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Organic Food Doesn't Just Taste Better
The BBC reports that a study by Dr. Alyson Mitchell, a food chemist at the University of California, and her colleauges, found that organic tomatoes had almost double the level of flavonoids - a type of anti-oxidant:

Flavonoids have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the team said nitrogen in the soil may be the key.

...New Scientist magazine reported that the different levels of flavonoids in tomatoes are probably due to the absence of fertilisers in organic farming.

Flavonoids are produced as a defence mechanism that can be triggered by nutrient deficiency, such as a lack of nitrogen in the soil.

The inorganic nitrogen in conventional fertiliser is easily available to plants and so, the researchers suggests, the lower levels of flavonoids are probably caused by over-fertilisation.

As our friend retired woodworker friend Pierre in Paris says, "Better the lettuce has a few bugs than pesticide."

Posted by aalkon at July 8, 2007 8:30 AM


It's nice that organic foods may be better for you, but the key thing is that they taste better - that's what will probably be the ultimate driver of organic food production growth. As far as tomatoes go, we're heading into the best time of the year - heirloom season. Time for caprese!

Posted by: justin case at July 8, 2007 11:28 AM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: New Scientist

I think I'll wait for corroborating research before I accept most of anything New Scientist pronounces.

They seem to have something of an 'agenda' that occasionally gets in the way of their objectivity.


[When the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists, and supports that idea with great fervor, and emotion-the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, right. -- Asimov's Corollary (to Clarke's First Law)]

P.S. It's not that I'm opposed to flavonoids. I indulge in chocolate.....but I'd like more evidence from additional sources that organics have more of such.

Then there is the problem of how well one can grow large quantities of food without the benefits of pesticides, let alone fertilizers.

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 8, 2007 1:41 PM


"As our friend retired woodworker friend Pierre in Paris says, "Better the lettuce has a few bugs than pesticide."" -- Amy Alkon

That is if you can GET the lettuce away from the bugs.

Case in point...

I've got a bunch of petunias being ravaged by caterpillars. The only way to deal with them is pesticide. Or pick them off, one-by-one, using magnifying glass and tweezers.

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 8, 2007 1:45 PM

Justin, I'd agree with you that flavor could do the work of expanding the market for organic food except for one thing: Youth drives pop culture, and young people are notorious for their coarse taste. Look at a fast food commercial: It's all about shiny strings of melted cheese pulled across flavorless (but deeply colored) slivers of emerald lettuce and and crimson tomato. Hell, I buy shabby (conventional) fruit a Ralphs all the time, because the price is right, and the bulk is point anyway.

Posted by: Crid at July 8, 2007 4:16 PM

Crid, you're exactly right about youth culture and coarse taste - hell, I used to love Taco Bell. But most everyone gets to the point where they want their food to taste good, and this is to organic's advantage. It's becoming more available and cheaper. I'm guessing the market will do its thing and this trend will continue.

Posted by: justin case at July 8, 2007 7:32 PM

Some plants produce natural toxins to ward off fungal infection and bugs. These phytoalexins can be worse for you than traces of pesticides (google Bruce Ames). Our bodies evolved ways to deal with these,in the amounts normaly seen. Mycotoxins (produced by fungus) in stored food is a leading cause of liver disease in poorer countries. Traces of fumigants used on stored grain cause fewer liver problems. GMC corn contains fewer mycotoxins than organic.

When I buy organic produce, it is because it is locally grown, and tastes better. Once stuff has been shipped in from several states away, organic doesn't taste any better to me. Since you live in CA, just about everything is local for you.

Posted by: Ruth at July 9, 2007 7:20 AM

Double the level? So what does that mean? 6 molecules per tomato instead of 3? The organic nonsense is not too unlike New Age bs.
I'm with Chuck(le) on this. New Scientist has often made questionable statements. As for organic.. have a looky here:

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