The most accurate measures of European daily temperatures ever indicate that the length of heat waves on the continent has doubled and the frequency of extremely hot days has nearly tripled in the past century. The new data shows that many previous assessments of daily summer temperature change underestimated heat wave events in western Europe by approximately 30 percent.
Paul Della-Marta and a team of researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland compiled evidence from 54 high-quality recording locations from Sweden to Croatia and report that heat waves last an average of 3 days now—with some lasting up to 4.5 days—compared to an average of around 1.5 days in 1880. The results are published 3 August in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. The researchers suggest that their conclusions contribute to growing evidence that western Europe’s climate has become more extreme and confirm a previously hypothesized increase in the variance of daily summer temperatures since the 19th century.
The study adds evidence that heat waves, such as the devastating 2003 event in western Europe, are a likely sign of global warming; one that perhaps began as early as the 1950s, when their study showed some of the highest trends in summer mean temperature and summer temperature variance.
“These results add more evidence to the belief among climate scientists that western Europe will experience some of the highest environmental and social impacts of climate change and continue to experience devastating hot summers like the summer of 2003 more frequently in the future,” Della-Marta said.
The authors note that temperature records were likely overestimated in the past, when thermometers were not kept in modern Stevenson screens, which are instrument shelters used to protect temperature sensors from outside influences that could alter its readings. The researchers corrected for this warm bias and other biases in the variability of daily summer temperatures and show that nearly 40 percent of the changes in the frequency of hot days are likely to be caused by increases in summer temperatures’ variability. This finding demonstrates that even a small change in the variance of daily summer temperatures can radically enhance the number of extremely hot days.
“These findings provide observational support to climate modeling studies showing that European summer temperatures are particularly sensitive to global warming,” Della-Marta said. “Due to complex reactions between the summer atmosphere and the land, the variability of summer temperatures is expected to [continue to] increase substantially by 2100.”
The research was supported by the European Environment and Sustainable Development Program, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the National Center for Excellence in Climate Research (NCCR Climate).
Contact: Jonathan Lifland
American Geophysical Union
-It helps to prevent diseases such as anaemia and bone demineralisation
-UGR researchers have carried out a comparative study on the properties of goat milk compared to those of cow milk. Rats with induced nutritional ferropenic anaemia have been used in the study
-Goat milk helps digestive and metabolic utilisation of minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
-Part of the results of this research have been published in the prestigious scientific journals International Dairy Journal and Journal Dairy Science
C@MPUS DIGITAL Research carried out at the Department of Physiology of the University of Granada has revealed that goat milk has more beneficial properties to health than cow milk. Among these properties it helps to prevent ferropenic anaemia (iron deficiency) and bone demineralisation (softening of the bones).
This project, conducted by Doctor Javier Díaz Castro and directed by professors Margarita Sánchez Campos, Mª Inmaculada López Aliaga and Mª José Muñoz Alférez, focuses on the comparison between the nutritional properties of goat milk and cow milk, both with normal calcium content and calcium enriched, against the bioavailability of iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. To carry out this study, the metabolic balance technique has been used both in rats with experimentally induced nutritional ferropenic anaemia and in a control group of rats.
In order to know how the nutritive utilisation of these minerals may affect their metabolic distribution and destination, the UGR researcher has determined the concentration of these minerals in the different organs involved in their homeostatic regulation and different haematological parameters in relation to the metabolism of the minerals.
Better results with goat milk
Results obtained in the study reveal that ferropenic anaemia and bone demineralisation caused by this pathology have a better recovery with goat milk. Due to the higher bioavailability of iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, the restoration of altered haematological parameters and the better levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH), a hormone that regulates the calcium balance in the organism was found in the rats that consumed this food.
Javier Díaz Castro points out that the inclusion of goat milk with normal or double calcium content in the diet “favours digestive and metabolic utilisation of iron, calcium and phosphorus and their deposit in target organs – parts of the organism to which these minerals are preferably sent – involved in their homeostatic regulation”.
According to this researcher, all these conclusions reveal that regular consumption of goat milk – a natural food with highly beneficial nutritional characteristics – “has positive effects on mineral metabolism, recovery from ferropenic anaemia and bone mineralisation in rats. In addition, and unlike observations in cow milk, its calcium enrichment does not interfere in the bioavailability of the minerals studied”.
