Overweight? Hungry? Blame ‘Hollow Food’

 

wheat harvest sml

Conventional agriculture produces “hollow food”, with low levels of nutrients and vitamins studies show

By Stephen Leahy

TORONTO, Canada, Mar 4, 2006 (Tierramérica)

(Originally published in 2006)

Organic foods protect children from the toxins in pesticides, while foods grown using modern, intensive agricultural techniques contain fewer nutrients and minerals than they did 60 years ago, according to two new scientific studies.

A U.S. research team from Emory University in Atlanta analysed urine samples from children ages three to 11 who ate only organic foods and found that they contained virtually no metabolites of two common pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos. However, once the children returned to eating conventionally grown foods, concentrations of these pesticide metabolites quickly climbed as high as 263 parts per billion, says the study published Feb. 21 (2006).

Organic crops are grown without the chemical pesticides and fertilisers that are common in intensive agriculture. There was a “dramatic and immediate protective effect” against the pesticides while consuming organically grown foods, said Chensheng Lu, an assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

These findings, in addition to the results of another study published in Britain earlier this month, have fueled the debate about the benefits of organically grown food as compared to conventional, mass-produced foods, involving academics, food and agro-industry executives and activists in the global arena.

According to the new British analysis of government nutrition data on meat and dairy products from the 1930s and from 2002, the mineral content of milk, cheese and beef declined as much as 70 percent in that period.

“These declines are alarming,” Ian Tokelove, spokesman for The Food Commission that published the results of the study, told Tierramérica.

The Commission is a British non-governmental organisation advocating for healthier, safer food. The research found that parmesan cheese had 70 percent less magnesium and calcium, beef steaks contained 55 percent less iron, chicken had 31 percent less calcium and 69 percent less iron, while milk also showed a large drop in iron along with a 21 percent decline in magnesium.

Copper, an important trace mineral (an essential nutrient that is consumed in tiny quantities), also declined 60 percent in meats and 90 percent in dairy products.

“It seems likely that intensive farming methods are responsible for this,” Tokelove said from his office in London.

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Activists Slam G8 Aid Shell Game in Toronto

“No maple leaf is big enough to hide the shame of Canada’s summit of broken promises” — Oxfam

Canada spent $1.2 billion hosting G8/G20 Summits

By Stephen Leahy

BERLIN, Jun 26, 2010 (IPS)

The G8 bloc of wealthy nations promised five billion dollars Saturday for health and nutrition programmes that benefit women and children in developing countries.

The five-year Muskoka initiative announced at the annual G8 meeting, this year outside of Toronto, is intended to help prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and babies who currently die during childbirth each year. Nearly eight million children, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, die before they reach the age of five.

Flavia Bustreo, director of the Geneva-based Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which represents more than 300 global and national organisations, welcomed the world’s richest countries’ focus on maternal and child health, which is a historical first, she said.

However, she told IPS from Geneva, “The glass is half-full when it comes to their financial commitment.”

Oxfam and other NGOs also charge that G8 donor nations have been playing a shell game – making multi-billion-dollar commitments at such meetings but without increasing their overall spending on overseas development aid.

“No maple leaf is big enough to hide the shame of Canada’s summit of broken promises,” said Mark Fried, spokesperson for Oxfam. Continue reading

Food Supply In Deep Trouble – Agriculture Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

veg food basketBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Oct 2 (IPS)

Rocketing food prices and hundreds of millions more starving people will be part of humanity’s grim future without concerted action on climate change and new investments in agriculture, experts reported this week.

The current devastating drought in East Africa, where millions of people are on the brink of starvation, is a window on our future, suggests a new study looking at the impacts of climate change.

“Twenty-five million more children will be malnourished in 2050 due to effects of climate change,” such as decreased crop yields, crop failures and higher food prices, concluded the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study.

“Of all human economic activities, agriculture is by far the most vulnerable to climate change,” warned the report’s author, Gerald Nelson, an agricultural economist with IFPRI, a Washington-based group focused on global hunger and poverty issues.

The report, “Quantifying the Costs of Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change“, may be the “most comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate change on agriculture to date”, as IFPRI claims, but researchers concede that there is no current way to quantify all of the future repercussions of changing weather patterns on the food supply.

A critical component of agriculture is knowing the best time to plant seeds, for example. Farmers rely on their past experience and weather records. But one of the most robust science findings is that climate change has and will produce significant increases in weather variability.

This means extremes like droughts or floods will happen more often or last longer, and extreme temperature shifts are more likely. The past is no longer a reliable guide for farmers because the fundamental conditions in the atmosphere have been altered – far more heat is being trapped in the atmosphere today because of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than at any time since the dawn of agriculture.

Nelson told IPS that the IFPRI report is a “conservative estimate” of the potential impacts and does not include impacts of pests and disease, loss of farmland due to rising sea levels or loss of water from melting glaciers. Continue reading