Organic produce benefits

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I am writing in response to the commentary “The Myth of Organic Agriculture” (Jan. 12 Forum). The author is correct that organic produce has not been shown to be significantly superior to conventional produce. However, his other statements appear to be the ones that are based on myth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released this statement about organics in 2013: “In terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches.”

This statement is based on extensive literature review which also demonstrates:

1. Organics may contain more antioxidants;

2. Organic produce reduces pesticide exposure in children;

3. Low-dose exposures to pesticides do produce adverse health effects in children;

4. Organic farming reduces soil and water contamination, enhances biodiversity and reduces global climate change.

Dr. Miller suggests that pesticide residues are too small to be significant. He neglects the evidence that for babies and children smaller exposures can do more harm if the exposures occur during critical windows of development.

Dr. Miller refers to rodent studies when the best evidence of harm from pesticide exposures is available from human observation. For example, farm workers exposed to pesticides have much higher levels of cancer than the general public and the children of these farm workers have higher incidences of childhood leukemia. There is also evidence that prenatal exposure to synthetic pesticides adversely affects mental development.

Finally, Dr. Miller states that the low yields of organic agriculture in real-world settings are typically 20 percent to 50 percent below the yields of conventional agriculture. Yet current studies reveal just the opposite. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms.

Consumers can visit farmers’ markets and purchase local produce that is produced without pesticides to keep down costs.

JUDITH FOCARETA, R.N.
Coordinator
Environmental Health Initiatives
Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
Oakland

 


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