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Kale Is a Surprise on 2019’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ List

While it may still be considered a super food, kale took third place on this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue. Once again, strawberries and spinach took first and second, as they did on last year’s list.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization focused on human health and the environment, has produced the report annually since 2004.

This year, more than 92% of kale samples tested had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could have up to 18 different residues, EWG found. The most frequently detected pesticide, found on about 60% of the kale samples, was Dacthal, also called DCPA. It has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen, based on animal studies.

The EWG researchers analyzed test data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the report, and kale had not been tested in more than 10 years, says Nneka Leiba, MPH, director of healthy living science at EWG and a co-author of the report. “The percent of [kale] samples with residue increased from 76% to 98%,” she says, citing the difference between the testing in 2007 and in 2017, the data used for this year’s report. “The average number of residues on a single sample increased from two to more than five.”

Leiba stresses that the report should not discourage people from eating fruits and vegetables, although she does suggest people choose organic produce when possible as even washing produce does not remove all pesticides.

Other experts who viewed the report say the amount of pesticides found is not high enough to be a health hazard.

2019’s Dirty Dozen

After adding kale, this year’s list repeats all the entries on last year’s list except for sweet bell peppers, in 12th place last year. This year’s Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes
Dirty_12_2019

Dirty Dozen Plus

The researchers also call out hot peppers, which they say don’t meet their traditional ranking criteria but ”were found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system.” They found insecticides that are banned on some crops but still allowed for use on hot peppers: acephate, chlorpyrifos, and oxamyl. The EWG recommends buying organic hot peppers or cooking them, as the heat decreases pesticide levels.

Clean 15 List for 2019

The researchers also produce a Clean 15 list — produce least likely to have pesticide residue. Much of this year’s list also repeats last year’s. For 2019, mushrooms made the list, while mangoes dropped off. Overall, more than 70% of the fruit and vegetable samples on the Clean 15 list had no pesticide residues, the researchers found. If they did have residues, only 6% had two or more pesticide types.
  1. Avocados (less than 1% of samples showed detectable levels of pesticides)
  2. Sweet corn (less than 1% of samples showed detectable levels)
  3. Pineapples
  4. Frozen sweet peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew melons
Clean_15_2019





Study Methods, Health Concerns

For the report, researchers ranked pesticide contamination of 47 fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of more than 40,000 samples taken by the USDA and FDA.  The researchers looked at the percent tested with detectable pesticides, the percent with two or more, average number on a single sample, average amount of pesticides found, maximum number found on a single sample, and total found on the crop.
EWG researchers point to the value of a diet low in pesticide residues, citing research such as a recent report finding that people with the highest frequency of organic food consumption had a 25% lower risk of cancers of various types than those who had the lowest intake. Another study found a link between eating foods high in pesticide residues and fertility issues.
A Toxicologist Weighs In
Carl Winter, PhD, a food toxicologist at the University of California Davis, is familiar with the EWG reports. He calls the rankings “arbitrary and of dubious value for consumers.”
When considering the risk of pesticides in food, he says, the actual amount of pesticide detected, the amount of that food eaten by a person, and the toxicity of the pesticide must all be evaluated, and he says the EWG research does not do this.
A Dietitian’s Viewpoint

“As a registered dietitian, the concept of ‘dirty’ and ‘clean’ foods is concerning, unless food is truly dirty,” says Connie Diekman, a registered dietitian and director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

She reviewed the report. “The USDA, FDA, and EPA all work to develop guidelines for safe food, setting limits of additives, preservatives, and pesticides at levels that are significantly below levels that might be a concern,” she says. She cautions consumers not to fear certain produce.
The amount of pesticides used is small, she says, ”and the quantity of food we would need to eat for any potential health risk exceeds what people do [eat].”

“If you are more comfortable and can afford to, buy organic, but know it can have organic pesticide residue,” Diekman says.

Growers’ Views
Teresa Thorne is executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, an industry group representing farmers who grow both organic and conventional produce. She fears that the report will create ”unfounded and unnecessary fears.” She notes that few Americans eat enough fruits and vegetable daily as is.
The Alliance maintains a pesticide calculator on its companion site, www.safefruitsandveggies.com. According to its calculations, a child could eat 7,446 servings of kale in one day without ill effect, even if it had the highest pesticide residue recorded by the USDA.
EWG Responds

While the levels on individual produce may seem low, ”the overall burden is high,” Leiba says, adding that people are also eating other foods with chemicals and pesticides. “We are talking about a synergistic effect.”

