Archive for the ‘Shopping Organic’ Category

Tips For A Sustainable and Organic Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Ah, Thanksgiving: The unofficial opening of the Holiday Stress Season. Whether you’re looking forward to the holiday or dreading it, stress can too often spoil the good times the occasion promises. Luckily, a little pre-Thanksgiving planning can make all the difference! Here are a few tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday a little more organic and a little less stressful!

#1: Go fresh and local. To start your Thanksgiving planning, draw up a simple harvest menu using what’s fresh in your local area in mid-November. Yes, there are some T-day staples that you won’t want to give up no matter where they came from. But choose as many fresh, local, organic ingredients as you can; they’ll taste great, and it’s a great reason to check out area farmer’s markets before they all close down for the season. As an added bonus, you’ll probably be able to source your ingredients for less than you could at a grocery store.

#2: Spread out the work. Start shopping and cooking now (and cleaning, too; funny how I almost forgot to mention my least-favorite part). Make your piecrusts now, put them in the pie pans, wrap tightly, and freeze them. Buy all the nonperishable foods you’ll need, and take it easy on yourself. Things like cranberry sauce, gravy, pie shells, and even complete pies, come pre-made—you can often find organic versions, too. Just stick with pre-made foods in glass jars, since cans are lined with bisphenol A. Also, dig out any necessary supplies, including extra plates and cutlery. Not enough plates? Don’t buy paper. A few days prior to the meal, go shopping for the perishable foodstuffs and start doing the prep work: Scrub, peel, and cut up veggies and put them back in the fridge all ready to go. Make pie fillings and put them in the fridge. You can even measure out dry ingredients and seasonings and put them in marked, covered containers so all you have to do is dump and stir at the last minute.

#3: Spread out the cooking. Thankfully, most side dishes taste just as fine made the day before as they do cooked fresh, and a few even benefit from sitting in the fridge overnight. Once you have your menu set, make a list of which dishes you can cook beforehand. Keep your recipes simple, so you spend less time in the kitchen and the good taste of the food can shine.

• Mashed potatoes are fine made a day or two ahead, seasoning and all, and then reheated, covered, in a 350-degree F oven for about 50 minutes before serving. You can heat them up with your reheated turkey to save energy. Add fresh herbs and a bit more butter after reheating.• Bread stuffing gets better and better with age—if you like a moist stuffing. If you like a dry, crumbly dressing, it’s best to save that for Thanksgiving Day. My favorite is bread stuffing made with from local bread seasoned with apples, fresh sage, onions, and homemade turkey stock.

• Cranberry sauce or relish can be prepared a few days ahead—raw relishes will get better with time.

• Gravy doesn’t really improve or get worse with time, so if you are cooking the turkey beforehand, go ahead and make the gravy, too.Save Thanksgiving Day cooking for roasting veggies—sweet potatoes, white beets, and parsnips with fresh rosemary are my favorites—and your oven-fresh pies, which you can serve with fresh small-batch vanilla ice cream from the local ice creamery.

#4: Delegate, delegate, delegate. It works at the office and it works at home, too. Assign guests and family members to take care of specific dishes and tasks. Send out your assignments this week, and don’t be a purist: query the cooks on your guest list to see if they’re up for making something or would prefer to grab something at the store.

#5: Make room in the fridge. Work on eating up (or composting) as much as possible out of your refrigerator from now till Thanksgiving Day, to allow room for all the ingredients, prepared dishes, and, eventually, leftovers.

#6: Procure and/or thaw your turkey NOW. When shopping, plan for about 1.3 pounds of turkey per person at the meal, and look for organic or heritage-breed birds, which are getting easier to find in regular grocery stores. If you can’t find one, check localharvest.org to see if any turkey breeders in your area have birds available for local pickup. And, one highly important turkey tip: If your bird is frozen, put it into the fridge to start thawing 4 or 5 days before you plan to eat it. Yes, it really will take that long!