Although there is no doubt that these findings may be a base for further in depth study of the multiple health benefits of goat milk, the UGR researcher warns that “studies in humans are still required in order to confirm the findings obtained in rats and to promote goat milk consumption both in the general population and in the population affected by nutritional ferropenic anaemia and pathologies related to bone demineralisation”. Part of the results of this research has been published in the prestigious scientific journals International Dairy Journal and Journal Dairy Science.
Reference: Dr Javier Díaz Castro. Department of Physiology of the University of Granada.
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Review covers 136 countries in US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Japan and Spain
Leukaemia rates in children and young people are elevated near nuclear facilities, but no clear explanation exists to explain the rise, according to a research review published in the July issue of European Journal of Cancer Care.
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina carried out a sophisticated meta-analysis of 17 research papers covering 136 nuclear sites in the UK, Canada, France, the USA, Germany, Japan and Spain.
They found that death rates for children up to the age of nine were elevated by between five and 24 per cent, depending on their proximity to nuclear facilities, and by two to 18 per cent in children and young people up to the age of 25.
Incidence rates were increased by 14 to 21 per cent in zero to nine year olds and seven to ten percent in zero to 25 year-olds.
“Childhood leukaemia is a rare disease and nuclear sites are commonly found in rural areas, which means that sample sizes tend to be small” says lead author Dr Peter J Baker.
“The advantage of carrying out a meta-analysis is that it enables us to draw together a number of studies that have employed common methods and draw wider conclusions.”
Eight separate analyses were performed – including unadjusted, random and fixed effect models – and the figures they produced showed considerable consistency.
But the authors point out that dose-response studies they looked at – which describe how an organism is affected by different levels of exposure – did not show excess rates near nuclear facilities.
“Several difficulties arise when conducting dose-response studies in an epidemiological setting as they rely on a wide range of factors that are often hard to quantify” explains Dr Baker. “It is also possible that there are environmental issues involved that we don’t yet understand.
“If the amount of exposure were too low to cause the excess risk, we would expect leukaemia rates to remain consistent before and after the start-up of a nuclear facility. However, our meta-analysis, consistently showed elevated illness and death rates for children and young people living near nuclear facilities.”
The research review looked at studies carried out between 1984 and 1999, focusing on research that provided statistics for individual sites on children and young people aged from zero to 25.
Four studies covered the UK, with a further three covering just Scotland. Three covered France, two looked at Canada and there was one study each from the USA, Japan, Spain, the former East Germany and the former West Germany.
“Although our meta-analysis found consistently elevated rates of leukaemia near nuclear facilities, it is important to note that there are still many questions to be answered, not least about why these rates increase” concludes Dr Baker.
“Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the excess of childhood leukaemia in the vicinity of nuclear facilities, including environmental exposure and parental exposure. Professor Kinlen from Oxford University has also put forward a hypothesis that viral transmission, caused by mixing populations in a new rural location, could be responsible.
“It is clear that further research is needed into this important subject.”
Notes to editors
Meta-analysis of standardized incidence and mortality rates of childhood leukaemia in proximity to nuclear facilities. Baker PJ and Hoel D. European Journal of Cancer Care. 16, pages 355-363. July 2007.
The European Journal of Cancer Care provides a medium for communicating multi-professional cancer care across Europe and internationally. The Journal publishes peer-reviewed papers, reviews, reports, features and news, and provides a means of recording lively debate and an exchange of ideas. It is published six times a year by Blackwell Publishing.
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Disturbed sleep associated with decline in cognition over time; no link with total hours of sleep per night
Women who experienced cognitive decline over a 13 to 15 year period after age 65 were more likely to sleep poorly than women whose cognition did not decline, according to a study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).
The women’s cognitive decline was associated with interrupted or fitful sleep. Total sleep time per night made no difference, says lead author Kristine Yaffe, MD, chief of geriatric psychiatry at SFVAMC and professor of psychiatry, neurology, epidemiology, and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
“This indicates that it’s not how long you sleep, but how well you sleep,” she says.
The study appears in the July 17, 2007 issue of Neurology.