Editor’s note: Connie Diekman is on the Bayer LEAD Network, Leaders Engaged in Advancing Dialogue.
WebMD Article Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD
March 20, 2019
Sources:
Libby Mills, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.Carl Winter, PhD, extension food toxicologist; vice chair, food science and technology, University of California, Davis.United States Department of Agriculture: “Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.”United States Department of Agriculture: “Organic Production and Handling Standards.”Trewavas, A. Crop Protection, September 2004.Environmental Protection Agency: “Pesticides and Food.”United States Department of Agriculture: “Organic Labeling Standards,” “Organic Agriculture,” “Organic Market Overview,” “Labeling Organic Product.”Environmental Working Group: “EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” “FDA Bans Three Toxic Chemicals.”Winter, C. Journal of Toxicology, May 2011.North Carolina State University: “Strawberry Disease and Their Control.”The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station: “Removal of Trace Residues from Produce.”Krol, W. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, October 2000.National Potato Commission: “US Per Capita Utilization of Potatoes.”Srednicka-Tober, D. British Journal of Nutrition, March 2016.American Cancer Society: “Teflon and PFOA.”Crop Protection: “A critical assessment of organic farming-and-food assertions with particular respect to the UK and the potential benefits of no-till agriculture.”Journal of Agromedicine: “Pesticide/Environmental Exposures and Parkinson’s Disease in East Texas.”PLOS: “Choosing Organic Pesticides over Synthetic Pesticides May Not Effectively Mitigate Environmental Risk in Soybeans”Colorado State University: “Pesticides: Natural Isn’t Always Best.”British Journal of Nutrition: “Composition differences between organic and conventional meet; A systematic literature review and meta-analysis.”PBS: “USA to propose standard for organic seafood raised in U.S.”Food Standards Agency: “Pesticides.”Environmental Working Group’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, March 20, 2019.Nneka Leiba, MPH, director of healthy living science, Environmental Working Group.Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, director of university nutrition, Washington University in St. Louis; former president, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.Carl Winter, PhD, food toxicologist, University of California, Davis.Teresa Thorne, executive director, Alliance for Food and Farming.JAMA Internal Medicine, December 2018.
www.webmd.com 

We’re Already Seeing The Health Effects Of Pesticides – Just Not Where You’d Expect

The risk of pesticides to the health of consumers is disputed but there is another group of people already seeing severe impacts.
When you bite into a strawberry or tuck into some spinach or kale you may be congratulating yourself on your healthy food choice. Most people won’t even think about the pesticides they’re likely ingesting.
A list published last week noted that almost all of the samples of strawberries from the most recent tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture contained residues of at least one pesticide, even after washing. Nearly 60 percent of the sampled kale — frequently championed as a nutritious health food — had pesticide residues.
In all, around 70 percent of produce sold in the U.S. has pesticide residues, according to the annual “Dirty Dozen” report by nonprofit group The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which lists the foods with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues. It says we may be exposed to worrying amounts of pesticides.

“Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables free of pesticides benefits health, and this is especially important for pregnant women and children,” said Carla Burns, of the EWG.

This is one of a number of recent studies about the pesticides we consume through our fresh food, which are fueling a debate about whether consumers should be worried and how they can reduce exposure.
When it comes to the impact of pesticides on consumer health, the science is far from clear.
Government health experts say we do not need to worry as the levels of pesticide exposure from food are below the levels that could pose a risk to consumers’ health. Carl K. Winter, a food toxicologist at U.C. Davis, specifically analyzed the EWG list in a 2011 study and concluded that the quantities of pesticides mean that risks to consumers were negligible and that moving to organic versions — as the EWG suggests — was unlikely to bring people any measurable health benefits.
Organic produce is farmed to strict federal standards but it is not necessarily pesticide-free — the food just tends to be free from any synthetic pesticides. Also, for many people, buying organic may be prohibitively expensive. A Consumer Reports study found on average organic food was 47 percent more expensive than conventional produce.
The EWG acknowledges that a bigger risk than pesticides, as far as consumers are concerned, is not having enough fruit and vegetables in your diet, full-stop. The same point was echoed by public health researchers.

“It’s not healthy for people to be scared of their food,” said Asa Bradman, a professor at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “There are a few articles that hint at the benefits of organic versus conventional, but at this point, the information is only limited and the benefits of eating a healthy diet and a good selection of fruit and vegetables means I would not want to discourage consumption of those foods by people.”

