Is Organic Produce Better For Your Health: Recent Study Implies Not That Much

Organic produce has always been thought of as definitively better for your health than conventionally raised crops because of their lack of exposure to chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Now, there’s been a controversy in “River City” ever since a recent Stanford University study came out a few months ago saying, in effect, it ain’t necessarily so. Now, before I go any further, I want to point out that I’m only the messenger here, and in fact I’ve been leery of wandering too far into this minefield until now. I wrote a piece on this subject a few months ago and tested the waters. No hate mail or death threats so far. I’ll go so far as to even reveal my own bias in favor of organics being better for you. That being said, lots more out there have weighed in on this topic, and I’ve taken the effort of sampling some of what they had to say. First up is Howard Yune who writes in the NapaValleyRegister.Com and gets the locals to weigh in on the topic of pesticide avoidance.

Is Organic Produce Better For Your Health: Recent Study Implies Not That Much

Why buy organic food?organic vegetable gardening

A recent survey by Stanford University researchers of 240 studies of organically raised produce, meat and dairy products has raised eyebrows — and some hackles — by its conclusion that foods produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizer have little or no nutritional edge over conventionally raised food.

But a week after the report’s release, many vendors and customers at the Napa Farmers Market dismissed that conclusion as beside the point.

Amid a cornucopia of melons, peppers, eggplants and other farm goods outside the Oxbow Public Market, many of those doing their grocery shopping Tuesday morning called their confidence in natural and locally based farming unshaken.

“I definitely think there not may be more nutritional value, but you’re not poisoning yourself,” said Whitney Shaw, a San Francisco resident visiting the Napa market who said about 85 percent of her food purchases are of organic products.

The report, led and co-written by Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler of the Stanford Center for Health Policy and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was not an original study but instead surveyed 240 existing studies on the health benefits of organic foods.

Smith-Spangler reported the studies showed no special benefits in nutrient content for foods raised without man-made fertilizers and pesticides. The study indicated organic produced was 30 percent less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticide residue, but added most conventionally grown fruits and vegetables remained below federal limits for such substances.

But some customers at the Napa market declared the nutritional value of organic produce is the least of its benefits, compared to the avoidance of chemicals — reflecting media criticisms of the report since its release Sept. 4.

“I think we understood that, but the pesticides are the important point,” said Sandra Koo, a recent transplant from Seattle to Napa while perusing the stalls at the farmers market. “An apple’s an apple, true, but how it’s raised is important. I think it tastes better too.”

Original article here at napavalleyregister.com:

Chris Peterson of the Corvallis Gazette-Times weighed in pretty heavily in favor of — wait for it — organic produce. He has his own reasons. Something to do with the dirt and how it’s grown. Why would that matter? Not addressed in the study by Stanford, so probably not important.

You’ve probably heard about the Stanford University study concluding that organically grown food does not appear to be any more nutritious than conventionally grown food.

The study was a four-year meta-analysis of 237 narrower studies, which raised more questions than it answered. It prompted consumers to re-examine their values concerning how their food is grown.

Frankly, after reading the inconclusive preliminaries, I don’t see why it warranted such press. Stanford paid for this study, but who funded the ones this research relied on? Then questions about one researcher’s suspect connections and university funding from nonorganic food and ag companies called it all into question. Big surprise.

As with elections, fact-checking is advised.

This whole dust-up only strengthened my resolve to buy from local farmers. Don’t just “hug your farmer,” as the bumper sticker commands, talk to her. Ask questions. Most who sell directly to consumers are happy to describe their farming practices.

Soil health is the key to nutrients in food. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides can’t make up for depleted, lifeless soil. You know that just from repotting houseplants. Healthful food comes from healthy soil.