#7: Roast—and carve—your turkey on Wednesday, not Thursday. At my house, I roast my turkey the day before I plan to serve it, partly because I detest worrying about the timing of getting the turkey done just right and on the table with everything else, and partly because of stress from my childhood. My father was a wonderful, talented man, but carving a turkey wasn’t one of those talents. And yet, he came from a time when the man of the house carved at the table. Period. My mother and I suffered through his painful (sometimes literally so) and colorfully narrated attempts every year, so perhaps I’m extra-sensitive about carving at the table.

• After roasting my turkey in the oven (forget time calculations: I roast it until the thermometer says it’s heated to the USDA-recommended 165 degrees F in the thigh), I let the bird sit on the stovetop until it cools a bit—30 minutes is good—and then I carefully cut off the breasts, legs, and any other parts I want to serve. I put the pieces in an ovenproof dish, cover it tightly, and put it in the fridge.

• Any bits of meat left on the carcass get picked off the carcass (it’s really easy when it is warm and fresh) and put them in the fridge for soup.

• Then I put the bones into a stockpot (seasonings are optional), cover them with water, bring the water to a boil, let it simmer on the stove for at least two hours, cool, and strain. Now I have lots of stock for making gravy and dressing on the day of the event.

• On Turkey Day, about an hour before everything else is ready, I simply take the ovenproof dish out of the fridge, and reheat it for an hour in a 350-degree oven. Voilà! No-stress turkey-roasting.In addition to saving my sanity, pre-roasting my turkey means that after-dinner cleanup is super-easy and stress-free, and there’s no need to cram the partially eaten thing into the fridge.

Source: Rodale (Author: Jean Nick).

7 tips for eating organic on a budget

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

A recent study by the Organic Trade Association found eight in 10 parents in the US report they purchase organic products at least some times and an growing number are making this choice because of their desire to provide healthy food options for their kids. But how can you afford financially to make the same choices for your whole family? If you want to shop organic foods without breaking the bank, here are 7 ways you can go organic without going over your budget.

1. Buy food items in their raw, unprocessed form. While there are many processed organic products available on the market, purchasing processed organic products is the most expensive way to buy organic. If you have the financial means, go ahead. For everyone else, it is about getting back to basics and buying staple foods in their minimally processed form and turning them into other food through the means of your own cooking, brewing and baking.

2. Cook from scratch. Not only frugal, but healthier for you. Cooking at home means that you know exactly what is going into your food and you avoid the unknown additives, preservatives, and origins of mixed foods.

3. Compare prices between fresh and frozen, dried and canned varieties of organic foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet equally delicious when prepared correctly.

4. Only buy what you need for the week. For example, if don’t be stuck buying a whole five-pound bag of organic potatoes if you won’t use them. So, plan another meal that will use the remainder of the bag.

5. Use coupons! Although they are harder to come by, there are organic-based coupons available online. Take time to email your favorite companies too, for the opportunity to receive coupons by mail. And, sign up for our Juicy News newsletter online, where we give frequent coupons to our fans.

6. Plan, plan, plan. Did we say plan? Make a menu prior to shopping. Plan meals that will include meat every other day, versus having it in every single dish. That saves you money, and is good for your health.

7. Buy in bulk. Organic options can be found at Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club and buy in bulk. You can purchase many organic grains (including brown and wild rice and whole oats), pastas, flours, dried fruits, and nuts in the bulk sections of stores for far less. Organic brown rice in bulk is about 99 cents per pound.

Organic food is often more expensive, but when it comes to the staples of your diet, organics are a worthwhile investment, with payoffs that might surprise you. The benefits influence your health today—and long-term.

Green up your Valentine’s Day

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Follow these green Valentine’s Day tips from Earthshare.org and you’ll benefit more than just your special someone: you’ll be supporting healthy communities and a healthy planet. Now that’s heartwarming.

Give Eco-Friendly Chocolate. Not only does the Rainforest Alliance certify chocolate that’s better for the environment, “shopping the frog” ensures that cocoa farmers have good living and working conditions. Find Rainforest Alliance Certified chocolate (and other products) here. The Arbor Day Foundation also sells a line of shade grown organic chocolates in their online shop.

Send an eCard. Love wildlife? Check out these free Valentine e-cards from Ocean Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International.

Buy Local Flowers. If flowers are your style, swing by your local farmers’ market for a fresh bouquet of your favorites. It beats buying imported flowers that have often been doused in pesticides. Check out Local Harvest to find a sustainable florist near you.

Find a Date. Single and looking? We have it on good authority that a number of people have found their true love on Sierra Club Outings and public transportation. Visit Grist for some more ideas on where to find your green soul mate.

Ditch Dirty Gold. Did you know that the manufacture of an average gold ring creates more than 20 tons of mining waste? Yikes! Be sure to buy your jewelry from one of the 90 retailers who have committed to ending destructive gold mining through Earthworks. Then sign the pledge yourself.

Love Your Honey (Bees). Bees are in trouble. In the U.S., they’ve been dying off at alarming rates which spells trouble not just for honey, but for our whole food supply. Download this toolkit from Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action Network to help protect bees from harmful pesticides.

Let Nature Inspire Your Valentines. Remember how much fun Valentine’s Day was as a kid? For some special V-day kid’s craft projects, check out these nature-inspired ideas from National Wildlife Federation.

Love Your Local Bank. Every Valentine’s Day, Green America encourages people to break up with their mega-bank and shift their money to the community by opening accounts with small banks and credit unions. Click here for tips.

Rethink Generosity. The Acumen Fund is rebranding Valentine’s Day as “Generosity Day”. On February 14, people are encouraged to practice simple acts of kindness. Click here for “Random Acts of Kindness” ideas.

Share the Love. With EarthShare’s One Gift option you can make a donation to our environmental charities on behalf of your special someone. We’ll send them a note letting them know about your gift, complete with your personal message.

Source: Earthshare.org

 

Hello again, avocados!

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Summertime means lazy afternoons, sunshine, swimming and the start of Florida organic avocado season at Uncle Matt’s Organic. While avocados are also grown in California and Hawaii, the first Florida avocado crops were planted in the antebellum era of the 1830s by horticulturist Henry Perrine. Avocados didn’t become a commercial crop until the early 1900s. In the 1950s, after gaining popularity as a salad item, demand for the fruit grew. Yes, fruit. Widely considered a vegetable, the avocado is actually a fruit that has become a favorite of foodies everywhere!

Did you know that there are more than 50 different varieties of Florida avocados, but that only about a dozen of those are sold commercially? Running from late June through December, Uncle Matt’s will offer organic Donnie, Simmonds, Nesbitt, Beta, Tonnage, Black Prince, Hall and Monroe varieties — grown by our very own second-generation avocado grower, Murray Bass, in Homestead, Florida.

Uncle Matt’s Florida organic avocados are “green-skin,” which means they’re larger than the popular Hass variety but have less fat and fewer calories. Which brings us to this important point: Don’t avoid the avocado because you think it’s too fattening! It’s a creamy, delicious superfood that powers your body with an array of healthy fats and nutrients –– like oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and glutathione, just to name a few. These powerful nutrients help protect your body against cancer, heart disease, and degenerative eye and brain diseases. What’s more, they’re also a healthy source of dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamins B6 and C.

We love our avocados because they’re definitely good for whipping up our favorite summertime guacamole. But our fruit’s mild flavor lends itself to the creative and unexpected. Try a half avocado in a fruit smoothie, or add some slices to your sandwich instead of lettuce.  If you’re really looking for some culinary trendsetting ideas, wow the guests at your next dinner party with this colorful Avocado, Beet and Grapefruit Salad and top it off with yummy sure-fire favorite chocolate cupcakes…only the secret’s in the icing. Avocado icing, that is. Trust us, it’s amazing!

