NEWS

Organic oranges are the only fruit

Organically produced food is not only better for the environment but also has more nutritional value, according to studies recently released. The results of research by Professor Nikolaos Sidiras of the Agriculture University’s Plant Production Department suggest that organic cultivation also releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, helps save energy and produces more nutritious food. Meanwhile, in an attempt to prove the opposite was true, Theo Clark, a professor of chemistry at Truman State University in the USA, actually found that organically grown oranges contained 30 percent more vitamin C than those grown conventionally. The way produce on organic farms is fertilized is the most important difference between them and conventional farms. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used, so the ground water is not polluted. «After a harvest, large conventional farms contain two to three times more traces of nitrates than organically farmed fields,» said Sidiras. These are considerable differences, given that nitrates leach into water sources when it rains. On large holdings where the land has been farmed intensively for many years, the water is unfit for human consumption as it contains over 50 milligrams of nitrates per liter, the safety limit set by the European Union. Nitrates have been linked to several forms of cancer. Also, organically farmed products contain no traces of pesticides. The atmosphere The reason that organic farming releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is because it uses considerably smaller amounts of fuel. We often say that in order to produce the food we consume we use energy, which is not only expensive but harms the environment. Many fertilizers are made from potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and other minerals that need energy to be mined. Conventional farming also burns more fuel because it requires more water. According to some experts, 60 percent less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere in organic farming. «On well-organized organic farms, only 10-30 percent of all energy needed is introduced from outside. The rest is produced on site as it is recycled,» said Sidiras. Clark’s team was unable to disprove the claim that organically grown food was more nutritious. Its findings were presented at the American Chemical Society’s 34th Great Lakes meeting last month. Clark said that while organic produce from smaller farms was very often presented as «healthy,» «tasty» or «natural,» these were general, unsubstantiated claims and there was not much information on the subject. His research focused on oranges as fruit that are presented as being particularly healthy. Nutritional value «Oranges are the traditional source of vitamin C and advertised a great deal, yet we don’t know how organic farming affects their nutritional value,» he said. Conventionally produced oranges are larger and have a more «orange» color than those organically produced. Because of their size, one would expect them to contain double the amount of vitamin C, but that is not the case at all. On the contrary, despite their small size, organically produced oranges have 30 percent more vitamin C. Although Clark is not certain why this is so, he concludes that because conventional producers use nitrates as fertilizers which require more water to be absorbed, the nutritional elements in the fruit are diluted. A huge orange is actually full of water. Of course there are other factors that affect nutritional value, such as ripeness, climatic conditions, production process, packaging and storage, he added. Sidiras said that this, along with general conditions of cultivation, is the reason why organically grown spinach contains more vitamin C and can be stored longer. Also very important is the fact that spinach absorbs large amounts of nitrate fertilizers, so spinach grown conventionally with these fertilizers conveys these chemicals into our bodies.