See Chris’ entire article here at gazettetimes.com:

Now, when you can get someone who works for a major university to say something, well, that’s saying something. Mike Jett wrote this piece for the Courier-Journal.Com and pointed out some inherent bias in the study in terms of who paid for it, what questions got asked and what kinds of answers were sought after. This is a crucial point. The average layperson believes research is funded to find the truth. Wrong! It’s funded to get the answer that the funding agent wants to see. Truth be told, and as a former research scientist myself, everyone doing research has a set notion of what’s going to be found out from any study or experiment. You have to. It’s your thesis. Truth gets discovered when you get an answer you didn’t expect. Taking a bunch of previously completed research studies (as was the case for the study here) and amalgamating them together into what’s called a meta-analysis gives a result, but it’s out of context with what the original studies were designed to show. I left the links in the excerpt so you could these out directly for yourself.

There was much to-do last week over the media headline ‘Stanford Study Finds Little Evidence of Health Benefits of Organic Foods.’ This headline sparked discussion nationwide and speculation that the term ‘organic’ is over-hyped and merely a method of charging more money for basically the same foods. (For a link to a summary of the study, click here. Curiously, I could not find a link to the actual study…..)

As usual, the media report was misguided on many levels. First, with so many media outlets these days, organizations are forced to ‘sensationalize’ headlines to grab attention, often distorting or embellishing the facts to make a splash. A very recent example of this is the headline: ‘No Yolk: eating the whole egg as dangerous as smoking?’ This came out a month or so ago and claimed that eating eggs is equally as damaging to the body as smoking. Seriously? Yes, that is what was reported. For a breakdown of this headline/study, visit Dr. Peter Swanz’s website , where he discusses the flaws in the study.

Second, it is very common for large corporations to fund studies. As a university employee I can tell you that research costs money, and funding has to be secured from an external source. Large corporations are very eager to fund studies that support their own agendas. One can imagine that this particular Stanford study may have been funded by a multi-national conventional produce provider. We cannot know for certain, however, because it was claimed that the funding source for this study is ‘unknown.’ Again, as a university employee, I can share that we document EVERYTHING, and every single thing we do has to be approved by multiple people. So, to state that something is unknown is completely absurd.

Read the complete article here at blogs.courier-journal.com:

The controversy over organic produce versus commercial rages on. I certainly suspect that there are powerful money interests in favor of commercial methods because of the enormous profit potential. The organic produce camp is swayed by the knowledge that local and sustainable and pesticide free is the only way that we as a species can survive in the long run. Unfortunately, no monied benefactors are waiting in the wings to fund a counter study to substantiate their position. On the other hand, there are those who take the viewpoint that the way we grow our food is destined to change out of necessity in order to feed and provide nutrition to everyone on this planet. ElizabethMcVay Greene argues in The Huffington Post that the future of our agricultural practices are going to be unconventional in nature. That the best way to produce vegetable and fruit crops that have the highest nutrient content and are most desirable to consume are at present only grown locally.

This organic nonsense has to stop. I’d like to politely request that those who don’t know agriculture cease writing about it as though they do, stoking an already divisive debate that misses the heart of the problem we face: We’re not sure how we should be growing food, and thus we’re not sure how to eat.

Anyone who suggests that a crop can be raised without the provision of nutrients and pest management should not opine on agriculture. Roger Cohen, I’m talking to you.

Saturday’s opinion piece in the New York Times, “The Organic Fable,” shows me just how far off course the discussion of agricultural production has gotten, because it spreads misinformation and focuses squarely on the wrong problem. If we continue to debate organic versus conventional, continue to view food choices as an emblem of class, and continue to use the nine billion future people of the world as a gauntlet that the human race must run, we are in trouble because the question is not first about production. It’s about distribution.

We produce enough to feed 1.3 billion more people than we actually do. And that’s in American proportions. In 2000, the USDA reported that Americans consumed almost 2,000 pounds of food per person per year. Meanwhile, 1.3 billion tons of global food production goes to waste each year. Production by any method, standard or label is not our most pressing problem.