Organic Food: What’s Really Worth It

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Good Housekeeping magazine features a very favorable piece on organic agriculture and products in its November issue. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Is It Really Healthier?

There’s no question organics are better for plants, animals, farm workers, and the ecosystem. But are they actually healthier for you and your family? There’s a great deal of debate — sometimes partisan, always heated — on nutritional advantages. While research is trending toward showing that organic food has more of certain nutrients, that doesn’t mean the organic tomato you pick from a bin will definitely be richer in these than its conventionally grown cousin at the other end of the aisle. Too many other factors — soil conditions, weather, how the produce was transported and stored — come into play to allow for certainty that any one piece of fruit or vegetable is better for you than another. But there’s an additional issue to consider — namely, safety:

Pesticides: Eating food that’s certified organic means you’re limiting your exposure to the chemicals used to kill plant pests. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides to ensure that they don’t pose unreasonable risks to our health or to the environment. Still, a number of research scientists are concerned about the types and levels of pesticides allowed in conventional farming. A recent study of 12,000 children, for example, found that those with above-average levels of pesticides in their urine were nearly twice as likely to have ADHD as kids with undetectable levels. Developing brains and nervous systems are the most vulnerable to chemicals, so if you’re pregnant or have young children (especially under age 2), spending more for organic food might be smart. And all families can reduce their risk by peeling fruits and vegetables.

Antibiotics: Conventionally farmed livestock and poultry are routinely given drugs to prevent illness and boost the rate of growth, a practice that has contributed to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Buying organic meat, poultry, and milk means you are assured the animal has never been treated with antibiotics. On nonorganic meat and poultry, labels of “no added antibiotics,” “no antibiotics administered,” and “raised without antibiotics” mean the same thing, though the claims are not as tightly regulated. Milk is strictly regulated, and even nonorganic brands don’t contain a significant level of antibiotics, if any.

Hormones: These are often used to fatten conventionally raised cattle or to enhance milk production. Organic cattle aren’t treated with hormones, and some conventional cattle aren’t either, so if you’re concerned about hormone use, you can choose organic meat and dairy or look for a hormone-free claim on other packages. Hormones aren’t used on pork or poultry, so claims on those items are meaningless.

USDA ORGANIC: What “Organic” Means

Thanks to the USDA National Organic program, it’s less of a labeling free-for-all in the supermarket these days. When you see the circular “USDA Organic” logo on a package, it means that the food was produced according to strict practices that don’t allow the use of synthetic flavors, colors, sweeteners, most preservatives, toxic or long-lasting pesticides and fertilizers, or methods like genetic engineering. Organic farming and production methods also ensure that animals are treated more humanely. Another assurance: Producers of certified organic food are subject to announced and unannounced inspections to make sure farming and manufacturing practices are up to snuff. While timely follow-through has been a problem in the past for the USDA program, major increases in its budget and staff have given it more bite.

Smart Shopping

Sounds Like Organic, But…

Many people confuse these claims with the real (certified organic) thing. Here’s the lowdown on the lingo

Natural: On meat and poultry, this indicates that no artificial flavorings or colorings were added and that the cut was not irradiated to reduce bacteria, but it doesn’t tell you anything about how the animal was raised. On products outside the meat case, the term is undefined (and unregulated), so it doesn’t mean anything.

Free Range: When you see this term on chicken and eggs, it means that the bird has had access to the outdoors. But the USDA doesn’t regulate how much time chickens must spend there or what kind of surface it must be (it could be cement).

Locally Grown: Can you define “nearby”? Neither can federal regulators — there’s no standard for descriptions of how far food has traveled to reach your store. It’s also important to remember that not all organic food is locally grown, nor is all locally grown food organic — even the vegetables and fruit you see at farmers’ markets.

How to save money shopping for organics

If you’re looking to go organic or if you already have, here are some helpful strategies to save money in the checkout line:

Go organic on produce with the highest levels of pesticides. The “dirty dozen” are a good place to start with your organic produce purchases. Starting with the worst, they are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, potatoes. The cleanest 12 are onions, avocados, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi fruit, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, papaya, so you may decide to skip the extra cost for organic on these. You can download the Environmental Working Group’s shopping guide to help you make savvy decisions here: http://www.foodnews.org.

