In 1950 there were around 100 varieties of tomato grown in New Zealand; today you can expect around five. In 1903, in the US there were 46 varieties of asparagus, now there are three; there were 338 varieties of rock melon, now there are 27; and there were 164 varieties of celery, there are now just three. Organic farmers plant many more species of produce and have brought back many heirloom varieties from the brink of extinction; these often prove tastier and juicier than their modern-day counterparts. In Britain, organic farmers grow hundreds of different varieties of potatoes.
Better levels of nutrition
Organic food has more nutrition, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. This gives you better protection from disease. Organic foods retain essential nutrients such as iron and salicylic acid, which can be stripped away in conventional food processing. This is because in organic farming great emphasis is on nourishing the soil, which in turn gives healthy plants with higher nutrient levels. Professor Keith Goulding, president of the British Society of Soil Science, estimates that the world will ‘run out of soil within 60 years’ due to erosion and bad land management in commercial farming.
Supporting the community
Organic farms are usually small, family-run operations that use techniques that limit agricultural impact on the soil, on streams and ground water, bird and wild life, and on human health. To produce high-quality organic food, every step of production is more labour intensive, time consuming and not as profitable. Organic food takes longer to grow because there are no hormones or chemical fertilisers used to speed up the process.
Organically grown food is far superior in every way
The 1992 Earth Summit estimated that most commercially farmed soils in the Western world are depleted from between 50 and 100% of trace elements. The biggest study into organic food, a $24 million-dollar four-year European Union funded project, found that, ‘Organic food contains up to 40% more antioxidants, is more nutritious, with much higher levels of flavonoids, phenolics, iron and zinc; giving the effect of an extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables.’99
- Organic apples, pear, potatoes, wheat, and sweet corn have 78% more chromium, 63% more calcium and 138% more magnesium.100
- Organic corn has 52% more vitamin C and significantly higher polyphenol levels.101
- Organic tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and spinach contain up to ten times more calcium and magnesium.102
- Organic kiwifruit has higher levels of nutrients, antioxidants, polyphenols and vitamin C.103
- Organically grown Monty’s Surprise apples have four times the nutritional content than standard Red Delicious.
- Organically grown apples are 15–25% richer in antioxidants than standard apples.104
- In 1951, two peaches would have supplied your daily requirement of betacarotene. Today, you would have to eat 53 commercially grown peaches to get the same amount.
- Conventional crops show decreases of up to 38% in calcium, vitamin C, phosphorus, iron and riboflavin.105
- Organically grown white-fleshed nectarines can produce six times more phenolic antioxidants as those commercially grown. Organically grown crops far surpass conventionally grown for vitamins and beneficial micronutrients, such as quercetin and kaempferol.106
- After 30 years of side-by-side research at the Farming Systems Trial at Rodale Institute, it was demonstrated that organic farming is better in every way. Among other things, they showed that organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
- Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
- Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
- Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
- Organic yields match conventional yields.107
Science proves what we have always known
Science has proven that organically grown produce is superior, tastier and more nutritious, and has more antioxidants and vitamin C, and is better for the environment on every level.108 Standard vegetables are generally richer in the primary metabolites (fats, carbohydrates, proteins). Organically grown vegetables are generally richer in the disease-preventing secondary metabolites (carotenoids, polyphenols, flavonoids, alkaloids and terpenoids).
“Organic plant-based foods are nutritionally superior and deliver bona fide health benefits. 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”
Dr Charles Benbrook, Professor, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, USA, September 2014.
2014 meta-review finds the same result again
The biggest review on conventional versus organic foods has found conclusively that organic food is richer in the nutrients that matter to human health. The Newcastle University 2014 meta-analysis was based on 343 peer-reviewed research publications on organically grown foods compared with commercial crops. They found:
- organic crops contain an average of 17% more antioxidants
- some had 60% higher concentrations of antioxidant compounds
- flavonones were 69% higher in organics
- overall levels of pesticides were up to 100 times lower in organic food.