As science continues to seek a clearer picture on pesticides and consumer health, one thing that does seem clear is that there’s a swath of people who are much more clearly affected but tend to get ignored: The farmworkers who bring the food to our plates.

“My personal view is that the risk to consumers is low compared to the potential risk to agricultural workers,” said Bradman.

Thousands of farmworkers experience the effects of acute pesticide poisoning including headaches, nausea, shortness of breath or seizures, according to the nonprofit Farmworker Justice. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic health problems, such as infertility, neurological disorders and cancer, says the NGO, which has been documenting pesticide poisoning among workers.
spraying pesticides
One of the starkest examples came from Caldwell in Idaho. A crew of 29 farmworkers began weeding a field of onions and noticed that their clothes were getting wet, but they just assumed it was dew. What they didn’t realize — because no warning signs had been placed on the field — was that a contractor had applied three pesticides to the field during the night without notifying the farm owner.
By lunchtime, some of the workers were vomiting and had headaches and diarrhea. Twenty-two of them were hospitalized, with two in need of critical care. The farm was later fined for its failure to train employees properly and to provide proper safety information on the farm.
These incidents are sadly not uncommon, said Farmworker Justice, yet largely go unreported by national media, which focuses on the more disputed risk of pesticides to consumers.
Not only are farmworkers subjected to these risks, but their families — who live in nearby communities and attend schools neighboring the fields — face similar dangers. Pesticides can be brought into the home on clothing or through the air from neighboring farmland.
The effects are especially worrying in children working with or in close proximity to pesticides, who are particularly vulnerable, according to research. Pesticide exposure has been linked to neurological and behavioral problems in children. A 2010 study, for example, that looked specifically at children living in farming regions of California found a link between pesticide exposure and attention problems.
Farmworkers Justice has called for better and compulsory pesticide training for farmworkers, who are mostly low-income immigrants with limited formal education. It says regulators should ensure Spanish translations of pesticide labels (88 percent of farmworkers are Hispanic), buffer zones around schools and residential areas to protect families being exposed to pesticides through aerial drift, and funding to research the health effects of pesticide exposure.
Virginia Ruiz, from Farmworkers Justice, said little progress has been made on any of these requests. Although there are rules in California for small buffer zones around schools during certain hours of the day, nothing has changed at a national level. There have also been no new funding initiatives to research the health effects of pesticide exposure on people working or living near where they are used, she said.

Alex Chensheng, a professor of environmental exposure at Harvard, blames a strong farming lobby for blocking reform. It is very tough to make any significant policy progress on pesticides, he said, “If we can’t eliminate the conflict of interest, no true progress will be made.”

As well as stricter regulation and better safety measures, there is a safer solution for reducing pesticide risks to both farmworkers and consumers, say campaigners. And that solution is to encourage more farmers to shift away from using pesticides.
There are more than 14,000 certified organic farms in the U.S, according to the most recently available data, with more than 2,500 of them in California. Although organic farms still only make up 1 percent of America’s farmland acres.

“We have nominal programs to support farmers converting to organic and that should be expanded, and we should be prioritizing research on organic farming,” said Kendra Klein, a scientific advisor for environmental organization Friends of the Earth.  She doesn’t suggest all farmers need to convert to organic, but rather that the U.S. should look to move away from a pesticide-intensive system. ″We need to change the system so none of us is exposed,” she said.

HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to thisnewworld@huffpost.com
By Tom Levitt, HuffPost US      03/29/2019
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Can Eating Organic Food Lower Your Cancer Risk?

In a study, those who ate more organic produce, dairy, meat and other products had 25 percent fewer cancer diagnoses over all, especially lymphoma and breast cancer.

People who buy organic food are usually convinced it’s better for their health, and they’re willing to pay dearly for it. But until now, evidence of the benefits of eating organic has been lacking.

Now a new French study that followed 70,000 adults, most of them women, for five years has reported that the most frequent consumers of organic food had 25 percent fewer cancers over all than those who never ate organic. Those who ate the most organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and other foods had a particularly steep drop in the incidence of lymphomas, and a significant reduction in postmenopausal breast cancers.

The magnitude of protection surprised the study authors. “We did expect to find a reduction, but the extent of the reduction is quite important,” said Julia Baudry, the study’s lead author and a researcher with the Center of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne Paris Cité of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. She noted the study does not prove an organic diet causes a reduction in cancers, but strongly suggests “that an organic-based diet could contribute to reducing cancer risk.”

