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.

Continue reading

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

Vitamin A and Zinc Supplements Cuts Malaria in Africa

Aedes aegypti copyright USDA

Feb 13 (IPS) – Malaria continues to cut a swathe through Africa, which accounts for most cases of the disease and the majority of malaria-related deaths. Globally, more than a million people die from malaria each year. In the case of children, this translates into a death every 30 seconds, according to the World Health Organisation.

A study by Burkina Faso’s Health Sciences Research Institute (Institut de recherche en sciences de la santé, IRSS) may point the way to reducing malaria’s toll on children, however.

IRSS research director Jean-Bosco Ouedraogo and his colleagues report in the current issue of ‘Nutrition Journal‘ that giving vitamin A and zinc supplements to children has been shown to reduce the incidence of malaria among them by a third. The journal is an online publication managed from London.

New ways of fighting malaria are critically needed. In recent years, the disease’s growing resistance to drugs and insecticides (malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes) has made malaria control much more challenging.

Ouedraogo spoke to IPS science correspondent Stephen Leahy.