The key finding here is that organic foods contained much higher concentrations of the really important health-promoting compounds, the antioxidant polyphenolics: phenolic acids, flavonones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins. In conclusion, organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of cadmium and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and production seasons.109 In the State of Science Review, March 2008, over 100 scientific studies were compiled and conclusively proved that organically grown produce far surpasses the nutritional levels of commercially grown produce.110
Organically grown food:
- contains higher nutritional levels and tastes far better
- contains no harmful chemicals, pesticides or herbicide residues
- supports local farms and business and builds a healthy ecosystem
- protects the quality of our lakes, rivers and drinking water
- uses 70% less renewable resources and produces far less pollution
- promotes the diversity and sustainability of the environment
- uses crop rotation to improve pest avoidance and minimise disease
- preserves the soil for future generations by using intercropping
- keeps variety alive in the food chain
- is delicious, ethical and safe.
Chemical residues can be deadly
- Pesticide residues found in foods children eat every day often exceed safe levels.111
- Children exposed to higher levels of pesticides in the womb are more likely to have lower intelligence and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).112
- Some pesticide chemicals can accumulate in your muscle and fat tissues and are nearly impossible to remove from your body.113
- Parkinson’s patients were 61% more likely to report direct pesticide or insecticide application than were healthy relatives.114
- Studies have also found pesticide residues were higher in Alzheimer’s patients.115
- Replacing your diet with organic foods can remove pesticides so dramatically they can be undetectable even within a very short time frame.116
Chemical spray residues up to 200% above legal limits were found in fresh produce sampled for the NZ Food Safety Authority in the May 2008 Annual Food Residue Surveillance Programme. They tested unwashed capsicum, strawberries, lettuce, mushrooms and courgettes. Standard bagged salad leaf mixes are often washed in a chlorine (a deadly poison) rinse to maintain prettiness on the supermarket shelf. The 2010 levels of pesticide residue present in New Zealand fruit and vegetables were the worst ever. Over 90% of fruit and vegetable samples contained traces of pesticides with 11 out of 23 cucumber samples containing residues of the chemical endosulfan (which is banned in New Zealand by ERMA). Nine out of 24 bok choy samples contained illegal levels of chlorothalonil, which was shown to be dangerous to human health.117
The Dirty Dozen
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004.
- Celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale, potatoes and grapes test highest for pesticide residues. It’s important to try to buy these organically when you can.
- Many people are under the illusion that eating vegetables is the prime cause of our chemical pesticide and herbicide spray exposure, but it is not. Chemical residues are also found in bread, meat, seafood, wine, dairy products, eggs and even chocolate biscuits.
- Please note that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 95% of the pesticide residue in the typical modern diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products so, in the overall balance of your diet, fruit and vegetables are the least of your concerns in regards to pesticide exposure.
- The National Cancer Institute’s 2009–2010 cancer trends progress report concluded the most common route for human exposure to dioxins is eating animal fats from meat, full-fat dairy products and commercially-farmed fatty fish.
Processed meat and antibiotics
Eating commercial red meat not only damages your digestive system but you are also getting the antibiotic fallout. New Zealand animal farming uses 80,000 kg of antibiotics every year. Hormone growth promotants (HGPs) are still used in areas of New Zealand and Australia, even though they have been banned by the European Union since 1988. Ground beef (used in hamburgers) is typically an amalgam of meat from different cows from different slaughterhouses. So any one burger patty could have come from hundreds of animals and different parts of the world. There is no way of finding this information as the meat is not labelled.
The research, studies and food recommendations from the WCRF & AICR 2018, to help lower your risk of, and to prevent, breast cancer, are built around following; a no-alcohol, plant-based wholefood diet.
Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective (the Third Expert Report – 2019) is a comprehensive analysis, using the most meticulous methods, of the worldwide body of evidence on preventing and surviving cancer through diet, nutrition and physical activity. It builds on the ground-breaking achievements of the First and Second Expert Reports, published in 1997 and 2007 respectively.
