FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hay Belly Nation

Mum’s the word among federal officials about the health benefits of eating organic foods.

The Department of Health and Human Services defers questions about organic foods to the Food and Drug Administration. But the FDA has no policy on organics because it says they’re the domain of the Department of Agriculture, which will admit to using the “o-word,” but says its mandate is simply to regulate use of the certified organic label, not to judge the relative benefits of organic versus conventional foods.

While the agencies entrusted with safeguarding our food and health pass the potato, a fast-growing body of scientific literature suggests that the connection between farm practices and the healthfulness of our foods merits attention. Organic foods don’t come out ahead of conventionally grown foods in 100 percent of comparative tests, but they rise to the top often enough to suggest that organic farming can increase, sometimes dramatically, the nutrient density of what we put in our mouths.

Even a cursory look at recent peer-reviewed studies should be enough to get public health officials talking.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis found that 10-year mean levels of quercetin were 79 percent higher in organic tomatoes than in conventional tomatoes, and that levels of kaempferol were 97 percent higher. Quercetin and kaempferol are flavonoids that studies suggest protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and other age-related ills.

Another Davis study compared organic and conventional kiwis and found that “all the main mineral constituents were more concentrated in the organic kiwifruits, which also had higher ascorbic acid (a precursor of vitamin C) and total phenol content, resulting in a higher antioxidant activity.”

A Spanish study measured 1.5 times more carotenoids — associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers — in peppers grown organically.

And Swiss researcher Lukas Rist found that mothers consuming at least 90 percent of their dairy and meat from organic sources have 36 percent higher levels of rumenic acid in their milk. Research suggests rumenic acid may deter cancer and diabetes, and preserve and improve immune system functions.

These and other studies give hope that organic farming can reverse the nutrient decline of fruits and vegetables that appears to accompany the widespread use of agricultural chemicals and produce varieties selected primarily for yield. And while it’s true that nutrition science is still a long way from understanding what the amount of a specific nutrient in a tomato, kiwi or glass of milk means for overall health, ignoring the opportunity to improve the nutrient density of foods at the foundation of the USDA’s food pyramid seems foolhardy.

Based on a review of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control, Brian Halweil, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, says, “Thirty percent or more of the U.S. population ingests inadequate levels of magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A, all nutrients we get from plants.”

In a paper he published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bruce Ames, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California-Berkeley, noted that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common in the United States, and that these deficiencies may accelerate degenerative diseases.

Even our ever-expanding waistlines may be due in part to nutrient declines in our foods. Paul Hepperly, director of research at the Rodale Institute, thinks we may be responding like cattle do.

“Cattle will eat more of hay that’s been rained on and had most of its nutrients leach out than they normally would,” he says. “The animals get these big bellies, and they’re unhealthy, but they’re just trying to get their nutrients. Ranchers know that if they have animals with hay belly, they have poor quality food. What we’ve done with the erosion of nutrient content in our foods — what we’ve done with additives, processing and artificial agriculture production methods — is that we have basically produced a hay belly nation.”

Refusing to enter the discussion about how farming methods affect the nutrient density of our food helps our government duck the question of why it lends so much support to the status quo of conventional, nonorganic agriculture. But failing to acknowledge the connection between what happens on the farm and the healthfulness of foods may be enough to make a nation sick.

DEBORAH RICH grows olives near Monterey, Calif., and writes about agriculture for the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. She wrote this comment for the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail