Overweight? Hungry? Blame ‘Hollow Food’

 

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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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Peak Soil: The Silent Global Crisis

30% of farmland can no longer grow food

By Stephen Leahy

(First published in the Earth Island Journal Spring 2008)

A harsh winter wind blew last night, and this morning the thin snow cover has turned into a rich chocolate brown. The dirt covering the snow comes from cornfields near my home that were ploughed following the harvest, a common practice in southern Ontario and in the corn-growing regions of the US Midwest.

A handful of this dirty snow melts quickly, leaving a thin, fine-grained wet mess. It doesn’t look like much, but the mucky sludge in my hand is the prerequisite for life on the planet.

“We are overlooking soil as the foundation of all life on Earth,” says Andres Arnalds, assistant director of the Icelandic Soil Conservation Service. Arnalds is an eloquent spokesperson for the unheralded emergency of soil erosion, a problem that is reducing global food production and water availability, and is responsible for an estimated 30 percent of the greenhouse gases emissions.

“Land degradation and desertification may be regarded as the silent crisis of the world, a genuine threat to the future of humankind.”

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