Choose organic food for items that your family eats the most. If your family drinks gallons and gallons of milk each week, consider allocating your organic funds there. If your kids won’t touch anything but grapes, think about splurging on organic ones and balancing out the rest of your cart with conventional foods that don’t have as big an impact on your family.

Look for store brands. Many national supermarkets now have their own private label organics brand. Here are some examples of where we found them.

• 365 Organic: Whole Foods Market
• Green Way: A&P, Waldbaum’s, Pathmark, Food Emporium, Super Fresh, Food Basics
• GreenWise: Publix
• O Organics: Safeway, Vons, Carrs, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Genuardi’s
• Private Selection Organic: Kroger, Ralphs, King Soopers, City Market, Dillons, Smith’s, Fry’s, QFC, Baker’s, JayC Food Stores, Gerbes, Pay Less Super Markets, Scott’s Food & Pharmacy
• Wild Harvest Organic: Shaw’s/Star Market, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Farm Fresh, Shop ‘n Save, Acme, Hornbacher’s Cub Foods
• Winn-Dixie Organics: Winn-Dixie
• Nature’s Basket Organic: Giant Eagle, Market District, Giant Eagle Express

Cut coupons. Check out HealthESavers for specialty brands or go to Coupons.com to see if your favorite organics brand has any coupons available. You can also go directly to the website of your brand-of-choice to be added to coupon distribution lists.

Subscribe to an RSS feed.
The Organic Trade Association scouts out prices and reports bargains on its Savvy Organic Shopper blog. Sign up to get the 411 on deals.
Buy in bulk. Warehouse clubs are a great place to find savings, and buying in bulk is especially handy when shopping for a family.

Look for local produce. True, local doesn’t necessarily mean organic, but many local farmers are producing food in accordance with organic standards and just haven’t paid to be certified by the USDA. Ask the farmer. Also, local produce means you’re buying in season when there is an abundance of that item. That tends to translate into good deals.

Organic Center Response to the FSA Study

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

An advance copy of a study appeared today that will be published in the September edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” The published paper, “Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review,” was written by a team led by Alan Dangour, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and funded by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In their written report, the London team downplayed positive findings in favor of organic food. In several instances, their analysis showed that organic foods tend to be more nutrient dense than conventional foods. Plus, their study omitted measures of some important nutrients, including total antioxidant capacity. It also lacked quality controls contained in a competing study released in 2008 by The Organic Center (TOC). Last, the FSA-funded team also used data from very old studies assessing nutrient levels in plant varieties that are no longer on the market.

The London team reported finding statistically significant differences between organically and conventionally grown crops in three of thirteen categories of nutrients. Significant differences cited by the team included nitrogen, which was higher in conventional crops, and phosphorus and tritratable acids, both of which were higher in the organic crops. Elevated levels of nitrogen in food are regarded by most scientists as a public health hazard because of the potential for cancer-causing nitrosamine compounds to form in the human GI tract. Hence, this finding of higher nitrogen in conventional food favors organic crops, as do the other two differences.

Despite the fact that these three categories of nutrients favored organic foods, and none favored conventionally grown foods, the London-based team concluded that there are no nutritional differences between organically and conventionally grown crops.

A team of scientists convened by The Organic Center (TOC) carried out a similar, but more rigorous, review of the same literature. The TOC team analyzed published research just on plant-based foods. Results differ significantly from the more narrow FSA review and are reported in the study “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods.”

The TOC findings are similar for some of the nutrients analyzed by the FSA team, but differ significantly for two critical classes of nutrients of great importance in promoting human health – total polyphenols, and total antioxidant content. The FSA team did not include total antioxidant capacity among the nutrients studied, and it found no differences in the phenolic content in 80 comparisons across 13 studies.

