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(p. D7) . . . , when did “chemical” become a dirty word? That’s a question raised by one of Canada’s brightest scientific minds: Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal. Dr. Schwarcz, who has received high honors from Canadian and American scientific societies, is the author of several best-selling books that attempt to set the record straight on a host of issues that commonly concern health-conscious people.
I’ve read two of his books, “Science, Sense and Nonsense” (published in 2009) and “The Right Chemistry” (2012), and recently attended a symposium on the science of food that Dr. Schwarcz organized at McGill.
What follows are tips from his books and the symposium that can help you make wiser choices about what does, and does not, pass your lips in 2013.
. . .
ORGANIC OR NOT? Wherever I shop for food these days, I find an ever-widening array of food products labeled “organic” and “natural.” But are consumers getting the health benefits they pay a premium for?
Until the 20th century, Dr. Schwarcz wrote, all farming was “organic,” with manure and compost used as fertilizer and “natural” compounds of arsenic, mercury and lead used as pesticides.
Might manure used today on organic farms contain disease-causing micro-organisms? Might organic produce unprotected by insecticides harbor cancer-causing molds? It’s a possibility, Dr. Schwarcz said. But consumers aren’t looking beyond the organic sales pitch.
Also questionable is whether organic foods, which are certainly kinder to the environment, are more nutritious. Though some may contain slightly higher levels of essential micronutrients, like vitamin C, the difference between them and conventionally grown crops may depend more on where they are produced than how.
A further concern: Organic producers disavow genetic modification, which can be used to improve a crop’s nutritional content, enhance resistance to pests and diminish its need for water. A genetically modified tomato developed at the University of Exeter, for example, contains nearly 80 times the antioxidants of conventional tomatoes. Healthier, yes — but it can’t be called organic.
For the full story, see:
JANE E. BRODY. “PERSONAL HEALTH; What You Think You Know (but Don’t) About Wise Eating.” The New York Times (Tues., January 1, 2013): D7.
(Note: ellipses added; bold in original.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date DECEMBER 31, 2012.)
The Schwarcz books mentioned above, are:
Schwarcz, Joe. The Right Chemistry: 108 Enlightening, Nutritious, Health-Conscious and Occasionally Bizarre Inquiries into the Science of Daily Life. Toronto, Ontario: Doubleday Canada, 2012.
Schwarcz, Joe. Science, Sense & Nonsense. Toronto, Ontario: Doubleday Canada, 2009.