(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2013) Fruit flies that are fed organic food lead healthier lives compared to those that are fed conventionally grown food, according to a study, “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” published March 26 in PLos One. The study, led by Ria Chhabra, a student at Clark High school in Plano Texas and Dr. Johannes H. Bauer, PhD, an assistant professor of biology at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Texas, finds that flies fed organic foods have better fertility, are more resistant to oxidative stress and starvation, and live longer. This study adds to the mounting evidence that organic food is safer and healthier for consumers. This study comes out only weeks before the upcoming spring National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting and helps underscore why it is important to maintain the integrity of organic agriculture.
According to Dr. Bauer, “It’s rare for a high school student to have such a prominent position in the lab. But Ria has tremendous energy and curiosity, and that convinced me to give this research project a try.” To conduct the study, the researchers purchased organic and conventional foods from a grocery store and fed the flies extracts from potatoes, soybeans, raisins, and bananas. The researchers tested each food independently to avoid mixing the diets. Fruit flies are often used in research facilities to study human diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and alzheimer’s.
In the study, flies that consume organic food have greater longevity and fertility compared to those that are fed conventional food. According to the study, “Longevity and fertility are the most important life history traits of an animal and are excellent indicators for overall health.” The data also suggests that organic foods are more nutritionally balanced than conventional foods, or contain high levels of nutrients. Though the study could not determine the specific reason for these improved health effects, it concluded, “Our data suggest that organic foods provide improved health outcomes.”
This study adds to the mounting evidence that organic food is beneficial to consumers’ health. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) produced a report that claims that organic food provides health benefits. The benefits of organic foods, according to the report, are reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children. It also found that organic food contains more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “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.”
“At this point, we simply do not have the scientific evidence to know whether the difference in pesticide levels will impact a person’s health over a lifetime, though we do know that children — especially young children whose brains are developing — are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures,” said Joel Forman, MD, a member of the AAP council on Environmental Health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report, and a keynote speaker at the upcoming National Forum.
This recent fruit fly study comes only weeks before the spring NOSB meetings and underscores the importance of maintaining the integrity of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic standards. Among other issues that will be discussed at the upcoming NOSB meetings, the board will discuss the use of antibiotics in organic apple and pear production. Beyond Pesticides believes that antibiotics do not belong anywhere in organic production. The use of tetracycline to control fire blight in apples and pears meets none of the criteria of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). It presents significant adverse impacts to human health and the environment because its use in crop production contributes to the spread of bacterial resistance (a major public health threat as antibiotics are increasingly losing their efficacy in the clinical setting), is incompatible with organic and sustainable agriculture, and is not essential. The Board set a 2014 phase-out date and is now considering continued use in response to a petition from the apple industry.
To learn more about the issues that will be discussed at the spring NOSB, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.
To learn more about the health benefits of organic agriculture, join us in April 5-6, in Albuquerque, NM for Beyond Pesticides’ 31st annual National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Families, Farms and Food. Dr. Forman, one of the lead authors of AAP clinical report, will be joined by other top national scientists, local and national activists, and concerned citizens as we share information on the issues local communities face, craft solutions and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Discussions on the impact that pesticides and other endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have on human and environmental health will be led by renowned scientists and medical professionals like Tyrone Haynes, PhD, Lynn Carroll, PhD, Issac Pessah, PhD, and others. For more information on the forum, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/forum/.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.