Friday, September 04, 2009

ADA publishes benefits of organic talking points

In July, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) published a meta-analysis on the nutritional quality of organic versus conventional food creating a stir in the media. (See our previous post) This month, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) has published a 'Hot Topic' which takes a more holistic approach to the benefits of organic food. According to ADA, 'Hot Topics' are "short, concise practice and science-based answers to current questions Registered Dietitians (RD) may receive."

The 'Hot Topic' was co-authored by Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RD and Anne-Marie Scott PhD, RD of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition (HEN) Dietetic Practice Group (DPG) of ADA. In their review they challenge the AJCN study for "not examining differences in contaminants (such as pesticide, herbicide or fungicide residues) or the possible environmental consequences of organic versus conventional production practices." Further, the authors claim there are benefits to organic beyond human nutrition.
When considering benefits and costs of organic versus conventional agricultural production, it is important to consider benefits and costs to consumers, farmers, communities and the environment. For example, current research in numerous areas is showing both short-and long-term benefits to our population and the planet with organic and other sustainable production systems. Documented environmental benefits of organic production systems include reduced nutrient pollution, improved soil organic matter, lower energy use, reduced pesticide residues in food and water and enhanced biodiversity.
It is refreshing to see ADA taking this approach.
The challenge for our field (dietetics) is to understand exactly how foods and food products are grown and manufactured and the effects these methods may have on our personal health and the health of the global environment.
Disclosure: I am a HEN member. HEN is currently one of the fastest growing DPG of the ADA. (phew..a lot of acronyms) Congratulations to all of the HEN members who worked hard to get this document written, reviewed and published.


Anonymous said...

IMO the best way for dietitians to get up to speed on primary food production is to become familiar with agroecology, the emerging discipline of sustainable agriculture. Increasing resource scarcity, particularly of fossil fuels and fresh water, is driving both conventional and organic agriculture in this direction. Wikipedia provides a good overview at

Departments focusing on the disciple are forming in the Colleges of Agriculture at many traditional land grant universities and a Google search on the term hits many of their web sites.

The text Agroecology: The ecology of sustainable food systems, 2nd ed., SR Gliessman (2007) provides a good introduction.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.