Unlike the London study, The Organic Center review focused on nutrient differences in “matched pairs” of crops grown on nearby farms, on the same type of soil, with the same irrigation systems and harvest timing, and grown from the same plant variety. It also rigorously screened studies for the quality of the analytical methods used to measure nutrient levels, and eliminated from further consideration a much greater percentage of the published literature than the FSA team.

While the FSA team found 80 comparisons of phenolic compounds, the TOC team focused on the more precise measure of total phenolic acids, or total polyphenols, and found just 25 scientifically valid “matched pairs.” By mixing together in their statistical analysis the results of several specific phenolic acids, the FSA team likely lost statistical precision.

Instead, the TOC team focused on studies reporting values for total phenolic acids, and also applied more rigorous selection criteria to exclude poorer quality studies.

The TOC team found –

  • Twenty-five matched pairs of organic and conventional crops for which total phenolic acid data was reported. The levels were higher in the organic crops in 18 of these 25 cases, conventional crops were higher in 6. In five of the matched pairs, phenolic acid levels were higher in organic crops by 20% or more. On average across the 25 matched pairs, total phenolics were 10% higher in the organic samples, compared to conventional crops.
  • In seven of eight matched pairs reporting total antioxidant capacity data, the levels were higher in the organically grown crop. Of 15 matched pairs for the key antioxidant quercetin, 13 reported higher values in the organic food. In the case of kaempferol, another important antioxidant, the organic samples were higher in six cases, while five were higher in the conventional crops.

In the TOC study, there were an ample number of matched pairs to compare the levels of 11 nutrients, including five of the nutrients in the FSA review. For the five nutrients covered in each review, the TOC team was in general agreement with the FSA findings for two (nitrogen and phosphorus).

The London team did not assess differences in key individual antioxidants, nor in total antioxidant activity, important nutrients that have been measured in several more recent studies.

Across all the valid matched pairs and the 11 nutrients included in the TOC study, nutrient levels in organic food averaged 25% higher than in conventional food. Given that some of the most significant differences favoring organic foods were for key antioxidant nutrients that most Americans do not get enough of on most days, the team concluded that the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables, in particular, offered significant health benefits, roughly equivalent to an additional serving of a moderately nutrient dense fruit or vegetable on an average day.

Why the Different Results?

A review of the London-based team’s methodology and study design points clearly to why the FSA and Organic Center studies reached some different conclusions.

Inclusion of Older Studies

The FSA review included studies over a 50-year period: January 1958 through February 2008. The TOC team included studies published since 1980. Most studies published before 1980 were found flawed for purposes of comparing the nutrient content of today’s conventional and organic crops.

Most of the older studies used plant varieties no longer in use, and did not measure or report total phenolics or antioxidant capacity (since these nutrients were just being discovered). The older studies used analytical methods that are now considered inferior, compared to modern methods.

Further, since the 1950s, plant breeders and growers have consistently increased the yields of food crops, leading, in some cases, to a dilution of nutrients. In 2004, one of us (Donald R. Davis) reported evidence for a general decline in some nutrient levels in 43 garden crops between 1950 and 1999 (Davis et al., “Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 23(6): 669-682; a

summary of the Davis paper is posted).

Similarly, an Organic Center report by Brian Halweil describes in detail the evidence linking higher yields and nutrient decline (

“Still No Free Lunch: Nutrient levels in the U.S. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields,”).
Thus, results in the FSA study are likely confounded by the team’s decision to include data from over three decades ago.

New Studies Support Greater Nutrient Density in Organic Foods

Since February 2008, the cut-off date of the London study, some 15 new studies have been published, most of which use superior design and analytical methods based on criticisms of older studies. The Organic Center is updating its earlier analysis with these additional studies. These new studies generally reinforce the findings reported in the March 2008 TOC report, particularly in the case of nitrogen (higher in conventional crops, a disadvantage), and Vitamin C, total phenolics, and total antioxidant capacity, which are typically higher in organically grown foods.