Read the original piece at huffingtonpost.com:

Whether you favor organic produce or conventionally grown, the argument about which is better for you may be increasingly moot in the future with availability for all becoming the new focus for concern. I agree that the highest nutritional value is while it’s still attached to the soil it sprang from. Once harvested, it’s a race to the bottom as far as nutritional content is concerned. An organic apple that traveled 3000 miles and was on the tree 2 weeks ago is never as good as one just picked. True, there are fewer pesticide residues in it versus one from the factory orchard in, say, New Zealand. Is one better nutritionally than another at that point is anyone’s guess. The Stanford study simply measured what it could, but the truly important measurements may not be, in the end, measurable at all. Good nutrition for all without too many harmful extras is best.

What do you think of this? Is it important to you what you eat and where it comes from? Leave a comment below and please share this with those friends and others close to you who care about this subject. Click the share button and spread these ideas to others.

Organic Vegetable Gardening: The Dirty Dozen And The Clean Fifteen

Many of us practice organic vegetable gardening to improve the nutrition value of what we feed our families, while at the same time eliminating unwanted pesticides from our diets. A recent study indicated that organic and commercially grown produce were, for all intents and purposes, identical. So, they concluded, why spend the extra money for organic produce? Here Bobby Shuttleworth writing for the WAFF.Com provides some insights into the study’s conclusions that there were no real differences between organic and commercially grown produce. Now, we all know better, don’t we.

Organic Vegetable Gardening: The Dirty Dozen And The Clean Fifteen

A recent report by Stanford University looked at more than 200 previous studies comparing organic and non organic produce. Parkway Campus Registered Dietician Kim Donohue deciphered the study.

“Statistically, there was no significant difference in the vitamins. Now there was a difference in the pesticide levels,” said Donohue.

And that can make a healthy difference for the careful shopper.organic vegetable gardening

“Of course organic foods do have lower pesticide levels, although fruits and vegetables do make natural pesticides to protect themselves,” Donohue said.

She said produce also absorbs pesticides differently.

Donohue said it goes back to what’s known as the “dirty dozen” or the “clean 15.”

“Fruits and vegetables with thinner skins tend to hold more pesticides. Fruits with thicker skin tend to hold less pesticides. Apples, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers – they have more pesticides.”

She said produce grown in the U.S. also contains fewer pesticides.

See the list of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen here at waff.com:

Organic vegetable gardening produces pesticide free and nutrient rich produce. You know it and so do I. I’ll be discussing this in an upcoming post in more detail and putting this into better perspective for you. Stay tuned.

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I have always thought a kitchen garden a more pleasant sight than the finest orangery. I lovee to see everything in perfection, and am more pleased to survey my rows of coleworts and cabbages, with a thousand nameless pot herbs springing up in their full fragrancy and verdure, than to see the tender plants of foreign countries.                                           —  Joseph Addison

Hong Kong Elevates Organic Vegetable Gardening To New Heights

When it comes to organic vegetable gardening, maintaining higher standards is everything. In Hong Kong they appear to have a distrust for the produce coming from mainland China. With all of the scandals that have been reported concerning what is getting sprayed on ghe produce coming out of China that is for sale in Hong Kong, many locals are going out of their way to avoid this produce and growing their own vegetables by organic methods. Writer Mary Hui presented a piece in the New York Times, reprinted here in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s online edition, describing the lengths to which Hong Kong residents have been going to in order to ensure their food’s wholesomeness.

Hong Kong Elevates Organic Vegetable Gardening To New Heights

HONG KONG — Kimbo Chan knows all about the food scandals in China: the formaldehyde that is sometimes sprayed on Chinese cabbages, the melamine in the milk and the imitation soy sauce made from hair clippings. That is why he is growing vegetables on a rooftop high above the crowded streets of Hong Kong.

“Some mainland Chinese farms even buy industrial chemicals to use on their crops,” Mr. Chan said. “Chemicals not meant for agricultural uses at all.”

As millions of Hong Kong consumers grow increasingly worried about the purity and safety of the fruits, vegetables, meats and processed foods coming in from mainland China, more of them are striking out on their own by tending tiny plots on rooftops, on balconies and in far-flung, untouched corners of highly urbanized Hong Kong.

