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French Food Agency Verifies Multiple Nutritional and Safety Benefits of Organic Food

September 20, 2009

A report released by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFFSA) and published in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development reviews a number of studies comparing health and safety value of organic and traditionally-raised foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to meats and grains.  Such a comparison has not occurred until recently because of the initially small size of organic agriculture and the slow acceptance for organic agriculture within some fields.  The results of the study and literature review provide some eye-opening comparisons.

-Organically grown vegetables including potatoes, carrots, beetroots, lettuce, kale, leeks, turnips, onions, celery, and tomatoes have higher levels of iron and magnesium.

-Organically grown potatoes, tomatoes, celery, and kale have shown higher levels of vitamin C.

-Organically raised beef has more lean muscle mass, less fat, and more polyunsaturated fatty acids and linolenic acid, a recommended essential fatty acid while total milk fat in organic milk was no different than that from traditionally-produced milk.

-Organically grown fruits and vegetables have shown higher levels of micronutrients such as salicylic acid that have been shown in studies to be involved in the prevention of chronic inflammation and some cancers.

-Organic foods are much less likely, roughly 2.7% of samples, to have chemical residue contamination than average traditionally-grown crops, 41% of samples, with roughly 4.7% of samples having high levels of residues.  Studies are still being conducted on the long-term impacts of low-dose ingestion of these residues.

-Organic vegetables have been found to have between 28% and 85% lower nitrate content.  Nitrates are highly reactive molecules that bind to hemoglobin in the blood, leading to methomoglobinemia and also generate nitrosamines which are among the most powerful natural cancer-causing agents.  For that reason, the Food and Agriculture Organization has established maximum daily nitrates intake at 3.7mg/kg of body weight.  A major reason for the considerably lower level of nitrates in organic food is the use of composts rather than nitrogen-based fertilizers which can lead to nitrogen accumulation in the plants.

The full article made be found online at: www.agronomy-journal.org or at this link: http://www.agronomy-journal.org/index.php?option=article&access=doi&doi=10.1051/agro/2009019

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