The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, was paid for entirely by public and government funds.

Nutrition experts from Harvard who wrote a commentary accompanying the study expressed caution, however, criticizing the researchers’ failure to test pesticide residue levels in participants in order to validate exposure levels. They called for more long-term government-funded studies to confirm the results.

“From a practical point of view, the results are still preliminary, and not sufficient to change dietary recommendations about cancer prevention,” said Dr. Frank B. Hu, one of the authors of the commentary and the chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

He said it was more important for Americans to simply eat more fruits and vegetables, whether the produce is organic or not, if they want to prevent cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends consuming a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains and limited amounts of red meat, processed meat and added sugars.

Dr. Hu called for government bodies like the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Agriculture to fund research to evaluate the effects of an organic diet, saying there is “strong enough scientific rationale, and a high need from the public health point of view.”

The only other large study that has asked participants about organic food consumption with reference to cancer was a large British study from 2014. While it found a significantly lower risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among women who said they usually or always ate organic food, it also found a higher rate of breast cancers in the organic consumers — and no overall reduction in cancer risk.

The authors of that study, known as the Million Women study, said at the time that wealthier, more educated women in the study, who were more likely to purchase organic food, also had risk factors that increase the likelihood of having breast cancer, such as having fewer children and higher alcohol consumption.

foods to buy organic

The organic food market has been growing in recent years, both in Europe and the United States. Sales of organic food increased to $45.2 billion last year in the United States, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2018 survey.

For food to be certified organic by the Department of Agriculture, produce must be grown without the use of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and may not contain genetically modified organisms. Meat must be produced by raising animals fed organic food without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Such items now represent 5.5 percent of all food sold in retail outlets, according to the organic trade group.

A representative of the Alliance for Food and Farming, a group that seeks to address public concerns about pesticides, said consumers should not worry about cancer risks from consuming conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. “Decades of peer-reviewed nutritional studies largely conducted using conventionally grown produce have shown that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables prevents diseases, like cancer, and leads to a longer life,” executive director Teresa Thorne said in an emailed statement.

For the study, researchers recruited 68,946 volunteers who were 44, on average, when the study began. The vast majority, 78 percent, were women.

Participants provided detailed information about how frequently they consumed 16 different types of organic foods. The researchers asked about a wide range of foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and soy products, meat, fish and eggs, as well as grains and legumes, bread and cereals, flour, oils and condiments, wine, coffee and teas, biscuits and chocolate and sugar, and even dietary supplements. Study volunteers provided three 24-hour records of their intake, including portion sizes, over a two-week period.

The information was far more detailed than that provided by participants in the British Million Women study, who responded to only a single question about how often they ate organic.

Participants in the French study also provided information about their general health status, their occupation, education, income and other details, like whether they smoked. Since people who eat organic food tend to be health-conscious and may benefit from other healthful behaviors, and also tend to have higher incomes and more years of education than those who don’t eat organic, the researchers made adjustments to account for differences in these characteristics, as well as such factors as physical activity, smoking, use of alcohol, a family history of cancer and weight.

Even after these adjustments, the most frequent consumers of organic food had 76 percent fewer lymphomas, with 86 percent fewer non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, and a 34 percent reduction in breast cancers that develop after menopause.

The reductions in lymphomas may not be all that surprising. Epidemiological studies have consistently found a higher incidence of some lymphomas among people like farmers and farm workers who are exposed to certain pesticides through their work.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified three pesticides commonly used in farming — glyphosate, malathion and diazinon — as probable human carcinogens, and linked all three to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

One reason an organic diet may reduce breast cancer risk is because many pesticides are endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen function, and hormones play a causal role in breast cancer.

By Roni Caryn Rabin     Oct. 23, 2018
 


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4 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic

The organic food industry is a booming business, and with the recent sale of natural-foods giant Whole Foods to Amazon, it’s expected to grow even larger in the near future. While some consumers buy organic because they believe it’s better for the environment, even more do so for health-related reasons, according to one 2016 survey.

What, exactly, are the health benefits of going organic? That depends on who you ask and which studies you consult. But if you do choose to buy organic foods, here are some science-backed bonuses you’re likely to get in return.

Fewer pesticides and heavy metals
Fruits, vegetables and grains labeled organic are grown without the use of most synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow some synthetic substances to be used.) While such chemicals have been deemed safe in the quantities used for conventional farming, health experts still warn about the potential harms of repeated exposure.

