Plant loss ‘leads to fewer bees’
And the answer is…probably not.
The “first published systematic review investigating differences in nutrient content of organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs” was recently published. This has been a hot and controversial topic for a long time, so I’m glad someone finally did a good, thorough review.
They did a review – not a lab study – but a review of the existing literature to see what the entire mass of published literature on the topic has to say. So instead of saying, “this study says this” and “this study says that,” they looked at what the whole body of research says when combined.
In an analysis that included only satisfactory-quality studies, conventionally produced crops had a significantly higher content of nitrogen, and organically produced crops had a significantly higher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity. No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining 8 of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed.
…Analysis of satisfactory quality crop studies found no evidence of a difference in 8 of the 11 nutrient categories (vitamin C, phenolic compounds, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper, and total soluble solids) (Table 1). Nitrogen contents were significantly higher in conventionally produced crops, and contents of phosphorus and titratable acidity were significantly higher in organically produced crops.
…Differences that were detected in crops were biologically plausible and were most likely due to differences in fertilizer use (nitrogen and phosphorus) (3) and ripeness at harvest (titratable acidity) (16). It is unlikely that consumption of these nutrients at the concentrations reported in organic foods in this study provide any health benefit.
…The current analysis suggests that a small number of differences in nutrient content exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs and that, whereas these differences in content are biologically plausible, they are unlikely to be of public health relevance. One broad conclusion to draw from this review is that there is no evidence to support the selection of organically produced foodstuffs over conventionally produced foodstuffs to increase the intake of specific nutrients or nutritionally relevant substances.
Now, clarification: I do support organic agriculture practices. I am not dogmatic about it, but I think overall we would probably all be better off if we didn’t have as many pesticides and synthetic fertilizers being sprayed around. However, there is a difference between supporting organic for environmental reasons (pesticides, fertilizers, environmental impact, etc.) and supporting it because you think you’re getting more nutrients from organic food.
The researchers even clarify this themselves:
The outcome was restricted to the nutrient and nutritionally relevant content of foodstuffs. We did not address differences in contaminant contents (eg, herbicide, pesticide, or fungicide residues) or the possible environmental consequences of organic and conventional agricultural practices because this was beyond the scope of our review.
I don’t think there’s much of a question about organics containing less pesticides, etc. than conventional produce. But the point here is that you’re not getting more calcium or magnesium from organic produce than you would from conventional produce.
I don’t think we can necessarily call this “case closed,” because science is always evolving with more recent research. But I think we now have some good research to put behind our informed decisions.
How a Neighborhood’s Walkability Can Increase Property Values August 28, 2009
Paris rooftops swarm with bees as urban honey industry takes off August 25, 2009
Not only is the city largely free from the pesticides and fertilisers that are killing the countryside bees, the warmth of the urban area promotes earlier breeding.
Some Paris honey-producers are claiming record productivity, with up to 100kg of honey per hive annually, compared with the 20-25kg from typical hives on the cereal-producing plains of Ile-de-France, the surrounding region, Mr Védrenne said recently.
Garden sustainably. August 18, 2009
Here’s a good general introduction to ways to keep your garden sustainable: http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Garden_Sustainably
And a great, super simple idea from Homegrown Evolution on the best and easiest greywater system ever. We are thinking about integrating this into the deck we plan to build on the back of our house. We do just happen to have an old cast iron sink left over from an old house…
This is my new outdor sink. I found the cast iron sink on the side of the road in Pomona and gleefully dragged the heavy beast several hundred yards to my car. I had a frame built for it out of scrap wood lying around the yard, the faucet and pipes came from another discarded sink, and we hooked it up to the hose outlet. It drains into a simple 5 gallon bucket which I can then pour out into the nearby landscape. It is super simple grey water. Now instead of going inside to wash my hands or rinse produce from the garden, I can use the outdoor sink and easily recycle my water. Plus, there is less dirt and compost in my kitchen sink. This is the kind of so-simple-its-brilliant stuff I just love. While I would like my entire house to have a greywater system, that isn’t really feasible at this time. The house is old and the pipes are very difficult, perhaps impossible, to access. So we are starting with the sink and soon we are doing a simple greywater system from the washing machine as part of our Summer Workshop Series. Every drop counts so we have to start somewhere.
…The average American uses more than 151 gallons of water per day.
Last year, UNICEF announced that humans need about five gallons of clean water a day to survive.
Here’s how to reduce your water footprint to fewer than 75 gallons per day.
And Walk This Way: Making the right choices to reduce your water footprint.
Food Inc. July 28, 2009
We went to see Food Inc. last night at the Ragtag, our local indie film theatre. I was a little apprehensive going into it about what I was going to see, particularly regarding animal production. I had heard from the Urban Homsteaders that the animal production portion of it was particularly disturbing. And it was, but not as bad as I had imagined it could be.
It’s certainly not a kid’s movie and has a PG-13 rating for good reason. But I think what was probably the most graphic shot was actually of chicken slaughter being done humanely. It was blood and guts, but not the purposeless type of blood and guts you see in violent movies. This at least was real, and brought home the fact that if we’re going to eat meat, the animal does have to be killed somehow. We’re so far removed from our food source that seeing an animal get slaughtered seems graphic and horrendous instead of just a fact of life and a step in how that chicken gets on your plate. Maybe we should be more aware of how that happens so we don’t purposely put a veil over our eyes and allow the food production practices to occur that we are having to deal with now.
I had never seen a CAFO before, and it was interesting to see the parallel of corn fields as far as the eye can see and cattle lots as far as the eye can see. And the cattle are fed corn.
It wasn’t as revolutionary as I thought it might be, but that may also be because I’m fairly familiar with the topic and read about these things on a daily basis. It made me really happy that a) we don’t eat a lot of meat, b) almost all of the meat that I purchase now comes from local sources and c) I’m beginning to grow our own fruits and vegetables and d) I’ve been able to buy good local produce at the Wednesday farmer’s market. By the way, after the movie a panel discussion was held and a man who is involved with our local Columbia Farmer’s Market mentioned that our market has higher attendance in 4 hours on Saturday than the average Walmart does in an entire day. That’s pretty awesome.
People in Columbia are pumped about this type of thing. Last night’s show was almost completely sold out. It makes me feel like this is where I was meant to live.
Another aside: it was also brought up that Hy-Vee is going to be phasing out their Health Market section and integrating those products into the regular aisles. This could be good, I guess, because then they’re with all the other similar products, but it could also make them harder to find. When this was mentioned in the panel discussion, the ENTIRE audience let out a loud GASP OF HORROR. Like, every person there. (This was Charlie’s favourite part of the evening.) BUT, then the storyteller went on to say that the manager of our Columbia store, though, has said that because the Health Market in the Columbia store is so successful, Columbia Hy-Vee will be the ONLY store in the entire country to retain the Health Market. Yup, hippie town.
So, yes. Go see the movie. It’s a must-see. The point was also brought up, though, that this type of film is often preaching to the choir. Get someone to go to the movie who’s not interested in this type of thing or doesn’t know much about food production or why buying local is important. If you’re not aware of what’s going on, the movie probably will be revolutionary. I had already determined to grow as much of my own food as I can and buy local as much as I can. But the film just helps solidify why it’s worth it to make these changes.