The Center’s study finds that protein content and beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, are typically higher in conventionally grown foods, but since both are present at ample or excessive levels in the diets of most Americans, these differences do not confer a nutritional advantage nearly as important as heightened levels of phenolics and antioxidants in organic foods.

Exclusion of Studies Analyzing Results on “Integrated” Farms

The FSA team excluded studies comparing organic foods to “integrated” and biodynamic production systems, stating that “integrated” systems are not conventional. Most conventional U.S. fruit and vegetable producers are now using advanced levels of Integrated Pest Management. Thus, “integrated” systems are now a more accurate description of “conventional” agriculture in the U.S., than a definition grounded in monoculture, the calendar spraying of pesticides, and excessive applications of chemical fertilizers. The London team did not report in the published paper which “integrated” studies were dropped, but we suspect some important U.S.-based studies may have been eliminated.

TOC Study Applied Much Stricter Screens for Scientific Validity

The two teams agree that many published studies are methodologically flawed, and hence should not be included in comparative studies. But the FSA and TOC teams used very different rules to screen studies for scientific quality and to select matched pairs for analyses.

The FSA team cites five criteria: definition of the organic system; specification of the plant variety (i.e., crop genetics); statement of nutrients analyzed; description of laboratory method used; and, a statement regarding statistical methods for assessing differences. The London team states that they simply required some discussion of these issues in published papers, but did not set or apply any qualitative thresholds in judging scientific validity.

The Organic Center team focused on the same factors (plus several others) and used stated, objective criteria for assessing them. The TOC team reviewed the statistical power and reliability of the analytical methods, a process that eliminated dozens of results. Finally, the TOC team insisted upon a close match of soils, plant genetics (variety), harvest method and timing, and irrigation systems, all factors that can bias the results of a comparison study.

Inclusion of Market-Basket Studies

The FSA team included some market basket studies, for which there is no way to know the specific circumstances of the farm locations, the plant genetics, the soil type, or harvest method and timing. In the Organic Center study, market basket results were judged as “invalid” based on several quality-control screening criteria.

Ten Ways to Go Organic in 2008!

Monday, January 7th, 2008

#1 Get off to a clean start: Take a shower with soaps and shampoos made with organic ingredients. Then, serve someone special an organic breakfast in bed with certified organic juice, coffee, fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt and eggs. (All items available nationally at natural & conventional supermarkets.)

#2 Create a celebratory meal that’s as close to 100% organic as possible. Invite friends and family to enjoy and help cook. It can be an organic picnic, pizza party, barbecue or high tea!

#3 Volunteer or make a donation to support organic gardening programs in your community, through schools, social service agencies, etc.

#4 Building healthy soil is a key tenet of organic farming. A great way to guarantee rich, organic soil is to start composting! City dwellers can compost at your neighborhood community garden. What’s composting, you say? Contact your local library or Cooperative Extension office for composting information.

#5 Be a big “softie” and treat yourself (or someone special) to a pair of 100% organic cotton socks or anything made with snuggly organic fleece. Studies have shown that in the U.S., it takes about one-third of a pound of chemicals to grow enough non-organic cotton for one T-shirt.

#6 Treat yourself to organic indulgences: Nibble on an organic chocolate bar, lick an organic ice cream or frozen yogurt bar, or scoop up succulent organic sorbet. Fill your candy jar at home with organic snacks or cookies.

#7 Bring an organic treat to the office to share with co-workers or to send with your children to school. Certified organic raisins, cheese, nuts, fruits, chips and crackers are just some of the possibilities.

#8 Remember your Pooch! Give your furry friend an organic dog wash and treat him or her to an organic doggie biscuit.

#9 Raise a toast to organic! Whether you enjoy a glass of organic wine, lemonade, Uncle Matt’s organic juice, or tomato juice, there are numerous organic libations and refreshments to wet your whistle.

#10 Slumber soundly and organically sip organic chamomile tea and slip under your organic cotton sheets.