I believe that some of the German biodynamic researchers have done
comparative studies of the protein analyses of conventional vs. biodynamic
produce. I've seen these with potatoes and carrots. They analysed crude
protein, nitrogen salt levels and all the amino acids as well as minerals
and vitamin C and maybe a few other such things Also flalvor and keeping
quality were evaluated. Of course, the difference between the biodynamic
and the conventional stood out like a flag pole on the parade ground. You
might find these studies if you looked back through issues of the BD
Association's Journal in the late seventies or in the Koepf, Peterson and
Schauman text, BIODYNAMIC AGRICULTURE.
Personally I find these studies tedious as it is an exercise in converting
the cynics who are going to ignore or deny any proofs no matter how
convincing they may be. Avery's hachet work needs to be attacked at the
level where you discredit his authority not at the level where you exhaust
yourself with responses to his outrageous claims.
Here in Georgia we have a woman who has organized over 50 chefs of fine
restaurants into a group who buy as much of our Georgia Organic produce as
they can get. These are buyers who want their food to really taste great
and make their customers feel great because that's what brings their
customers back over and over for more and more. The woman is Ann Brewer and
her e-mail address is <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You could talk to her.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Her chefs know organic is
superior and would never be fooled by Avery's hogwash.
It is often said that if you want to know the truth, follow the money.
Well, the money is going for organic food. The top experts on food in
Atlanta, Georgia--the city's finest chefs--pay a good bit extra for
organic. I got 75 cents a pound for butternut squash and sold a ton of it
last year. The going rate for green soybeans was, get this, $5 per pound.
Whew! Talk to Ann. The experts buy organic.
Then, following another money trail, look into what Avery's payoff is for
taking the axe to organic and slandering it outrageously. Someone is surely
paying him for his yellow journalism. He rates being discredited and his
network should hear this from their viewers.
>Hugh - thanks for all your good information in your answer to my Sanet
>inquiry on nutritional characteristics of organic food. I totally agree
>with you that we can TELL - based on our own personal sensory perception
>- and certainly that is good enough for most of us who are already
>'believers'. However, my question is part of the research/background I'm
>doing for an article I'm writing for Acres USA, attempting to answer some
>of the questions frequently launched at organic food/farming by the likes
>of Dennis Avery. One of their contentions is that foolish, uninformed
>consumers are being duped into paying more for food that is no better
The truth is that SOME of the organic is not only no better than SOME of
the conventional, it can even be worse. Turn me loose tasting fruits and
veggies at a large farmer's market where there is a wide variety and I
could soon pick out examples of conventional produce that was better than
some of the organic choices available. I gave two examples of cases where
conventional fruits were far, far better than average. It is rare, but for
sure it happens. This is simply the exception that proves the rule. Organic
is usually better, and it often is a LOT better. Not always, but usually.
I'm personally certain that once organic certification is in the hands of
government that standards will decline and the difference between organic
and conventional will be less.
> Hey, our own OTA was quoted as saying such on that
>20/20 program! Well, if we in the organic community KNOW that there is
>a difference, HOW do we know - and how can we convey/explain this to
>So, I'm trying to find information about first - what do humans identify
>as food quality and how are those characteristics determined chemically -
>i.e. what makes that characteristic flavor and texture of a really good
>apple? And what makes that characteristic flavor and texture of a really
>Then - is there any evidence that organic food does indeed have higher
>levels of these important quality determinants? I have just recevied a
>very interesting (unpublished ) article from Franco Weibel at the
>Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Ackerstrasse, Switzerland that
>tested organic and conventional apples for chemical and physical
>differences. He found a very strong corrolation between soil biological
>activity and higher levels of key molecules - this makes so much sense,
>OF COURSE it should be this way, but it it still nice to see the data
>supporting this. I am also going to be talking to Larry Phelan at Ohio
>State on Monday about his work with corn borer preferring conventional to
>organic corn plants - hopefully he can speculate chemically why this was
>the case - higher Brix?
Higher brix is an indicator rather than the cause of corn borer resistance.
If the corn plant gets too much nitrogen salts the fluids within the cell
will be more watery and less protoplasmic. The cell will be stretched thin
and subject to increased loss of energy. This means that the sugars stored
up in the daytime by way of photosynthesis are converted back into energy
as infrared emissions. Corn plants giving off a strong infrared glow at
night are easily located by corn borers which have antennae tuned to the
infrared signature of corn. These will be low brix corn plants since they
are breaking down a higher percentage of their sugars into infrared. If I
recall correctly Phil Callahan's research on this when he was at Abraham
Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia showed that somewhere
between 50 and 100 pound increase in salt nitrogen fertilizer doubled the
infrared emissions of a corn plant.
On the other hand, if the corn plant is getting its nitrogen as amino acids
it easily incorporates these into its proteins and it doesn't use much of
its energy doing this. The result is a high brix corn plant. What does a
high brix corn plant do with its sugar? It exudes sugars at the roots and
these feed the azotobacter populations in the close vicinity of those roots
to the extent the nitrogen content of the soil is several times richer
within a quarter inch or so of the feeder roots. Moreover, the nitrogen
fixed by the bacteria will be taken up by the corn as amino acids and this
keeps the sugar content of the corn plant high so there is more sugar for
the azotobacters. In essence if corn gets off to a good start in fertile
soil it will exchange sugar for amino acids and fix its own nitrogen.
I have been breeding corns for this characteristic for more than a dozen
years now, as some corns are better at doing this than others. Most corns,
of course, are bred for their ability to grow under high salt nitrogen
fertilization. Howard Shapiro of Seeds of Change was telling me last
October about a particularly robust corn he has been studying down in
Oaxaca that grows exceptionally well without nitrogen inputs because of
this same symbiosis between the corn and the azotobacters. Needless to say
when grown this way there is more complete protein in the corn.
Many other plants do a similar thing. If they have surplus sugar and exude
it out into the soil it yields nitrogen in the form of amino acids in
return. Corn, because of its high nitrogen requirement is the best example
I can think of is all.
>Elaine Ingham has said that strong mycorrhizal
>activity produce corn and grapes with higher protein levels - and that
>this is part of what we detect as quality - apparently also that makes
>for superior wine making ability in the grapes.
>Do you know of any other such data? Do you know of any other animal
>feeding studies or animal feed studies that would test nutritive/quality
>components in organic and conventional feed materials? I feel this would
>be an important piece to address the subjective ('foolish consumers')
>factor. Do you know of other studies that have linked this back to
>specific conditions in the soil? What about the storage ability of
>organic food - that is often said to be better - what chemically causes
>good or bad storage ability?
Often the vitamin C content of a fruit or vegetable is related to its
keeping quality. Perhaps that would be an easy test to run.
You might be able to find data from an existing source. For instance I
understand that Purina has a center devoted to trying all manner of
commodities out for animal preference before they purchase them for
processing into feeds. The animals' preferences are the best indicator of
quality. If the animals show a clear preference that's the input Purina
buys. All of which goes to show that taste and smell are two of the best
methods of chemical analysis. Animals don't have crazy ideas of what is
scientifically valid getting in the way of using these methods like some
>I am not a food scientist or a chemist, but neither are most ordinary
>people, so deep detail into chemistry would only serve to confuse. But I
>am a plant breeder by training and an organic farmer now, so a joint
>scientific and agronomic/cultural explanation would be extremely
>Thanks for your wisdom. Mary-Howell Martens
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