Volume 2 Issue 4

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Page 20 | Abby's Magazine - WHY IT'S STILL SMART TO BUY ORGANIC BY: TABITHA ALTERMAN If you were paying attention to the news last September, you probably heard about a report by a research team at Stanford University that went viral, proclaiming that there are no nutritional benefits to eating organic food. Various media outlets blasted headlines such as "Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier for You" and "Organic Food Is No Healthier than Conventional Food." The media blitz may have left you wondering whether it's worth it to spend the extra money on organics. We're here to tell you that it is, and to give you a bunch of good reasons why. The Stanford Study's Flaws Consider that, despite its publicity, there are many reasons not to take the Stanford study as the final word on the nutrition of organics. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the paper narrowly defined health as vitamin content. In fact, Stanford's own research found that eating organic food reduces our exposure to both pesticides and antibiotic- resistant bacteria—obvious health benefits by almost any standard. The paper didn't break ground with new research, but rather analyzed a select group of studies comparing organic vs conventional industrial food. Numerous experts have noted that the study was too narrow in focus and have worked to expose the study's questionable funding and ties to the large-scale agriculture and biotechnology industries. In addition, they question why the results of many important studies were omitted from the Stanford data. One study excluded from the paper was a meta-analysis out of the Human Nutrition Research Center in the United Kingdom, which found that increased nitrogen in the soil (conventional farming relies on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer) reduces the number of defense-related compounds—such as vitamin C—in fruits and vegetables. Compared with conventional produce, organic produce contains, on average, about 12 percent more of these nutrients, which the researchers say would be equivalent to increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables by the same 12 percent. Another significant study whose results were excluded was one out of the University of Barcelona that found organic tomatoes contain more antioxidants than conventionally grown tomatoes. Pesticides and Kids Shortly after the Stanford study was published, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) undertook an extensive analysis of the existing scientific evidence about organic food. The AAP analysis confirmed that eating an organic diet could reduce children's exposure to both pesticides and drug-resistant bacteria. However, they also emphasize that the most important thing is that children eat a wide range of produce regardless of whether it's organic, noting that no large human studies have specifically addressed whether reduced exposure to pesticide residues on produce benefits health. But pesticide exposure has been linked to numerous cancers (brain, breast, colon, lung, ovarian, kidney, pancreatic, stomach and testicular), as well as to nervous system damage; reproductive and metabolic problems; diabetes; obesity; several of the neurological diseases of aging; and other chronic illnesses. Children, whose brains are still developing, are especially susceptible. A study funded by the EPA has shown that children who switch to eating organic food get "dramatic and immediate" reduced exposure to pesticides. The levels of two organophosphate pesticides in children's urine decreased to nondetectable levels immediately after the introduction of organic diets. Today, approximately 1,400 pesticides are approved for use in the United States by the EPA. Environmental researcher Charles Benbrook estimates that switching to organic food production would reduce our overall exposure to pesticides by 97 percent. His report, "Simplifying the Pesticide Risk Equation," concludes that the switch would lead to more full-term births, fewer underweight babies, reduced rates of birth defects and significant benefits for developing immune, reproductive and nervous systems. He says the benefits of avoiding pesticide exposure begin about six months before conception and continue throughout life. Antibiotics Concerns Animals raised organically are less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farmers are prohibited from administering antibiotics except in cases of medical necessity. Contrast that with industrial farmers—the vast majority in North America—who routinely give animals low doses of antibiotics for nonmedical benefits such as stimulating the animals' growth, although this practice poses serious consequences to human health. Antibiotics are critical for protecting public health. The inappropriate use of antibiotics, combined with overprescription, of antibiotics threatens their efficacy in fighting human illness. The use of low doses for nonmedical benefits—ubiquitous in the factory farms that comprise most of our meat production—leads to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on farms, which can quickly spread into

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