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new Vegetable Systems Trial, a long-term, side-by-side comparison of both bio- logically organic and chemically based conventional vegetable production. An organic farmer with a Ph.D. in molecular ecology from Drexel University, in Phila- delphia, Smith studies how soil quality and crop-growing conditions influence the nutrient density and health-protecting properties of specific vegetables. “Over the past 70 years, there’s been


a decline in the nutritional value of our foods,” reports Smith. “During this time, industrial agriculture, with its pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, increased yields and size of crops, but the tradeoff was a decline in nutrient content, known as the ‘dilution effect’.” In addition, Smith explains, greater levels of nitrogen fertilizer, typical of conventional production methods, may also increase a plant’s susceptibility to insects and disease. Smith’s research will give fellow farm-


ers, healthcare providers and consumers a better understanding of how crop produc- tion practices influence soil quality and therefore, food quality. For example, re- search of organic crops shows higher levels of vitamin C; higher-quality protein; plus more disease-fighting compounds called secondary plant metabolites such as lyco-


pene, polyphenols and anthocyanin, the plant pigment responsible for the red, blue and purple colors in fruits and vegetables, as reported in a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Te Rodale Institute has formed


partnerships with nutrition and medical researchers at Pennsylvania State Uni- versity, in University Park. Of particular interest, for example, are extracts from purple potatoes that show promise in helping to kill colon cancer cells. Smith looks forward to identifying growing methods that boost levels of anthocyanin, as well as other health-protecting com- pounds in crops. Te new Regenerative Health Insti-


tute, a global research and education center linking soil health to human health, will also be housed at the Rodale Institute. It’s a collaboration between Rodale staff and the Plantrician Project, a nonprofit organiza- tion in New Canaan, Connecticut, that promotes whole food and plant-based nutrition, and helps healthcare providers embrace food as medicine as the founda- tion of their practices. Jeff Moyer, a renowned interna-


tional authority in organic agriculture and executive director of the Rodale Institute, explains, “It’s not only what you eat that’s


Quality Food Science Resources


Allegheny Mountain Institute: AlleghenyMountainInstitute.org Beyond Pesticides Annual Forum presentations: BeyondPesticides.org


Food Sleuth Radio current interviews with Andrew Smith and Sue Erhardt: prx.org/series/32432-food-sleuth-radio


Food Sleuth Radio past interviews with Jim Riddle and David Montgomery: beta.prx.org/stories/214702; beta.prx.org/stories/220278 Grassmilk: Tinyurl.com/FattyAcidsCowsMilkStudy History of soil and human health: Tinyurl.com/WilliamAlbrechtPapers


Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service: MosesOrganic.org; Tinyurl.com/HealthySeedTechniques Regenerative Health Institute: Tinyurl.com/RHIVideo Rodale Institute: RodaleInstitute.org


“Sustaining Life: From Soil Microbiota to Gut Microbiome,” by David Montgomery: Tinyurl.com/HealthySoilSustainsLife U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance: USFoodSovereigntyAlliance.org Vilicus Farms: VilicusFarms.com


important, but how what you eat was produced. Ultimately, our personal health is linked to the health of the soil.” David Montgomery, a professor


of geomorphology at the University of Washington, in Seattle, has visited farms worldwide, witnessing how farmers use regenerative farming practices to bring degraded soil back to life. He learned that grazing animals, cover-cropping and no-till farming free of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides protects and en- riches the soil microbiome, which contrib- utes to the nutrient density of plants and human health.


We Are What We and


Our Animals Eat Along with our well-being, livestock farm- ing methods impact our environment, too. A growing body of research including a new study published in Food Science & Nutrition shows that meat and dairy prod- ucts from animals raised mostly on grass or pasture—as nature intended—contain significantly higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids com- pared to grain-fed animals. Tese naturally occurring fats help protect us from inflam- mation, heart disease and cancer. Impor- tant in brain, eye and nerve development, omega-3 fatty acids are especially critical for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants. Organic farmers, by law, must


provide their ruminant animals with significant time on pasture and may not feed them genetically engineered feed or feed produced with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Further, they can’t use synthetic hormones or antibiotics to pro- mote weight gain. In these ways, organic farmers help protect our food, water, and environment from contamination, and reduce the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance. Randolph Center, Vermont, dairy


farmers Regina and Brent Beidler diligently study and question changes they witness in their immediate environment. Tey monitor what grows in their pasture, watch what their cows choose to eat and count the numbers and activities of in- sects, bees, worms, birds and wildlife.


July 2018 17


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