In This Issue:
Bad News About Farmworker Kids and Pesticides
Almost 90 percent of the 60 children had three or more pesticide metabolites in their urine, one-third had five or more, and only one child had none.
Metabolites of the highly toxic organophosphate (OP) parathion were found in 90 percent of the children, and chlorpyrifos was found in 83.3 percent. About 2.5 OPs were found, on average, in each child's urine, indicative of active exposures to each of these pesticides within the last few days, and evidence of the need for cumulative risk assessments of the OPs taking into account all active ingredients in the class and all routes of exposure.
The ubiquitous exposure of farmworker children in North Carolina to highly toxic OPs documented in this study occurred in the summer of 2004, two or more years after the regulatory actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency against parathion and chlorpyrifos under the Food Quality Protection Act. Clearly, use of these OPs remains widespread and continues to expose children to heightened risk of developmental abnormalities, especially those impacting the brain and central nervous system.
See the "Hot Science" item on this study for more details.
New Study Links Adolescent Exposure to DDT to Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
Conventional wisdom has stated for years that "the dose makes the poison," but recent science has proven otherwise. The timing of exposures has an enormous impact on adverse health outcomes (see the "Faroes Statement" on the developmental impacts of early exposures to chemcials).
A new study in Environmental Health Perspectives involving 129 women with breast cancer has shown conclusively that exposures to DDT before age 14 increased risk of breast cancer five-fold, compared to women not exposed to DDT until after age 14. Pete Myers has written an excellent summary of the new study for "Environmental Health News."
Deeper Questions About Fruit-Vegetable Intake and Breast Cancer
The highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association published on July 18, 2007, a major study concluding that a diet very high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber does not protect women from a recurrence or death from breast cancer. The trial involved 3,088 women previously treated for early-stage breast cancer. These disappointing results were reported widely in the media as evidence that dietary interventions cannot protect women from breast cancer.
Too bad the trial did not include a group of women consuming predominantly
organic fruits, vegetables, and fiber, especially over most of their lives. Given that most of the women in the trial tripled their consumption of fruit and vegetables, they also almost certainly doubled, if not tripled their daily pesticide intake. Perhaps the harm caused by such a big increase in pesticide exposure overwhelmed the curative, antioxidant impacts of increased fruit and vegetable intake. Plus, several common pesticides that are present in fruits and vegetables are known to be cancer tumor promoters.
The above study about the timing of DDT exposure and breast cancer risk also highlights the need to ask questions about the timing of exposures and dietary interventions. Once a woman reaches adulthood and is diagnosed with breast cancer, dietary interventions may have limited effect. While a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables is rarely enough, by itself, to cure adults actively fighting a long-term disease like breast cancer, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in pesticides during childhood and adolescence clearly can help tip the odds toward lifelong health, and will also improve the functioning of the adult immune system.
World Health Organization Stresses Impact of Childhood Exposures
The WHO has released a mammoth, 351-page report on health risks faced by the world's children. Two dozen scientists oversaw the writing of the document, which was reviewed by over 100 experts worldwide. The impacts of prenatal and early-life exposures to pesticides are featured as among the most significant risk factors for cancer, birth defects, and neurological problems.
Rising Natural Gas Prices -- Bad News for Conventional Farmers
An August 2007 report by USDA's Economic Research Service projects the impact of rising natural gas prices on nitrogen fertilizer costs. Natural gas is the primary production input to make anhydrous ammonia, the conventional farmer's major and cheapest form of nitrogen fertilizer. U.S. ammonia production declined 44 percent from 2000-2005, while imports rose 115 percent. Prices paid by farmers went from $227 per ton in 2000 to $521 per ton in 2005, and have moved higher in many regions. Rising nitrogen prices plus growing dependence on foreign sources is raising new worries among conventional farmers, especially as corn acres explode to meet ethanol-driven demand.
"Still No Free Lunch" Report Released
The Organic Center has released a provocative "Critical Issue Report" on the impacts of rising crop yields on the nutrient density of food. The September 2007 report by Brian Halweil of the Worldwatch Institute is entitled Still No Free Lunch: Nutrient Levels in U.S. Food Supply Eroded by Pursuit of High Yields. The report highlights the important role of organic farming systems in increasing the nutrient density of many staple crops. The full 44-page report, a five page executive summary, a two-page consumer summary, and the press release have been posted on the Center's website.
Chilling New Report on Cancer Released
The 2006-2007 annual report of the President's Cancer Panel focuses strongly on the role of dietary changes in cancer prevention. It points out that one-third of cancer deaths are caused by unhealthy diets.
Some excerpts and key findings --
"Most physicians are trained principally to treat disease, not to help people remain well."
Seventeen cancers are associated with obesity and "obesity [is] the second leading contributor (after tobacco use) to premature death."
Cancer rates are 50% and 60% higher in obese men and women, respectively.