For example, the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been associated with developmental delays in infants. Studies have also suggested that pesticide residues—at levels commonly found in the urine of kids in the U.S.—may contribute to ADHD prevalence; they’ve also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men.

A 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organically grown crops were not only less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticides, but because of differences in fertilization techniques, they were also 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys.

More healthy fats
When it comes to meat and milk, organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than conventionally produced products, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Organic milk tested in the study also had less saturated fat than non-organic.

These differences may come from the way organic livestock is raised, with a grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors, say the study’s authors. They believe that switching from conventional to organic products would raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing overall calories or saturated fat.

dirty dozen

No antibiotics or synthetic hormones
Conventional livestock can be fed antibiotics to protect against illness, making it easier for farmers to raise animals in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The FDA limited the use of certain antibiotics for livestock earlier this year, but loopholes in the legislation still exist. And with the exception of poultry, conventionally raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones, so they’ll gain weight faster or produce more milk.

But traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, says Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. Drug residue is believed to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance, he says, and organic foods—which are produced without antibiotics—“are intrinsically safer in this respect.” Organic meat and dairy also cannot contain synthetic hormones, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

More antioxidants, in some cases
In a recent six-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown onions. They also theorized that previous analyses—several of which have found no difference in conventional versus organic antioxidant levels—may have been thwarted by too-short study periods and confounding variables like weather.

The research was “very well done,” says Guy Crosby, adjunct associate professor of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. But he points out that this specific study “takes just one aspect of phytochemicals and shows they can be improved under organic conditions.” The question of whether organic foods are truly more nutritious is still debatable, he adds. “Had the researchers chosen to measure a different vitamin or mineral, they may have found a different result.”

The bottom line
Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, and whether they’re really worth the extra cost is certainly a matter of choice. “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. “If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list—those with the highest pesticide residues.” If people eat eggs, dairy and meat, she also recommends buying those organic.

Halden says that vulnerable groups—including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people suffering from allergies—may benefit the most from choosing organically produced foods. He also points out that a strictly organic diet can still be plenty unhealthy: “Eating too much sugar and meat and too few vegetables is risky, regardless of whether the shopper picks from the conventional or organic grocery selection,” he says.

It’s also important for consumers to make educated decisions about why they choose to buy organic, says Crosby—and not to get hung up on individual studies that haven’t been supported by additional research. If you’re trying to reduce exposure to pesticide residues, organic is a good choice, he says. “On the other hand, if you’re buying them because they’re more nutritious, the evidence doesn’t broadly support that,” he says.

By AMANDA MACMILLAN AND JULIA NAFTULIN        July 27, 2017
source: time.com       #OrganicWeek   September 8-16, 2018


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Organic Food Provides Significant Environmental Benefits To Plant-Rich Diets

The study of more than 34,000 people is the first to investigate the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems

A study of the diets of 34,000 people confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. This is the first-ever study to look at the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems.

A major new study confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. Published today in open access journal Frontiers in Nutrition, this is the first study to investigate the environmental impacts of both dietary patterns and farm production systems. It is also the first to investigate the environmental impact of organic food consumption using observed diets rather than models.

Many organizations, including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, advocate the urgent adoption of more sustainable diets at a global level. Such diets include reduced consumption of animal products, which have a higher environmental impact than plant-based products. This is mainly due to the high energy requirements of livestock farming as well as the very large contribution of livestock to greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive livestock production is also responsible for significant biodiversity loss due to conversion of natural habitats to grass and feed crops.

The method of food production may also influence sustainable diets. Organic agriculture is generally considered more environmentally friendly than other modern production techniques. However, while many studies have investigated environmentally sustainable diets, these have rarely considered both dietary choices and the production method of the foods consumed.

“We wanted to provide a more comprehensive picture of how different diets impact the environment,” says Louise Seconda from the French Agence De L’Environnement Et De La Maitrise De L’Energie and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Unit one of the article’s authors. “In particular, it is of considerable interest to consider the impacts of both plant-based foods and organic foods.”

To do this, researchers obtained information on food intake and organic food consumption from more than 34,000 French adults. They used what’s called a ‘provegetarian’ score to determine preferences for plant-based or animal-based food products. The researchers also conducted production life cycle environmental impact assessments at the farm level against three environmental indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative energy demand and land occupation.

