lution effects seem unsurprising.” 31
In order to explore more deeply how,
and the degree to which organic farming
can reverse the downward trend in food
nutrient density, The Organic Center
and Dr. Preston Andrews of Washington
State University organized a symposium
at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science entitled “Living Soil, Food Quality, and the Future of Food.”
Six encouraging conclusions on the
impacts of organic farming on soil quality and the nutritional content of food
were reached by the panel of scientists: 32
1. Enhancement of soil quality in organic apple production systems can
lead to measurable improvements in
fruit nutritional quality, taste and storability.
2. Organically farmed tomatoes have
significantly higher levels of soluble
solids and natural plant secondary
metabolites, including flavonoids, ly-copene, and vitamin C that act as antioxidants.
3. As crop yields increase, the nutrient
density of the harvested portion of
the crop tends to decline as a result of
what is called “the dilution effect.” 33
Organic farming can delay the onset
of this effect.
4. Studies of 27 cultivars of organically
grown spinach demonstrate significantly higher levels of flavonoids and
vitamin C, and lower levels of nitrates
(a good thing—nitrates in food can
form carcinogenic nitrosamines in the
5. The levels of vitamins and antioxidants in food appear to be driven by
the forms of nitrogen added to a farming system as fertilizer, as well as the
ways in which nitrogen is processed by
the biological communities of organisms in the soil. The nitrogen cycle on
organic farms is rooted in substantially
more complex biological processes
and soil-plant interactions, and for this
reason, organic farming offers great
promise in consistently producing nu-trient-enriched foods.
6. Organic soil fertility methods, which use less readily available forms of nutrients,
especially nitrogen, improve plant gene expression patterns in ways that lead to
more efficient assimilation of nitrogen and carbon in tomatoes. This leaves plants
with more energy to produce beneficial vitamins and antioxidants, compounds
that promote plant health as well as human health by preventing the damage
caused by reactive oxygen species, or so-called free radicals.
Literally hundreds of studies point to a variety of reasons why the generally higher
concentrations of antioxidant phytochemicals in organic food can promote healthy
development and graceful aging. A 2009 study in the prestigious Journal of Agricultural
(continued on page 60)
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