Globally, adult cancers are mostly caused by "exposures that people sustain from products that are mass produced by corporations...alcohol...fast food...chemicals...pesticides..."
"Handbook of Organic Food Safety and Quality" Released
Woodhead Publishing has released the long-awaited, 521-page, 23-chapter volume on organic food quality and safety. European authors wrote 20 of the chapters, two were by U.S. scientists, including The Organic Center's Chief Scientist Chuck Benbrook, and one chapter was by a Canadian team. The Center has posted a brief overview, the Table of Contents, and information on ordering.
Chuck's 30-page chapter is entitled "Dietary exposure to pesticides from organic and conventional food production systems." It updates and expands on the analysis reported in the Center's first State of Science Review, "Minimizing Pesticide Dietary Exposure Through the Consumption of Organic Food."
Some nuggets --
Nutritionists Weighing In on the Impact of Organic Farming on the
Nutritional Quality of Food
Based on the volume of press calls to the Center in recent weeks, an organized effort appears to be underway to encourage dietitians and nutritionists to write op-eds and letters to the editor questioning the nutritional superiority of organic food. Most op-eds and letters make the same points, and use similar language.
In response, the Center has suggested that some commentators are likely not aware of recent science. In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in peer-reviewed studies showing, in general, the nutritional benefits of organic food. Out of the 83 peer-reviewed, published reports that compare the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods, 35 studies, or 42% have been published since 2004. Most of these studies are too new to be covered in the literature reviews most dietitians and nutritionists read in their professional journals.
The Center's "State of Science Review" on this topic, due out this winter, will provide strong evidence in support of the nutritional superiority of organic food, a conclusion that is statistically valid only because of the two-dozen plus new studies out in just the past couple of years.
Looking Deep, Deep Into Your Genes
Thanks to the Natural Resources Defense Council for permission to post on the Center's website an excellent article on the impact of chemical exposures on gene expression, autism, and life-long health. The piece, by Laura Wright, features the work of Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist at Boston's Mass General. It is one of the best and most accessible explanations of an important, rapidly moving field of science.
ERS Posts an Information-Packed "Organic Briefing Room"
USDA's Economic Research Service posted on August 22nd a useful "Organic Briefing Room" that provides easy access to dozens of USDA reports and data sets. Highlights include detailed statistics on organic crop and livestock production by state through 2005, organic wholesale and farmgate prices, and the milk production costs and return survey that included a large sample of organic dairies.
Redbook features an article on organic
The cover of this month's issue of Redbook magazine reads "Food News: Is organic worth it?" The full-page story covers the definition of organic products, what the USDA organic seal means, the nutritional and food safety benefits of organic food, and impacts of organic livestock management on animal health and antibiotic efficacy. The Center's Chief Scientist was interviewed for the article entitled "The Truth About Organic Foods."
----------------------------------------------------450 pounds of corn contain enough calories to meet an adult's energy needs for a year.
----------------------------------------------------By 2025, the ethanol-driven boost in the price of corn could increase the world's hungry by 600 million people.
----------------------------------------------------Nearly half of Archer Daniels Midland Company's (ADM) profits come from products subsidized or protected by the U.S. government.
Four facts from "How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007.
"Wheat relatives harbour supply of resistance genes," SciDevNet, August 13, 2007
Drinking water from reservoirs in the Northern Great Plains contains, on average, over six different herbicides. Six herbicides were found in 77 percent or more of the 206 water samples tested. 2,4-D, MCPA, and clopryalid were found in virtually all.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 115, No. 8, August 2007, p. 1183
----------------------------------------------------To reduce odors from hog manure lagoons, USDA scientists are studying the use of the antibiotic monensin. When a lagoon is treated with monensin, the antibiotic changes the mix of bacteria in the lagoon in a way that may someday reduce odors.
Both pig tales are true.
Feedstuffs, July 23, 2007, pages 10-11.
Have you seen the one and only authentic, official USDA organic agriculture poster? It is worth a look.
________________________________________________________________________Wheat prices reached a historic high of $8.10 per bushel on September 4, 2007, pushed upward by panic buying and a negative report from Canada on this year's harvest.
International Conference to Discuss Health Benefits of Organic Fruits and Vegetables
The Organic Center, OFRF Present Joint Statement to USDA on Research Priorities
Mark Lipson, the Organic Farming Research Foundation's (OFRF) Policy Program Director, presented Organic Center-OFRF speciality crop research priorities at a USDA "Listening Session" in Modesto, CA, on August 29th. The session was an official meeting of the National Agricultural Research, Education, Extension and Economics Advisory Board. Thanks to Mark and OFRF for a chance to contribute to this important meeting.
Organic Friends E-Zine
The Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada is distributing a free email newsletter on research findings and meetings in Canada. The August issue contains ten research updates, half from or covered on The Organic Center's website!
Core Truths on the Major Benefits of Organic Food and Farming
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