Find scientific research, informative articles, links and other resources about the many aspects of organic farming and foods for human, animal and planetary health.
Check out recent studies below, or browse the links on the left for more.
Raising cattle on pasture lessens environmental damage, improves animal health, and reduces antibiotic use. Over the past decade, numerous scientific studies have shown that the meat and milk from pasture-raised animals are higher in fats that may confer health benefits on humans. To confirm how strong the findings are, the Union of Concerned Scientists undertook the first comprehensive comparison of fat levels in beef and dairy products from conventionally raised and pasture-raised animals. Their report, http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/greener-pastures.pdfGreener Pastures: How Grass-fed Beef and Milk Contribute to Healthy Eating, presents the results of this analysis.
In recent years the price of genetically engineered corn, soybean, and cotton seed has risen sharply. Seed expenditures per acre are now cutting into net farm income, and transferring earnings that used to stay on the farm to the seed industry. The magnitude of the biotech and organic seed price premiums are contrasted, and impacts on gross and net farm income are estimated. Surprisingly, the biotech seed price premium is much larger than the organic seed price premium, despite the major differences in the value embedded in each.
Genetically-engineered corn, soybeans, and cotton now account for the majority of acres planted to these three crops. A model was developed that utilizes official, USDA pesticide use data to estimate the differences in the average pounds of pesticides applied on GE crop acres, compared to acres planted to conventional, non-GE varieties. Compared to pesticide use in the absence of GE crops, farmers applied 318 million more pounds of pesticides over the last 13 years as a result of planting GE seeds.
GE crops are pushing pesticide use upward at a rapidly accelerating pace. In 2008, GE crop acres required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than acres planted to conventional varieties. The report projects that this trend will continue as a result of the rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds.
UPDATE January 2010: A Monsanto-funded research study echoes the results of this Organic Center report, concluding that herbicide resistance in weeds threatens the effectiveness of herbicide-tolerant GE crops.
For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields. That promise has proven to be empty, according to Failure to Yield, a report by UCS expert Doug Gurian-Sherman released in March 2009. Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.
Overweight, obesity and diabetes are collectively the nation's number one public health problem. This "Critical Issue Report" describes six ways that organic food and farming can contribute to reversing current trends in overweight, obesity, and diabetes. But most important, the report explains why the conscious decision by individuals to purchase organic food marks a critical first step toward a healthier diet and lifestyle.
For many people, this first step is the beginning of a series of incremental changes with important, long-run health benefits for individuals, families, and society as a whole.
Since the Center's 2004 "State of Science Review" (SSR) on pesticide residues in conventional and organic foods, new data and risk assessment methods have emerged that provide a basis to quantify the pesticide risk reduction benefits of organic farming. Our new SSR on pesticide residues and risk provides answers to frequently asked questions about relatively-high risk foods, as well as foods that pose no or modest dietary risks.Our findings are encouraging. By converting less than 3% of the nation's farmland to organic methods, pesticide dietary risks could be driven down to a fraction of today's levels.