“Combining consumption and farm production data we found that across the board, diet-related environmental impacts were reduced with a plant-based diet — particularly greenhouse gas emissions,” says Louise Seconda. “The consumption of organic food added even more environmental benefits for a plant-based diet. In contrast, consumption of organic food did not add significant benefits to diets with high contribution from animal products and only moderate contribution from plant products.”

However the researchers caution that the environmental effects of production systems are not uniform and can be impacted by climate, soil types and farm management.

“We didn’t look at other indicators such as pesticide use, leaching and soil quality which are relevant to the environmental impacts of productions systems,” says Louise Seconda. “Therefore future studies could also consider these as well as supply chain and distribution impacts of food production.”

The authors also say it will be important to conduct further studies to confirm these results and to expand our understanding of how the entire food production lifecycle impacts sustainability.

Journal Reference:
Camille Lacour, Louise Seconda, Benjamin Allès, Serge Hercberg, Brigitte Langevin, Philippe Pointereau, Denis Lairon, Julia Baudry, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot. Environmental Impacts of Plant-Based Diets: How Does Organic Food Consumption Contribute to Environmental Sustainability? Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00008


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How To Choose Between Free-Range, Free-Run, Organic And Conventional Eggs

Eggs can come with a lot of labels these days — free-range, organic, cage-free. How is a consumer to know which ones are the best choice?

Here’s the breakdown of what all those labels on your eggs mean.

1. Conventional eggs: These eggs often don’t have their harvesting practices labelled, and are usually the least expensive. In conventional systems, four hens are typically housed in each two-square-foot battery cage, in barns containing thousands of birds. This makes them prone to injury and infection, so they receive antibiotics daily, as well as hormones to increase egg production. Their feed is unregulated, so they’re often fed leftover animal by-products mixed with grain. Battery cages are banned in the EU and are often the subject of animal-rights debates.

2. Free-run eggs: Free-run hens are not confined to life in a cage, but are allowed to roam the floor of the barn. They are still densely packed into these barns with no required outdoor access. Free-run hens eat the same feed as conventionally raised hens, and are given antibiotics and hormones.



3. Free-range eggs: Free-range hens must have access to the outdoors for the majority of the year, with a roost area for resting. Their feed can’t contain antibiotics or hormones, and the roosts must have at least two square feet per hen. The government does not regulate free-range egg farms, so you must trust the farmers. Some farmers call these eggs “antibiotic-free” or “naturally-raised.”

4. Pastured eggs: Pastured hens are kept in cages with at least two square feet per hen. The structure containing the hens is moved to different areas of the grass daily so the hens can forage for at least 20 percent of their food. They are also not allowed to be fed antibiotics or hormones in their supplemental feed.

5. Organic eggs: Hens must be raised from birth on organic feed that contains no hormones, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. They must have outdoor access year-round; when they are kept inside, they must be fed organic sprouted grains. They must also be allocated at least two square feet of floor space per bird.

 
by Julie Daniluk          Nov 1, 2012 


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Should I Be Concerned About Pesticides in My Coffee?

Why you should check your coffee label twice.

For most North Americans, waking up with a fresh cup of coffee is the only way to get out of bed. But next to organic strawberries and organic cereal, you might be forgetting about pesticide-free coffee.

Recently, coffee has appeared on a number of lists for containing pesticides. Some groups and articles suggest agrochemicals used on stems and leaves could affect coffee beans, “in which case coffee beans could be carrying their residues.” Meanwhile other studies find the high roasting temperatures eliminate most pesticide residues, although in one study “green, roasted and instant coffee samples” treated with insecticide directly on the leaves contained residues.

While the health risks on the consumer are likely minimal and still a matter of debate, there’s no question about the impacts of pesticides on the environment and farm workers. Coffee is one of the largest and most important crops in the world, worth roughly $16.5 billion in the United States alone. The International Coffee Organization estimatesthere are nearly 26 million people employed in the coffee business across 52 countries. Next to Brazil and the European Union, the United States is one of the largest consumers of coffee and the largestmarket for organic coffee. Still, you might think organic coffee (farmed without the use of pesticides) would be close to conventional coffee in numbers. But organic coffee only accounts for 6.6 percentof the world’s harvested coffee.

It’s no wonder organic coffee hasn’t taken the coffee world over. In “Organic coffee: Why Latin America’s farmers are abandoning it” Ezra Fieser reports that farmers can get roughly 485 pounds more coffee from one acre, applying 250 pounds of chemical fertilizer per acre. Compare this to 285 pounds on an organic farm. He adds, Latin American farmers had made the switch to organic crops but they couldn’t sell their coffee at the higher price. “From Mexico to Costa Rica, at least 10 percent of growers [defected] in the past three years.”