“Consumers are asking, will the food poison them?” said Jonathan Wong, a professor of biology and the director of the Hong Kong Organic Resource Center. “They worry about the quality of the food. There is a lack of confidence in the food supply in China.”

Organic food stores are opening across the city, and there is growing demand in the markets for organic produce despite its higher prices. There are about 100 certified organic farms in Hong Kong. Seven years ago, there were none.organic vegetable gardening

There is no official count of rooftop farms in Hong Kong, but they are clearly part of an international trend. New York has many commercialized rooftop farms established by companies like Gotham Greens, Bright Farms and Brooklyn Grange. In Berlin, an industrial-size rooftop vegetable and fish farm is in the pipeline. In Tokyo, a farm called Pasona O2 takes urban farming a step further: Vegetables are grown not only on roofs, but also in what was an underground bank vault.

With 7.1 million people in one of the most densely populated cities on earth, Hong Kong has little farmland and almost no agricultural sector. The territory imports more than 90 percent of its food. Hong Kong is hooked on vegetables, and 92 percent of its supply comes from mainland China.

On a recent morning at one of Hong Kong’s bustling and chaotic fresh produce markets, known here as “wet markets,” a woman bought three Chinese squashes for a good price. “Vegetables are expensive nowadays,” she said wearily. “Even if I cared enough about organic food and worried about chemicals, there’s nothing I can really do about it.”

Organic vegetable gardening produces nutritious and chemical free produce. Growing cam be done almost anywhere using square foot gardening techniques and raised bed gardens. When your food supply is questionable, do it yourself and make sure it’s safe to eat.
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A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.                            — Gertrude Stein

Organic Vegetable Gardening: Cheap And Delicious

When you think of organic vegetable gardening, do you think healthy, inexpensive or just plain tasty? Well, you can certainly think of all three and be correct. Raising vegetable crops organically means using the energy of the soil and the sun efficiently, which is simply what nature already does. Nutrients are recycled and move through the system while maintaining an equilibrium, never needing to be replenished from any external sources. This is also the least expensive method of raising vegetable plants for the long run. Many restaurants prefer organically grown produce and work their menus around what’s available locally. This is because it’s freshest and has the highest nutrient content when it’s just harvested and hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get to the end user. Here’s a short article from WRAL.Com that highlights some of the major benefits of organic produce that local markets and restaurants prefer over non-locally sourced vegetables.

Organic Vegetable Gardening: Cheap And Delicious

Two reasons many people don’t eat enough vegetables are cost and flavor. Many turn to cheaper processed foods packed with

organic vegetable gardening

Organic vegetable gardening produces crops with more flavor and nutrients than commercially grown. Photo by Paul Grecaud c/o Photos.Com.

sodium.

But one easy alternative is to grown your own.

Organic culinary farmer Maggie Lawrence is getting the most out of her summer produce before time runs out.

“One more good month of warm weather before we get a frost,” she said.

Everything she grows in a garden on the campus of SAS Institute in Cary ends up in Chef Scott Crawford’s kitchen at Heron’s restaurant.

“The key here is that it’s harvested today, cooked today and consumed today,” Crawford said.

As picked produce sits day after day, it loses flavor. So the restaurant menu is built around what’s available and ready for harvest.

Read the entire article here at wral.com:

When you factor in all of the costs, including transportation, organic vegetable gardening techniques are far more economical if you source the produce locally. Using natural fertilizers instead of petroleum based enhancers also does not deplete the soil of trace elements. Organically grown vegetables are available from local producers, and buying from them supports the local economy as well. So why not support your local growers and go organic?

