Organic vs Conventional Crops, What is the HubBub all about?
A lot of attention has been given recently to organic vs conventionally grown foods. Twelve people- 4 MDs, 2 PhDs, one, maybe 2 librarians, 1 public health person, and three bachelor degrees- one of which had an undergraduate research grant all got together, WITHOUT any $$$ from outside, and decided to comb through 45 years worth of studies (1966-2011) to study “English-language reports of comparisons of organically and conventionally grown food or of populations consuming these foods.” They also “extracted data on methods, health outcomes, and nutrient and contaminant levels.” — Annals of Internal Medicine. That was the latest, much clamored about Stanford Study.
They looked at 17 studies re humans and 233 studies on nutrient and contaminant levels. However, of the 17 human studies, only three of the human studies examined clinical outcomes. This Stanford study looked at strawberries and concluded that organic strawberries may have more vitamin C.
Now, here’s the thing. Most of the strawberries grown in the Salinas Valley were treated with Methyl Bromide- a pesticide banned EVERYWHERE else in the entire country. FInally, when it was banned in the Salinas Valley, the growers switched to Methyl Iodide- not any better, but also not included in the current ban. Of note, they grow nearly 25% of all the worlds strawberries.
WHAT IS INTERESTING, is not so much what the 12 Stanford people, who were not compensated by anyone from the outside, included in their study, but rather the one study which they excluded- namely, this one, “Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems.” which fits their timeline and covers EXACTLY what they were trying to discover.
This is just one finding from the study:
“When susceptibility to fungal post-harvest rots was evaluated, organic strawberries had significantly longer survival times (less gray mold incidence) than conventional strawberries (Figure 1). When strawberries were exposed to a two-day shelf-life interval, the percent loss in fresh weight was significantly less for the organic berries than for the conventional berries (Table 2). These results indicate that the organic strawberries would have a longer shelf life than the conventional strawberries because of slower rotting and dehydration, perhaps due to augmentation of cuticle and epidermal cell walls. There were no fungicides applied to the organic strawberry fields for post-harvest control of gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), in contrast to multiple fungicide applications to the conventional fields. Although sulfur was applied to the organic fields to control powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca macularis), sulfur sprays are ineffective against gray mold . This suggests that the organic strawberries may have been more resistant or avoided infection by means other than fungicides (e.g., systemic-acquired resistance).”
I am beginning to see why it was left out. For me it contradicts all of the Stanford study, especially when you read about how Washington State University conducted their study. They were funded:
“by the United States Department of Agriculture through the National Science Foundation/U.S. Department of Agriculture Microbial Observatories Program, the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and The Organic Center. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.”
You will want to read this study, it blows Stanford’s study apart.
This is what Stanford had to say about it:
“Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler, another member of the Stanford team, said that the strawberry study was erroneously left out but that she doubted it would have changed the conclusions when combined with 31 other studies that also measured vitamin C.”