Thursday, August 09, 2007

New research studies out

The list keeps piling up. Just a few studies can be refuted as being interpreted wrong or biased, but as more and more research piles up showing pesticides as being dangerous, organics as having more nutrition, etc. it will get harder and harder to ignore or dismiss. Check out the latest wave of studies here:
Breaking News!
New Studies Broaden Scientific Support for Five Dimensions of the Organic Benefit

I. Linkage Established Between Pesticides and Autism

For years epidemiologists have seen hints of a link between pesticide exposure and autism. As of July 30, 2007, these days are over. Scientists working for the California Department of Health Services have found that pregnant women living near fields sprayed with the common insecticides dicofol and endosulfan were six-times more likely to give birth to children with "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (ASD) than women living many miles from treated fields.

Six-times higher risk - it is very rare for such a large and statistically significant difference to be found in a study of this kind. Plus, the authors report that the closer a mother lived to treated fields, and/or the more pounds of pesticides applied, the greater the risk.

These two insecticides are the last widely used organochlorines - the family of insecticides including DDT, chlordane, aldrin, and toxaphene, among others. Both are known endocrine disruptors, they are persistent in the environment, and bioaccumulate up food chains. Residues of these insecticides, in particular endosulfan, are common in conventional fruits and vegetables, especially imports. This study should compel the EPA to finally take decisive action to end exposures to these two insecticides.

The full study appeared in the online version of Environmental Health Perspectives and is available free of charge.

II. Organic Milk and Meat Dramatically Enhances the Nutritional Quality of Mom's Breast Milk

Mothers consuming mostly organic milk and meat products were found to have about 50 percent higher levels of rumenic acid in their breast milk. This Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is responsible for most of the health benefits of CLAs in milk and meat. The authors of this European study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in June 2007 report that the greater reliance of organic beef and dairy farmers on pasture and forage grasses increases the levels of CLAs in milk and beef, and in turn in the breast milk of women eating organic animal products.

Details on the study are on the Center's website.

III. Organic Farming Practices Improve Water Quality in Minnesota

A team of University of Minnesota scientists studied the impact of organic and sustainable agricultural practices over three years on subsurface drainage and water quality in southwestern Minnesota. Their focus was on corn-soybean farms.

They found that organic and sustainable systems reduced the volume of subsurface drainage water discharges by 41 percent – a major benefit for the farmer, especially in dry years when lack of soil moisture cuts back yields. Organic and sustainable systems also reduced the loss of nitrate nitrogen by about 60 percent, allowing farmers to reduce fertilization rates by nearly half without sacrificing yields in most years. The improved soil quality on the organic/sustainable plots, coupled with more diverse land use patterns, were credited by the team with improving the efficiency of nutrient uptake and water infiltration and use, especially in average to wet years.

The full text of the University of Minnesota study is available free of charge.

IV. Organically Grown Melons Deliver More Vitamin C and Polyphenols

During the 2007 annual meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science, a team from Colorado State University reported encouraging results from a two-year comparison of organic and conventional melon production systems. The team highlighted the impact of crop genetics on total antioxidant activity, which varied over ten-fold across varieties. Crop genotype accounted for 65 percent of this variation, with production system accounting for most of the rest. Organic management was found to increase both vitamin C and polyphenol.

The team's work is ongoing, and has expanded to include some key Colorado vegetable crops.

V. Pesticide Exposures Increase Risk of Gestational Diabetes

The Agricultural Health Study, underway for over a decade, has produced valuable data on the impacts of pesticides on human health. In an important March 2007 paper in "Diabetes Care," a team of government scientists found that pregnant women exposed to pesticides occupationally (i.e., spraying, mixing pesticides) had more than double the risk of developing gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy). Four herbicides, including two in the phenoxy herbicide class that also includes 2,4-D (see the item on pesticide use and biotech crops below), plus three insecticides were found to be associated with elevated risk of gestational diabetes.

Additional information on this study is on the Center's website.

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