Growing conventional coffee will also be affected by climate change. According to the International Trade Centre, climate change will mean an increase in pests and diseases. This could mean a greater dependence on pesticides and possibly even more coffee grown under irrigation, which would mean water supplies would also suffer.

 

The use of pesticides continues to add to soil erosion and polluted waters from soil runoff. And there’s still another problem with pesticides. According to the IFC, it’s estimated that in Africa alone, “there could be as much as 50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides” stored in hazardous stockpiles. The problem with disposal of pesticide is difficult because it can cost $3,000 to $5,000 per ton to remove. But, because the materials are not all the same, there’s “no blanket solution.”

Although studies have been conflicted on pesticide residues in drinking coffee, there’s a bigger consensus when it comes to farmer safety. In a recent study, scientists surveyed a random sample of 81 coffee farmers in eastern Jamaica where coffee production employs “more than 50,000 people and contributes 7 percent of the island’s agricultural earnings.”

In the study 78 percent of the farmers experienced symptoms related to pesticide handling, including “dizziness, headaches, difficult breathing and tightness in the chest.” Much of this could be attributed to improper handling and little to no training on pesticide handling — a common problem in countries with no oversight or regulation. In four of the observation sessions, not a single farmer used protection like a facemask or rubber gloves. Battling pests like the coffee cherry borer and coffee rust is much easier if you have a toxic pesticide to kill them. Unfortunately a number of pesticides being used have been linked to animal and wildlife deaths and in some cases human deaths.

For millions of coffee aficionados, the coffee of choice comes from Starbucks. It’s true Starbucks is one of the largest purchasers of coffee. They have made it their mission to provide fairtrade coffee and report that 95.3 percent of their coffee is ethically sourced. Still, organic coffee is harder to come at a Starbucks because only 1.1 percent of Starbucks’ coffee is organic.

All the types of coffee labels could make your head spin more than a quadruple shot espresso. There’s organic, fairtrade, shade-grown (which mean the coffee is grown under shade, signifying its commitment to the rainforest). Utz-certified coffee provides traceability programs and fair labor for farm workers and an “appropriate and modest use of fertilizers, pesticides, water and energy. Almost half of all fairtrade is certified organic as well. But on the issue of pesticides, if you want organic you’ll still want to verify the USDA organic label, as there are strict rules for any imports being labeled organic.

Clarissa A. Leon is AlterNet’s food editor. She formerly served as an investigative research assistant at The Daily Beast and The Nation Institute. 

By Clarissa A. León / AlterNet July 30, 2014


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Why Your Tea Should Be Organic

For both simple and serious reasons, tea is the superhero of all beverages—most simply because it is versatile. It can be drunk hot or cold, winter or summer, and morning, noon, or night. More importantly, tea is touted for its health benefits including high antioxidant and vitamin C levels and more. Tea has also stood the test of time. It spans both centuries and cultures, from its roots in Asia through Europe and India and to America. Tea has even played an important role in history. The taxation of tea led to the Boston Tea Party and, as a result, is thought to have played a part in starting the American Revolution. If that alone doesn’t give it superhero status, consider that tea can also serve as a natural dye! There are also less-tangible benefits of tea, as well. Tea soothes colds and comforts us through times of stress and sadness.

But what is tea, where does it come from, and why is it important to drink organic tea?

What Is Tea?
The truest tea comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and depending on where it is grown and how it is processed it results in black, green, oolong and white teas. Herbal tea is also available, but it is not made from the tea leaf; rather, it is infused herbs. Specialty teas may include tea leaves and herbs with the addition of flowers, fruits, and spices. We discuss the varieties in more detail below.

The best tea is grown at high altitudes and consists of the smallest new-growth leaves and unopened leaf buds that are picked by hand.

A Short History of the Origins of Tea
The tea plant is native to China and was first cultivated about 2,000 B.C. The Japanese “discovered” it during the eighth century A.D., followed by the Europeans during the seventeenth century, when the British quickly adopted this drink. Tea has played an important role in English culture, and can be seen in the popular British observance of afternoon tea, a light meal served at about 4:00 p.m., and high tea, which became a substitute for afternoon tea in the nineteenth century. Because China could not meet Britain’s high demand for tea, Britain set up tea plantations and colonies in India to support this import. It was not until the twentieth century that America started drinking it iced, which is thought to have started at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

While tea has been around for thousands of years, it hasn’t been until recently that we have been able to select from the expansive variety of organic teas that are available today. Many organic tea companies are emerging with the awareness of organic farming methods on the rise. Even the larger, established tea producers, such as Celestial Seasonings and the Republic of Tea, are now using organic tea leaves for some of their blends.