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Never eat broccoli when there are cameras around.                                  —  Michael Stipe

First Hospital-Based Greenhouse To Grow Organic Vegetables Year Round

Wouldn’t it be terrific to be able to grow organic vegetables year round? Having the benefit of all of that nutrient-dense and pesticide-free produce at your fingertips would be a windfall to your continued good health. Well, who better to to implement this idea than a hospital? After all, you have a population of patients who are trying to recover from their illnesses, as well as hospital staff who have to be at their physical best all of the time. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital located in West Bloomfield, Michigan (coincidentally where I grew up) has become the first hospital in the nation to build and start a hospital-based greenhouse. I mean, such a great idea! Feed people nutritious organic vegetables and fruits so they can recover more quickly and to enhance the dining experience which provides positive psychological benefits that will also improve the overall experience for patients. A recent article by Sylvia Rector written for the Detroit Free Press highlights this concept.

First Hospital-Based Greenhouse To Grow Organic Vegetables Year Round

Perched on a 8-foot ladder, Michelle Lutz reaches into the leafy tops of the pole-bean vines growing toward the glass roof of Henry

grow organic vegetables

Grow organic vegetables year round in a greenhouse.

Ford West Bloomfield Hospital’s new $1-million hydroponic greenhouse.

“The first ones!” the resident farmer declares, holding up several young pods.

Already that morning she had picked red and green lettuces, heirloom cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, edible nasturtiums and bunches of herbs for the hospital’s kitchen, which uses the produce in patients’ meals and its cafe.

Dozens of kinds of vegetables and herbs — five types of kale, 23 kinds of tomatoes, five varieties of basil, eggplants, squash, hot and sweet peppers, fresh herbs, microgreens and even strawberry plants — have been thriving since mid-summer in what Henry Ford officials say is the first hospital-based greenhouse in the nation.

It is surprisingly prolific. Hospital chefs no longer have to buy microgreens or basil, their most-used herb, because the greenhouse produces all they need. “If I manage this properly,” Lutz says, indicating her 12-by-20-foot hydroponic table, “this will produce 15,000 heads of lettuce in a year. For 240 square feet, that’s pretty incredible.”

But growing organic vegetables year-round for the hospital’s kitchens isn’t the only purpose of the gleaming, 1,500-square-foot glass structure and its adjoining educational center, both entirely funded by an anonymous donor.

The buildings, which will be unveiled Saturday, are designed to educate and inspire everyone from patients to the public to make healthier food choices — in keeping with the hospital’s mission of promoting wellness as well as treating illness.

And because of Michigan’s high childhood obesity rates, many of its educational center exhibits and programs are geared toward kids.

“We want to make sure that every single day we have yellow school buses coming here from all over southeast Michigan,” says hospital CEO Gerard van Grinsven. “We want to influence our young ones to start thinking differently about food and what they put in their bodies.”

His vision for the project doesn’t stop at the West Bloomfield campus. “Ultimately, we can take this to downtown Detroit and start producing food for the entire (Henry Ford) system — not have it just here,” van Grinsven says.

“This is not just about a little greenhouse. It’s about planting seeds,” he says.

Read the entire article here at freep.com:

To grow organic vegetables in a greenhouse attached to a major hospital is very leading-edge. Given recent and some would say drastic changes coming soon to a health care system near you, being able to improve nutrition as part of health care delivery is a natural step forward. We should all try to grow something in our own gardens and improve our health over the long run in order to decrease the risk of having to be in the hospital in the first place. Try your own hand at growing something in your backyard. If you happen to be in a position to have access to a greenhouse, it expands your growing season and your options as a gardener.

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Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.   —  Doug Larson

Best Organic Vegetable Gardening Techniques For Conserving Water

The use of organic vegetable gardening techniques operates under the presumption that resources are precious and they should be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. After all, this is what nature does every day. One of our most precious resources is water. With the extremely dry conditions experienced by much of the United States this summer, it’s an issue that is of foremost importance. Here are two articles that appeared in the Rockford Register Star recently that I believe brought the issue home. Though I live north of Illinois, it’s been a brutal summer in my vegetable garden as well. It got me to thinking about next year and what I can do to make the best use of all the water my garden needs without using any more than absolutely necessary. Writer Meghan Bowe highlights some basic techniques for water conservation.

Best Organic Vegetable Gardening Techniques For Conserving Water

Using techniques like deep mulch, vertical gardening, sheet composting and no till improves soil tilth while also expending fewer

organic vegetable gardening techniques

The best organic vegetable gardening techniques naturally conserve precious resources such as water. Photo by Chris Bence c/o Photos.Com.

resources to have an abundantly producing vegetable garden. Though some watering has been necessary this very hot, dry season our garden is looking beautiful due to the sustainable techniques used.

The conditions this growing season have been challenging due to the lack of rainfall. It is very important that home gardeners start integrating water and energy saving methods into their gardening practices, as well as making smart plant selection choices that will weather drought conditions.

Read the original article here at blogs.e-rockford.com:

Writer Margaret Larson has added a few very useful and important tips for using water that conserves it but still puts it to best use in her own organic vegetable garden.

Vegetables cannot go dormant in times of drought like your typical lawn does, says Extension Horticulture Educator, Candice Miller. Therefore additional watering is necessary to sustain a productive vegetable garden in these times of drought.

In the vegetable garden, there are certain periods of growth in particular where having moisture is especially important. As a rule of thumb, water is most critical during the first few weeks of development, immediately after transplanting, and during flowering and fruit production.

Anytime there are fruits (squash, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes for example) or pods being filled (peas, snap beans), water needs to be uniformly available. In addition, sweet corn requires even moisture from the time flowers (silks) are pollenated through kernel fill. Therefore, gardeners should be monitoring their garden right now to see what is producing fruit at all times in order to properly water.

Make sure you read about all of Margaret’s watering recommendations here:

The best organic vegetable gardening techniques always seek to maximize the use of scarce resources. This is in keeping with what nature does, and is always sustainable over the long run. As our climate shifts due to natural or man made causes, we’ll all have to become more conscious of the resources we do have stewardship over and how we all need to make the best use of them.

Let me know what you think and whether you are doing anything to conserve water in  your area. Please feel free to click on the like button to share this with a like-minded friend.

Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.   —  Marcelene Cox

 

Organic Vegetable Gardening Rises To New Heights

Those of us who begin a basic, step by step organic vegetable gardening program usually worry most about all of the pests that want to enjoy all of our hard work for lunch. One thing we here in the U.S. don’t worry about much is space. But what about those like minded organic gardeners in Hong Kong? Not a lot of room to grow, if you know what I mean. Here is an article I ran across on the Mother Nature Network, originally written for AFP by Sam Reeves, that describes what challenges they face and how they go about tackling them.

Organic Vegetable Gardening Rises To New Heights

On the rooftop of a tower block above the hustle and bustle of teeming Hong Kong, dedicated growers tend to their organic crops in a vegetable garden.

Organic vegetable gardening in Hong Kong is literally up on the roof. Photo by Ablestock.com c/o Photos.Com.

Against a backdrop of skyscrapers and jungle-clad hills, earth-filled boxes are spread out on the roof of the 14-storey building, where a wide variety of produce including cucumbers and potatoes are cultivated.
It is one of several such sites that have sprung up in Hong Kong’s concrete jungle, as the appetite for organic produce grows and people seek ways to escape one of the most densely populated places on earth.
“I am happier eating what I grow rather than food I buy from supermarkets,” said Melanie Lam, a 28-year-old nurse, who comes to the “City Farm” in the Quarry Bay district of Hong Kong’s main island about twice a week.
“Compared to vegetables from the supermarket, vegetables that I plant are sweeter and fresher. It gives me a greater sense of satisfaction.”
With most of the southern Chinese territory’s 7 million people living in tower blocks and land prices sky-high, unused roofs are some of the few places in the most heavily populated areas for budding vegetable gardeners.
Pretty encouraging to know that your step by step organic vegetable gardening can be done almost anywhere. Knowing what you’re growing and where it’s coming from is very reassuring and the best thing we can do for our own health.
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I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
                                                                                               — Nathaniel Hawthorne,  Mosses from and Old Manse