Yaffe speculates that there are three possible explanations for the association between cognitive decline and disturbed sleep. She says the first and most likely reason is that whatever neurodegenerative condition is starting to cause cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is also affecting areas of the brain that govern sleep.
“Sleep is very complex,” notes Yaffe. “It involves a coordinated series of neurologic functions that we don’t entirely understand. It’s not unlikely that early neurodegenerative disease could start having an effect on sleep centers as well.”
Another possibility is that someone who is becoming cognitively impaired is sleeping poorly “because they’re aware of their condition and they’re worried about it.”
Finally, Yaffe says that other factors entirely, such as brain inflammation or genetic changes, might cause both cognitive decline and sleep disturbance at the same time.
The researchers studied 2,474 women who were part of a larger ongoing prospective study of risk factors for osteoporosis that began in 1986. The mean age of the women was 68.9 years at the beginning of the study. Their cognitive health was measured at regular intervals over the course of the study using two standard cognitive tests: the Mini-Mental State Examination and the Trail Making Test, Part B, known as Trails B.
After 13 to 15 years in the study, the women were fitted with an actigraph, a small device worn on the wrist that measures movement and is known from previous studies to be highly accurate in differentiating sleep from wakefulness. The women wore the device for at least three consecutive 24-hour periods.
Women who performed progressively worse on both cognitive tests over time were significantly more likely to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep than women whose performance did not decline. Women who performed progressively worse on the Trails B test also napped significantly more during the day.
The association between cognitive decline and poor sleep remained even after the researchers adjusted for a host of other demographic factors such as age, education, depression, exercise, and health status.
“It’s been known for some time that people with cognitive problems often have sleep problems, but those studies have mostly been done on severely demented people in nursing homes,” observes Yaffe. “Ours was the first study to look at the relationship between sleep and cognition in healthy women dwelling in the community who did not have dementia to begin with.”
Yaffe offers several cautions concerning the results of the study. First, men and African-American women were excluded from the original osteoporosis study because both of those groups have low incidence of osteoporotic fractures. Additionally, sleep patterns were measured only once, “so it’s more of a snapshot.”
However, Yaffe says that the research group has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue tracking sleep patterns and cognitive health over time in the same study cohort. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to tell if cognitive changes lead to sleep disturbances, or if the reverse is true, or if they have a common independent cause.”
Co-authors of the paper were Terri Blackwell, MA, of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute (CPMCRI); Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, of SFVAMC and UCSF; Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System; and Katie Stone, PhD, of CPMCRI, for the Study of Osteopororic Fractures Group.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging.
SFVAMC has the largest medical research program in the national VA system, with more than 200 research scientists, all of whom are faculty members at UCSF.
UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.
Contact: Steve Tokar
University of California – San Francisco
Scientists have only recently begun to speculate that what’s referred to as “junk” DNA – the 96 percent of the human genome that doesn’t encode for proteins and previously seemed to have no useful purpose – is present in the genome for an important reason. But it wasn’t clear what the reason was. Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have discovered one important function of so-called junk DNA.
Genes, which make up about four percent of the genome, encode for proteins, “the building blocks of life.” An international collaboration of scientists led by Michael G. Rosenfeld, M.D., Howard Hughes Medical Investigator and UCSD professor of medicine, found that some of the remaining 96 percent of genomic material might be important in the formation of boundaries that help properly organize these building blocks. Their work will be published in the July 13 issue of the journal Science.
“Some of the ‘junk’ DNA might be considered ‘punctuation marks’ – commas and periods that help make sense of the coding portion of the genome,” said first author Victoria Lunyak, Ph.D., assistant research scientist at UCSD.
In mice, as in humans, only about 4 percent of the genome encodes for protein function; the remainder, or “junk” DNA, represents repetitive and non-coding sequences. The research team studied a repeated genomic sequence called SINE B2, which is located on the growth hormone gene locus, the gene related to the aging process and longevity. The scientists were surprised to find that SINE B2 sequence is critical to formation of the functional domain boundaries for this locus.
Functional domains are stretches of DNA within the genome that contain all the regulatory signals and other information necessary to activate or repress a particular gene. Each domain is an entity unto itself that is defined, or bracketed, by a boundary, much as words in a sentence are bracketed by punctuation marks. The researchers’ data suggest that repeated genomic sequences might be a widely used strategy used in mammals to organize functional domains.