Why Drink Organic Tea?
Organic tea is grown and processed without pesticides or artificial fertilizers and is also often Fair Trade. This means that you can reap the health benefits of organic tea knowing that small farms are being supported, workers on tea plantations are being treated fairly, and that both the workers and our environment are not exposed to the harmful chemicals used in conventional tea production.

Perhaps the most well-known benefit to drinking tea is for the high level of polyphenols found in tea leaves. Polyphenols are a type of natural plant antioxidant that has been found to help fight free radicals—molecules that occur in the environment that can cause damage to our cells. The accumulation of free-radical damage is thought to lead to heart disease and cancer. Green and black teas are the best known for their antioxidant benefits. Tea is also a wonderful alternative to coffee, with many varieties having just half of the caffeine. The antibacterial properties in tea are also said to improve oral health by preventing tooth decay and halitosis.

tea

Types of Tea
There are four “true teas” that come from the tea plant. They are black, green, oolong, and white and are so named for their production processes. Black is the most processed, followed by oolong, green, and white. All other teas are made with herbal, floral, fruit, spice, or combined infusions.

Black tea is the only “true tea” that is fully oxidized. In its production process, the leaves are picked and tumbled in a machine so that the juices from the leaves react with the air causing it to oxidize, or ferment and turn black. The leaves are then dried to produce the final product, which results in a strong dark reddish-brown brew. Popular varieties include Darjeeling, English breakfast, Earl Grey, and Lapsang Souchong—a distinctively smoky variety.

Green tea is not oxidized; it is steamed and dried, resulting in a slightly bitter, greenish-yellow blend. Green tea has the lowest amount of caffeine of the four “true teas.” Dragon well, tencha, and gunpowder are popular choices of green tea.

Oolong tea falls in between black tea and green tea in terms of taste and color because it is only partially fermented. Formosa oolong, which comes from Taiwan, is the best-known oolong tea.

White tea is the rarest of the four. It is the least handled in production, requiring only plucking and drying.

Rooibos tea is most commonly referred to as red tea, and does not actually come from a tea plant, but from a red bush in South Africa and is considered an herbal tea. Rooibos is reminiscent of the taste of green tea, but is less bitter.

Herbal tea is a hot water drink infused with herbs that often have medicinal properties and most often do not contain caffeine. Popular herbal teas include Peppermint and Chamomile.

Chai tea is a popular tea from India that consists of loose-leaf tea, milk and ground spices including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, grated nutmeg, and pepper.

Specialty teas have a base of one of the above teas with the addition of flora, spices, or fruit. The possibilities of tea in this category are virtually endless!

Selection
Tea is available at just about any grocery store. Organic tea is less widely available, but now that many major brands are developing and launching organic tea lines, they are becoming more popular. The best place to find a wide variety of high-quality organic tea is at specialty tea shops, coffeehouses, and gourmet stores. Herbal teas are also available in health-food stores. Tea comes loose or in tea bags. We recommend loose tea for its flavor, but if you prefer tea bags for their convenience, look for the environmentally friendly alternative—natural, unbleached tea bags, which should be free of excessive components like extra strings, tags, and staples.

Storage 
Tea may be stored for up to a year, and it should be kept in a cool, dark place in its original plastic or foil packaging in an airtight container.

Preparation
While tea bags are the most convenient method for preparing tea, loose tea provides the best tea experience as it allows the tea’s full flavor to circulate. For best results, bring filtered water to just under a boil. Place the tea bag or loose tea (one teaspoon per cup) in your tea cup, tea ball, or tea pot and allow it to steep 1–3 minutes for green tea, 3–6 minutes for black tea, and 6–8 minutes for oolong tea. Herbal teas need more time and should generally be steeped 8–12 minutes unless the packaging indicates otherwise. Use the above guidelines to determine which end of the spectrum you like your tea, weakest to strongest. Be sure to stir the tea to promote circulation. Remove the tea bag or tea ball and serve. Many people enjoy adding honey, sugar, milk, or soy milk, but many are purists and want to savor it unenhanced. Of course, a traditional crumpet, muffin, or cookie can be a wonderful treat alongside a hot cup of tea!