Dietary Landscapes

 

A huge change in the health of both Americans and the planet they isort of nhabit could come from a relatively small shift in their diet. The change would also proivide a real windfall for its most valuable and vulnerable food producers, its small independent organic farmers.

According to economic models designed to predict how U.S. farmers would respond to shifts in eating habits, if Americans simply ate fruits and vegetables at current USDA-recommended levels, farmers would respond by bringing nearly twice as much (88%) produce to market. This would both drive down prices and increase the general accessibility of local organic produce.

Conversely, if meat and dairy consumption fell just to the levels recommended by the Harvard University School of Public Health, farmers would respond by growing much less of the corn and grains now consumed predominantly by livestock. The simple diet-driven shift in cultivation would then improve the soil and reduce the impact of animal waste on the environment.

An even more drastic improvement in public health could come from greater consumption of organic-certified fruits and vegetables. Research published in the peer-reviewed Journal Of Environmental Health Perspectives found that children who ate predominantly organic fruits and vegetables have much lower concentrations of certain pesticides in their system.

The study enrolled 40 children, 3-6 years old: 20 from an urban neighborhood in Oakland and 20 from the nearby agricultural Salinas Valley. Researchers swapped out non-organic for organic food in the children’s diets and measured the concentrations of pesticides in their urine. In both communities, the amount of pesticides, as measured by breakdown products (metabolites), plummeted after they switched to organic food. 

Concerned parents might wish to consult The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce that includes the Dirty Dozen list of non-organic produce with the highest pesticide loads. There is also a Clean Fifteen list of fruits and vegetables that are least likely to have pesticide residues.