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More proof: Organic matters


Organic strawberry fields in Watsonville, Calif. (Greg Peck)

People buy organic produce because they believe it is more environmentally responsible, more healthful and tastes better than produce grown conventionally. When it comes to strawberries, turns out they're right.

A new study of 13 pairs of conventional and organic California strawberry farms over two seven-month growing seasons in 2004 and 2005 revealed that organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil more healthful and genetically diverse. In a surprising twist, the organic strawberries also had a longer shelf life than the other varieties.

The study, published Wednesday, is among the most comprehensive of its kind nationwide. To date, most research has looked at either organic farming's impact on nutrition or the soil – not both. "There is no paper in the literature that comprehensively and quantitatively compares so many indices of both food and soil quality at multiple sampling times on so many commercial farms," said lead researcher John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil, science and agroecology

Reganold said the research team chose to study strawberries because the berries are near the top of the list of produce that retains pesticide residues. According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberries rank third out of 50 popular fruits and vegetables. In a single sample of conventionally grown strawberries, researchers found 13 kinds of pesticides.

And California was the obvious location for the study. The state grows 90 percent of the nation's strawberries and accounts for 25 percent of global production. The findings come as state regulators are debating whether to allow strawberry producers to use the fumigant methyl iodide, which environmentalists allege could be toxic to agricultural workers and people that live near nonorganic strawberry farms. Producers had previously used methyl bromide, which was shown to damage the ozone layer.

On the nutrition front, the study showed that organic strawberries had about 10 percent more antioxidants, ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds than conventionally grown berries. They also had contained about 10 percent less water, delivering "more strawberry" in each pound. The lesser amount of water could account for what some called a sweeter flavor and it could be the reason that the organic strawberries lasted longer on the shelves.

Taste testers consistently preferred the flavor of the organically farmed Diamante variety over the conventional kind. Tasters rated the flavor of organic and conventional San Juan and Lanai varieties the same.

"All of a sudden, we have research that shows that organic delivers better nutrition, more dry matter and a better shelf life. That's pretty amazing," Reganold said.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  September 2, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Sustainable Food  | Tags: Jane Black, organic food  
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Comments

In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth. The "Eating with a Conscience" guide looks at the toxic chemicals that are allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use: http://www.eatingwithaconscience.org.

Posted by: jkepner | September 2, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for an excellent article about this study. Your article is much more comprehensive than the one I read in the LA Times (Tribune Newspapers).

For readers who may not know about it, the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) has a free downloadable wallet card that lists the "dirty dozen" most toxic conventionally grown fruits and vegetables--the ones to avoid buying unless they're organically grown--and also the safest ones to buy that aren't organically grown.

Posted by: sketchgrrl | September 3, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for an excellent article about this study. Your article is much more comprehensive than the one I read in the LA Times (Tribune Newspapers).

For readers who may not know about it, the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) has a free downloadable wallet card that lists the "dirty dozen" most toxic conventionally grown fruits and vegetables--the ones to avoid buying unless they're organically grown--and also the safest ones to buy that aren't organically grown.

Posted by: sketchgrrl | September 3, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I visited a wonderful organic strawberry farm in Davenport, CA, right across from the ocean on Highway 1. Talk about delicious strawberries! The best I've had outside of wild strawberry heaven in Sweden. Happy to know that the taste matches the health of the soil and health of the berry.


www.hushsupperclub.net

Posted by: GeetaHUSH | September 7, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

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