Organic Food Is Healthier Confirms New Analysis
More nutritional antioxidants, far fewer toxic pesticides; those are the results of a comprehensive meta-analysis on organic foods published yesterday in the British Journal of Nutrition. Led by Carlo Leifort, PhD, at England’s Newcastle University, the analysis is a scientific rebuttal to a previous Stanford University review published in 2012, which found that there was little difference between the nutritional content of organic food over conventionally grown produce. Both studies found there to be fewer pesticides in organic products.
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While Stanford University’s review only looked at 200 studies, Dr. Leifert and his team of researchers expanded the scope of their meta-analysis to 343 studies, and also employed more robust analytic tools by analyzing the standardized mean differences of the data from the various studies. "It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” said Dr. Leifert to The New York Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.” Antioxidants, compounds such as phenolic acids, ﬂavanones, stilbenes, ﬂavones, ﬂavonols and anthocyanin, have been linked to lower risks of cancer and other diseases.
For many, news of higher nutritional content in organic foods is simply another benefit of buying into a system that eschews toxic pesticides, treats animals with care and protects farmworkers and the surrounding environment. Both the Stanford and Newcastle studies found pesticide residues four times more frequently on conventional crops than on organic produce.
Pesticide exposure, even at low level residues like those found on food, has been linked to a wide range of adverse impacts wildlife and humans, particularly children. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement advising parents to choose organic in order to avoid pesticide exposure. Also in 2012, a report published by a team of 12 scientists found strong evidence that low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals influence human diseases, including links to infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and other disorders. “Whether low doses of endocrine-disrupting compounds influence human disorders is no longer conjecture, as epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures are associated with human diseases and disabilities,” the report stated. Research from Tyrone Hayes, PhD, at University of California Berkeley found that a minute dose of the herbicide atrazine (as small as .1 parts per billion) turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that low dose responses to chemicals “do occur in biological systems,” yet has still not begun regulating endocrine disrupters through a finalized Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, as mandated by Congress in 1996.
Although eating organic provides immense benefits over chemically-intensive food production systems, it is critically important that consumers continue to pressure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Organic Program to maintain organic integrity. In order to defend organic standards from changes that would weaken public trust, Beyond Pesticides launched the Save Our Organic campaign. Consumers can take action to ask their U.S. Representatives and Senators, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and organic companies to support organic as a rigorous open process that holds its standards accountable to input and direction from those who produce and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides recently filed a petition to USDA to restore the authority of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The agency mistakenly reclassified the NOSB as a time-limited advisory board, despite its creation as an independent authority by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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