State of Science :: Nutritional Quality
President of the Sierra Club on Nutrient Decline and Lack of Media Attention
From: Carl Pope <>email@example.com>
Subject: Taking the Initiative: If You Are What You Eat, Be Worried
San Francisco, CA -- For years, advocates of smaller scale, more local, less industrial agriculture have been marginalized and viewed with, well, quasi-contempt, whenever they argued that produce used to taste better. While no one ever convincingly disputed this fact, (largely because home vegetable gardens have kept the conversation honest), industrial agriculture simply blustered that keeping food cheap was more important than keeping it healthy. After all, they argued, food is for nutrition, not just pleasure. At the same time, the argument that organic, locally grown or heritage foods were actually better for you were similarly dissed through billion-dollar advertising and PR campaigns.
So, it is stunning to learn that the Department of Agriculture has had data since 1981 showing dramatic declines in the nutritional content of modern fruits and vegetables.
According to the data, half the major nutrients tracked by the department from 1950 to 1999 showed significant declines -- protein is down 6%, iron 15%, vitamin C 20%, and riboflavin a shocking 38%. Evidently the primary cause is selecting and growing crops for fast maturity, which means they don't have time to absorb and metabolize nutrients.
What is even more shocking is that this evidence has barely been noticed, and when Dr. Donald Davis, a biochemist at the University of Texas, delivered a paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one Scripps Howard science writer filed a single story on the revelation, while the rest of the press ignored it.
And what was the response of industrial agriculture to the discovery that the food it is selling is not as good for us as it used to be? It yawned.
Al Bushway, a food-science professor at the University of Maine and an expert on fruits and vegetables with the Institute of Food Technologists, said the decline of nutrients in vegetables and fruits could be made up through other foods Americans eat. 'For vegans only using plant sources for food, this could be an issue.'
Industrial agriculture must be wiping its brow and saying, "Whew, we dodged that bullet."
In the midst of a national epidemic of obesity, a health care crisis and spreading concern about a wide variety of diseases, many of which have been linked to diet, the news that the nutritional content of food has been significantly degraded by only 50 years of industrial agriculture is not worth reporting?
This may stand as the single most underreported story of many years.
85 Second St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
For a web-version of this email, please visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/carlpope/2006/04/if-you-are-what-you-eat-be-worried.asp