“Without boundary elements, the coding portion of the genome is like a long, run-on sequence of words without punctuation,” said Rosenfeld.
Decoding the information written in “junk” DNA could open new areas of medical research, particularly in the area of gene therapy. Scientists may find that transferring encoding genes into a patient, without also transferring the surrounding genomic sequences which give structure or meaning to these genes, would render gene therapy ineffective.
Contributors to the paper include Lluis Montoliu, Rosa Roy and Angel Garcia-Díaz of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología in Madrid, Spain; Christopher K. Glass, M.D., Ph.D., UCSD Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine; Esperanza Núñez, Gratien G. Prefontaine, Bong-Gun Ju, Kenneth A. Ohgi, Kasey Hutt, Xiaoyan Zhu and Yun Yung, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Medicine, UCSD School of Medicine; and Thorsten Cramer, Division of Endocrinology, UCSD Department of Medicine.
The research was funded in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health.
Contact: Debra Kain
University of California – San Diego
This release is also available in French.
Quebec City, July 12, 2007 – Dr. Philippe De Wals of Université Laval’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine today publishes a study clearly indicating that the addition of folic acid to flours has led to a 46% drop in the incidence of congenital neural tube deformation (mainly anencephaly and spina bifida) in Canada. Such deformations either result in the child’s death or in major health problems, including physical and learning disabilities. Dr. De Wals’s work as head of a team of a dozen Canadian researchers appears today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The neural tube is the basis of the embryo’s nervous system. Poor development of the neural tube, which is sometimes due to a lack of folic acid, can result in major health problems. Folic acid is found in green vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and meat. However, even a balanced diet won’t supply enough folic acid for a pregnant mother and the child she is carrying. Before1998, Canadian medical authorities were already recommending that women in their child-bearing years consume vitamin supplements containing folic acid. “Canada decided to add folic acid to all flour produced in the country because formation of the neural tube in embryos is particularly intense during the first four weeks of pregnancy, which is before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant. Since half of Canadian pregnancies are unplanned and the human body can’t store folic acid, it is better to integrate folic acid into the food chain than to focus exclusively on taking vitamin supplements,” stated Dr. De Wals. Health Canada still recommends taking folic acid supplements to women in their child-bearing years.
Researchers Dr. Philippe De Wals and Fassiatou Tairou of Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine compared the incidence of neural tube deformations before and after the introduction of folic acid–enriched flours for over 2 million births in Canada. Between 1993 and 1997, the incidence was 1.58 per 1,000 births. Between 2000 and 2002, the rate dropped 46% to 0.86. The biggest improvement occurred in the parts of Canada that had the highest rates of neural tube deformation before 1998—Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. In Québec, the drop was also pronounced, but closer to the Canadian average.
Currently, only Canada, the United States, and Chile require that folic acid be added to flour. The effectiveness of this practice, as demonstrated by Dr. De Wals’s team, could encourage other countries to follow suit. Every year, approximately 200,000 cases of spina bifida and anencephaly occur worldwide. Adding folic acid to food could reduce that number by half.
Contact: Martin Guay
CHICAGO (July 12, 2007) — A new study to be published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons shows that one academic medical center recouped its investment in electronic health records within 16 months. The new analysis counters concerns of health care providers reluctant to invest in electronic medical records systems.
The widespread loss of paper medical records in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is one of several factors behind the recent push to get surgeons and other health care providers to go electronic, according to David A. Krusch, MD, FACS, of the University of Rochester Department of Surgery and co-author of the study.
“Health care providers most frequently cite cost as primary obstacle to adopting an electronic medical records system. And, until this point, evidence supporting a positive return on investment for electronic health records technologies has been largely anecdotal,” said Dr. Krusch.
The study measured the return on investment of installing electronic health records at five ambulatory offices representing 28 providers within the University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center. Starting in November 2003, the offices implemented a Touchworks EHR system from Chicago-based Allscripts over the next five months. The study compared the cost of activities such as pulling charts, creating new charts, filing time, support staff salary, and transcription when done electronically in the third quarter of 2005, versus the cost of those same activities performed manually in the third quarter of 2003.
