carried out a similar, but more rigorous, review of the same literature. The TOC team analyzed published research just on plant-based foods. Results differ significantly from the more narrow FSA review and are reported in the study "New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods."
The TOC findings are similar for some of the nutrients analyzed by the FSA team, but differ significantly for two critical classes of nutrients of great importance in promoting human health – total polyphenols, and total antioxidant content. The FSA team did not include total antioxidant capacity among the nutrients studied, and it found no differences in the phenolic content in 80 comparisons across 13 studies.

Unlike the London study, The Organic Center review focused on nutrient differences in "matched pairs" of crops grown on nearby farms, on the same type of soil, with the same irrigation systems and harvest timing, and grown from the same plant variety. It also rigorously screened studies for the quality of the analytical methods used to measure nutrient levels, and eliminated from further consideration a much greater percentage of the published literature than the FSA team.
While the FSA team found 80 comparisons of phenolic compounds, the TOC team focused on the more precise measure of total phenolic acids, or total polyphenols, and found just 25 scientifically valid "matched pairs." By mixing together in their statistical analysis the results of several specific phenolic acids, the FSA team likely lost statistical precision. Instead, the TOC team focused on studies reporting values for total phenolic acids, and also applied more rigorous selection criteria to exclude poorer quality studies.
The TOC team found –
Twenty-five matched pairs of organic and conventional crops for which total phenolic acid data was reported. The levels were higher in the organic crops in 18 of these 25 cases, conventional crops were higher in 6. In five of the matched pairs, phenolic acid levels were higher in organic crops by 20% or more. On average across the 25 matched pairs, total phenolics were 10% higher in the organic samples, compared to conventional crops.
In seven of eight matched pairs reporting total antioxidant capacity data, the levels were higher in the organically grown crop. Of 15 matched pairs for the key antioxidant quercetin, 13 reported higher values in the organic food. In the case of kaempferol, another important antioxidant, the organic samples were higher in six cases, while five were higher in the conventional crops.

In the TOC study, there were an ample number of matched pairs to compare the levels of 11 nutrients, including five of the nutrients in the FSA review. For the five nutrients covered in each review, the TOC team was in general agreement with the FSA findings for two (nitrogen and phosphorus).The London team did not assess differences in key individual antioxidants, nor in total antioxidant activity, important nutrients that have been measured in several more recent studies.
Across all the valid matched pairs and the 11 nutrients included in the TOC study, nutrient levels in organic food averaged 25% higher than in conventional food. Given that some of the most significant differences favoring organic foods were for key antioxidant nutrients that most Americans do not get enough of on most days, the team concluded that the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables, in particular, offered significant health benefits, roughly equivalent to an additional serving of a moderately nutrient dense fruit or vegetable on an average day.
... to read the rest of the article, click:

Saturday, March 22, 2008


"Global Warming is an issue that impacts everyone, yet it is also is an issue where everyone can make an impact. Simple everyday tasks, such as what food you buy, can either contribute to—or reduce—global warming. Rodale Institute research shows that organically managed soils can store (sequester) more than 1,000 pounds of carbon per acre, while non-organic systems can cause carbon loss. For consumers, this means that the simple act of buying organic products can help to reduce global climate change. “In this age of carbon awareness, we think farmers should be well rewarded for innovative stewardship that builds soil for future generations,” says Tim LaSalle, the Institute’s CEO.
Food decisions matter
Your food decisions matter because how food was grown, processed and transported may have demanded lots of fuel, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers—all contributors to global warming—without pulling any new carbon into the soil in the process. Instead of being converted to carbon for later use by plants, as in organic farming systems, crop residues in the conventional system quickly burn up, releasing CO2—a major greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere. Further, synthetic fertilizers used in non-organic farming are the largest source of carbon dioxide generation in agriculture."


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


You might like to know that Michael Pollan is's guest blogger this month on, the books blog. He's posting weekly about his new book, In Defense of Food, and responding to your questions and comments about his "eater's manifesto." Come and join the discussion.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Angelic Organics CSA Cookbook Special Offer Whole Earth CSA Members

We have an opportunity to receive special bulk pricing on this great cookbook. It is full of thoughtful, informative, creative and zany morsels - and some great recipes for your CSA vegetables too! If you would you like one, please let us know and we'll order some at our bulk discount and pass the savings onto you (we need to order in quantities of 12 for the special pricing). Read on for more info on the book...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Seeing green: when eating your spinach pays off

From Kitchen Gardeners International

"The Capital Times of Wisconsin recently reported that a local insurance company has started offering offering rebates to policy holders who are members of a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. The insurance company's new Eat Healthy Rebate subsidizes CSA memberships by $100 for single policyholders and $200 for families. Kathryne Auerback, the company's director of marketing, came up with the idea in part because she is a CSA member herself. She has been exposed to vegetables she wouldn't have otherwise tried: fennel, dandelion greens, and kohlrabi. The program - likely the first of its kind - has the potential to expose CSAs to a whole new community that may not be familiar with them, Brown said. "It's not only innovative but it sets an amazing precedent for other health insurance companies across the country that may realize that a fresh, healthy and local diet leads to healthier lifestyles and a stronger community." It also opens the door to other similar ideas. If insurance companies are prepared to offer rebates for healthy eating, shouldn't that also apply to those who grow their own food? While we're at it, if more and more states are considering offering tax breaks to those who install renewable energy systems in their homes, shouldn't those states also entertain the idea of tax breaks for residents with renewable food systems? That is, after all, what an organic kitchen garden is."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Center for Food Safety News

As follow up and update on the post cards included in your share recently, we forward you the following note from Charles Margulis, from the Center for Food Safety.

"Hello All,
It's been a very busy time! In addition to our work fighting FDA's approval of cloning, CFS has won two major recent legal victories on GMO crops, see for the news.
Thank you all for agreeing to help distribute postcards opposing animal cloning for food. CFS has received back over 10,000 postcards already - we are hoping to receive thousands more! You may also have seen the news (below) that the nation's largest dairy, Dean Foods, has rejected milk from clones.
If you have not already, please also pass on these links and/or post them so your contacts can make online comments to FDA: and

Many thanks again!
Charles Margulis
Center for Food Safety
Oakland, CA

For the article on Dean Foods, click on the "comments" link below.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

For Your Interest & Information

Click on the "comment" button below to view the latest newsletter summary from the Organic Center with highlights of latest public interest research on organic agriculture.

About The Organic Center...
Backed by the world's leading scientists, physicians and scholars, The Organic Center is passionately committed to two goals.
  1. RESEARCH: providing free, peer-reviewed, credible science that proves the health and environmental benefits of organic agriculture.
  2. EDUCATION: reaching and activating millions through Mission Organic 2010 - a national campaign to increase the amount of organic food purchased from three to 10 percent by 2010.

To access free downloads of the latest in organic science or to join Mission Organic 2010, Go to: