By Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
A Cornell University study found more healthful conjugated linoleic acids and omega 3 fatty acids in organic than conventional milk. Likewise, a British study found lower concentrations of harmful saturated fats and higher concentrations of beneficial fatty acids in organic than conventional milk.
Strawberries grown organically in California had a longer shelf life, more dry matter, greater antioxidant activity, and more healthful ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds than conventionally grown strawberries; and the organically farmed soils had more total carbon and nitrogen, more microbial biomass and activity, and greater concentrations of micronutrients than conventionally farmed soils.
Maine’s organic farms create more jobs per farm than Maine’s conventional farms.
These are just a few of the news items from this and recent issues of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.
On the other hand …
The poultry feed additive Roxarsone, widely used in conventional poultry production but not in organic, contains arsenic – an element linked to cancer and other health problems.
People who eat five fruits and vegetables per day from the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list – conventional produce most contaminated with pesticides – consume an average of 10 pesticides per day.
A study done by the University of Montreal found that above average concentrations of an organophosphate pesticide metabolite in urine roughly doubled the chance of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, while University of California research found more Pervasive Development Disorder in children whose mothers had more organophosphate metabolites in their urine.
More and more evidence seems to be pointing to neonicotinoid insecticides, widely used in conventional agriculture but not in organic, as part of the explanation for Colony Collapse Disorder of bees.
Why would organic growers and consumers want to converge with conventional agriculture, as the title of a Maine Agricultural Trades Show session, held in January, suggested? Craving the Organophosphate-Arsenic-Laced Special for dinner?
Organic farming can feed the world, can help strengthen communities (soil, microbial, beneficial insect, human…), can keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, and more. Evidence for these statements is strong and continues to build.
If we are to converge with anything, we – organic and conventional farmers – should look to nature.
In a memorable scene from the beautiful new film “Queen of the Sun – What Are the Bees Telling Us?” a virgin queen bee flies toward the sun on her mating dance, and the dozen or so drones that can keep up with and inseminate her do so. Thus the offspring benefit from a diverse pool of the strongest bee genes – when bees are allowed to behave in a natural way. Soils are similarly genetically diverse, resilient and alive when cultivated organically.
Nature has designed complex and elegant ways to support life. That’s why I choose organic, and that’s why I’d like to see more research into systems that mimic nature.