There is a vast amount of evidence that eating a plant-based wholefood diet lowers, and in some cases, reverses, heart disease and hypertension. This has been shown in the fasting studies, the chicken studies, the saturated fats studies, the fibre studies, the plant-based eating studies, and of course, the meat-is-directly-linked-to-heart-disease studies.
A healthy plant-based diet is simply mostly eating ‘plant-based wholefoods’ – such as apples rather than apple juice – as these are plant foods in their natural state, unrefined, and with their natural fibres, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals intact. Eat mostly plant foods, mostly wholefoods, and you receive the benefits, as the centenarian cultures do.
Additional evidence and studies on how plant-based diets can prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Organic Foods are Superior References:
- Denis Lairon and researchers, ‘Nutritional quality and safety of organic food. A review.’ University of Aix-Marseille for the French food agency (AFSSA). Agronomy for Sustainable Development Journal, July 2009.
- Journal of Applied Nutrition, further publication information not available.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003.
- The Firman E. Baer report from Rutgers University, further publication information not available.
- Chemistry and Industry, Publication information not available.
- B.A. Stracke, C.E. Rfer, F.P. Weibel, A. Bub, B. Watzl, ‘Three-Year Comparison of the Polyphenol Contents and Antioxidant Capacities in Organically and Conventionally Produced Apples.’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 2009.
- US Department of Agriculture report, 2006.
- Alyson E. Mitchell, PhD, Associate Professor and Food Chemist at UC Davis, and Alexander W. Chassy, ‘Antioxidants and the Nutritional Quality of Organic Agriculture.’ Presented at the annual meeting of the American Advancement of Science, Chicago, February 2009.
- The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is ‘America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture comparing a manure-based organic system, a legume-based organic system, and a synthetic input-based conventional system.’
- Study by John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science, and colleagues, Washington State University. PLoS. Also see, Davis, D.R., ‘Declining fruit and vegetable nutrient composition: What is the evidence?’ American Society of Horticultural Science, 1 February 2009.
- Barański, M., Srednicka-Tober, D., Volakakis, N., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Stewart, G.B., Benbrook,
C., Biavati, B., Markellou, E., Giotis, C., Gromadzka-Ostrowska, J., Rembiałkowska, E., Skwarło-Sońta, K., Tahvonen, R., Janovská, D., Niggli, U., Nicot, P., Leifert, C., ‘Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.’ British Journal of Nutrition, September 2014, 112(5):794–811, DOI:10.1017/S0007114514001366.
- ‘New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods.’ Study from the 56-page State of Science Review, March 2008. Also see, ‘Fruit Quality, Antioxidant Capacity, and Flavonoid Content of Organically and Conventionally Grown Blueberries.’ Journal for Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 56, Issue 14, 2008, pp. 5788–5794.
- ‘Pesticides Residues Still Too High in Children’s Foods.’ Consumers Union, 2000.
- Study by researchers in the US and Canada on 1139 children aged 8–15. Pediatrics, 17 May 2010. Also see, Bouchard, et al., ‘Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year-Old Children.’
- ‘Pesticide Residues in Urine of Adults Living in the United States: Reference Range Concentrations.’ CDC, Environmental Research, November 1995, Vol. 71, Issue 2, pp. 99–10.
- Pezzoli, G., Cereda, E., ‘Exposure to pesticides or solvents and risk of Parkinson disease.’ Neurology 2013, 80:2035–2041.
- DeKosky, S., et al., ‘Environmental exposures and the risk for Alzheimer disease: Can we identify the smoking guns?’ JAMA Neurology, 2014; DOI:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.6031.
- Lu, C., K. Toepel, R. Irish, R.A. Fenske, D.B. Barr and R. Bravo, ‘Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides.’ Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006, 114 (2):260–3
- The results of the annual New Zealand Food Safety Authority) survey, 28 July 2010.
Jason wishes to deeply thank, acknowledge and recognise the effort and contribution that the PIF Foundation has provided on a voluntary basis since 2014, as we educated, motivated and inspired change that helps transform the health, vitality and longevity of people all over the world.