Organic farming is better for wildlife
A report by Britain’s Soil Association shows that wildlife is substantially richer and more varied on organic than on conventional farms. A typical organic field has five times as many wild plants, 57% more species, and 44% more birds in cultivated areas than a regular farm. Two 1996 studies show that organic farms have twice as many skylarks, and twice as many butterflies. Every time we eat an organic lettuce or tomato, we help restore wildlife.
Organic farming is better for the soil
Studies show that organic fields have deeper vegetation, more weed cover, and contain 88% more ‘epigeal arthropods’ (squiggly soil creatures). A new Swiss study demonstrates that organic soils have more soil microbes, more mycorrhizae – the fungi that attach themselves to the tips of plant roots and help plants absorb nutrients – and more earthworms. It found that soil insects are twice as abundant and more diverse in organic plots, including pest-eating spiders and beetles.
Organic food is better for animal reproduction
Out of 14 animal studies, ten showed that animals fare better when fed organic food. Three showed no difference, and one showed an improvement with conventional food. We are all mammals, so we share a lot in common. Female rabbits fed on organic food have twice the level of ovum production; chickens fed on organic food have a 28% higher rate of egg production. Rabbits that were fed conventional food saw a decline in fertility over three generations, compared to no decline for organically fed rabbits. Meanwhile, many human couples find it hard to have a baby….
Organic food helps fight cancer, stroke and heart problems
In a recent study, Scottish scientists found that organic vegetable soups contain almost six times as much salicylic acid as non-organic vegetable soups. Eleven brands of organic soup had 117 nanograms per gram, versus just 20 nanograms in 24 types of non-organic soup. Salicylic acid is the main ingredient in aspirin; it helps fight hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer, and is produced naturally in plants as a defence against stress and disease. If plants don’t have to resist bugs because of pesticide-use, they generate less salicylic acid, and pass less on to us. The same scientists found significantly higher concentrations of salicylic acid in the blood of vegetarian Buddhist monks, compared with meat-eaters.
Organic food contains more nutrients
According to a recent study by the Globe and Mail and CTV News of the nutrient quality of fruit and vegetables, compared to 50 years ago, today’s regular fruit and vegetables contain dramatically less vitamins and minerals. The average potato has lost 100% of its vitamin A, 57% of its vitamin C and iron, 28% of its calcium, 50% of its riboflavin, and 18% of its thiamin. Out of seven key nutrients studied, only niacin levels increased. Similar results applied to 24 other fruits and vegetables. For broccoli, all seven nutrients fell, including a 63% decrease in calcium and a 34% decrease in iron. No wonder we are gulping down the supplements.
In April 2001, however, a US study examined 41 comparisons of the nutrient levels in organic and regular foods. In every case, the organic crops had higher nutrient levels – 27% more vitamin C, 29% more iron, 14% more phosphorus. At the June 2001 meeting of the American Chemical Society, a chemistry professor reported that organic oranges contained up to 30% more vitamin C than regular oranges, even though they are half the size. (Conventional orange trees are fed nitrogen fertilizer, causing the fruit to absorb more water, which makes them bigger.) In a French study, a cancer specialist studying the nutrient qualities of food grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France showed that for the twelve foods where his study is complete, the organic foods showed increased quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and the B group, increased elements such as zinc, increased minerals such as calcium, and increased fibre.
Organic apples are just better!
From 1994 to 1999, a soil scientist at Washington State University ran a series of tests comparing apple orchards. The organic orchard had the best soil, held water better, and resisted soil damage better. It was more energy efficient, and required less labour and less water per apple. The organic apples were firmer, tasted sweeter and were less tart to a non-expert panel. The organic orchard also made more money, since the apples sold for a higher price. (The Salt Spring Apple Festival is on Sunday September 30th, with 14 orchards open to the public, and 350 varieties of organic apple. Contact Harry Burton, 250-653-2007).