Chuck Benbrook

A Sobering Reminder of the Importance of Dietary Choice

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | July 16, 2013

A growing number of Americans are learning that doctors don’t have miracle cures for all that ails us.  The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington has just released chilling data on the burden of disease in America, the driving forces behind disease and ill health, and modifiable risk factors for contemporary health problems.

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Filed under Community and Society, Food Systems, Nutrition

More Independent Science Must be Part of Regaining Public Confidence in GE Food Technology

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | July 2, 2013

The finding of some Roundup Ready (RR) wheat plants in an eastern Oregon field must leave some PNW wheat growers feeling snakebit, since they decided a decade ago to oppose the commercialization of RR wheat until the technology is fully approved and accepted by consumers, both here and abroad.  While this episode has disrupted trade flows and will undoubtedly increase wheat industry testing costs for the foreseeable future, some good could come from it if it triggers a fresh look at why skepticism and/or opposition to genetically engineered (GE) foods is growing in the U.S.  The fate of many new GE crops hangs in the balance, including Simplot’s new potato technology that reduces levels of the known human carcinogen acrylamide. Read more »

A Tale of Two Tomatoes

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 23, 2013

A flurry of studies in recent years has reported that organic fruits and vegetables are, on average, more nutritious than conventional foods, while another flurry has reported little or no nutritional difference.  While most review articles and meta-analysis conclude that Vitamin C, phenolic acids, antioxidant, and some mineral levels are typically higher in organically grown produce, the levels of some other nutrients are often higher in conventional food (e.g., protein, Vitamin A).  Opinions vary widely on whether the typically small incremental differences in nutrients between organic and conventional foods are biologically meaningful.

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Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming, Sustainability
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Toward an “Innovative Ecosystem” for Ag Research

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 13, 2012

On December 7, 2012 the President’s Council on Science and Technology released a report on the health of the nation’s agricultural research enterprise.  It is a remarkable document that deserves close attention and a central place in the ongoing debate over where and how to deploy science and technology in advancing progress in the food and agricultural sectors. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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Impacts of Organic Food on Infants and Children – The AAP Weighs In

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | October 22, 2012

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy paper entitled “Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages” on October 22, 2012.  It is slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Pediatrics.  This new review comes on the heels of a September, 2012 meta-analysis by a team of physicians at Stanford University, which stirred up substantial commentary, and badly needed discussion among scientists of appropriate methods to carry out such reviews (e.g., see my September 4 post, and letters to the editor of “The Annals of Internal Medicine,” especially the excellent letter from WSU colleague Dr. Preston Andrews). Read more »

Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming, Toxics

Hard lessons emerge from new study on the impacts of GE crops on pesticide use

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | October 2, 2012

I have worked for many years on pesticide use, risks, and regulation, as well as the design, implementation, and benefits of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems.  Given that all of the commercially significant, first-generation traits in genetically engineered (GE) crops are related to pest management, the real-world impacts of GE crops on pesticide use has always been on my radar screen.

I started tracking the development of herbicide-tolerant technology in the late 1980s during my tenure as the Executive Director of the NAS Board on Agriculture (1984-1990).  Even back then, years before the technology’s commercial launch in 1996, weed management experts were expressing concern that glyphosate-tolerant, Roundup Ready (RR) crops could lead to the emergence of resistant weeds.  Read more »

The Devil in the Details

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | September 4, 2012

A comprehensive paper on the nutritional quality and safety of conventional versus organic food was published in the September 4, 2012 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (Smith-Spangler et al., Vol. 157, Number 5: pages 349–369). The Stanford University Medical School team concluded that:

“The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”

“Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Their analysis loosely supports these conclusions, but many devils lurk in the statistical details underlying this study’s findings. For details, see the technical review of the Stanford study. Read more »

Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming, Toxics

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