The University of Rochester Medical Center estimated that the new electronic medical records system reduced costs by $393,662 per year, nearly two-thirds of that coming from a sharp reduction in the time required to manually pull charts. Given that its electronic system cost $484,577 to install and operate, it took the University of Rochester Medical Center 16 months to recoup its investment. After the first year, it cost about $114,016 annually to operate the new system, which translates to a savings of $279,546 a year for the medical center, or $9,983 per provider.
The complete study, “A Pilot Study to Document the Return on Investment for Implementing an Ambulatory Electronic Health Record at an Academic Medical Center”, will appear in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. In addition to Krusch, Dara L. Grieger, MD, of the University of Rochester Department of Surgery and Stephen H. Cohen, MN, CPE, also co-authored the article.
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and to improve the care of the surgical patient. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 71,000 members and it is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit http://www.facs.org.
Contact: Sally Garneski
Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Anti-smoking ads that reveal the tobacco industry’s deceptive practices have been aggressively quashed through various methods found Temple University Assistant Professor Jennifer K. Ibrahim, co-author of an analysis in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
In the article, Ibrahim tracks the rise and fall of state and national efforts to curb smoking for the past 40 years. She chronicles industry strategies to prevent a campaign’s creation, steer messages to smaller audiences, limit the content of the message, limit or eliminate the campaign’s funding, and pursue litigation against the campaign. Ibrahim looks at campaigns in Minnesota, California, Arizona, Oregon, Florida, and a national campaign from the American Legacy Foundation.
“It tells the story behind the smoke. People often judge these ads and now you know what the tobacco industry was doing trying to undermine them,” Ibrahim said.
Research has found ads that reveal the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry are the most effective media campaigns that reduce smoking rates, she said.
For example, one billboard in California read “Tobacco is legal, profitable, and kills people” featuring an alligator labeled big tobacco with a smirk saying “Two out of three’s not bad.”
However, these messages aren’t always getting out there because of the money spent by the tobacco industry to eliminate them, said Ibrahim, an assistant professor of public health.
State health departments face an uphill battle when dealing with the political clout of the industry with its lobbying, campaign contributions and specials events, Ibrahim said.
One tactic also involves the industry producing its own ineffective campaigns in order to portray state programs as duplicative and a waste of public dollars. Campaigns designed by the tobacco companies patronize youth in their early teen years, with messages like “Think, Don’t smoke”, Ibrahim said.
In contrast, Florida’s “truth” anti-smoking campaign empowered them by giving them information about how the tobacco industry tried to manipulate by marketing.
The tobacco industry has spent more money in advertising in light of successful media campaigns that target large audiences.
From 1975 to 2003, tobacco industry expenditures in advertising and promotion grew from $491 million to $15.5 billion. During this period, the percentage of smokers in the United States fell from about 37 percent to 22 percent, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Attitudes are changing as the public is becoming more aware about the dangers of smoking, secondhand smoke, and the deceptive practices of the industry, Ibrahim said.
While the numbers offer some promise, more initiatives are needed to keep anti-smoking efforts alive.
“It’s naïve to think the industry is still not following these practices and preparing tactics to respond,” Ibrahim said.
The Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 marked an important step when seven tobacco companies agreed to change the way tobacco products are marketed, release previously secret industry documents, dispand trade groups, and pay the states an estimated $206 billion. The tobacco companies also agreed to finance a $1.5 billion public anti-smoking campaign.
States’ attorney generals continue to enforce the provisions of the agreement, Ibrahim said.
A recent product that has created uproar is Camel’s No. 9s pink cigarettes that public health advocates say target teenage girls not women. In June, congress sent a letter to the editors of 11 major magazines, from Glamour to Cosmopolitan, requesting them to stop running the ads for the cigarettes.
Aggressive efforts to battle current marketing efforts and litigation from the tobacco industry are vital to keep the best media campaigns from disappearing, Ibrahim said.
“The efforts put forth by California and the American Legacy Foundation as they pursued legal battles with tobacco companies provide a good example of the tenacity needed to successfully defend and promote tobacco control campaigns,” said Ibrahim. “Persistence can pay off. We need to go with campaigns that work,”
The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute. For the article, Ibrahim collected the data, conducted the analysis, and drafted the article. Co-author Stanton A. Glantz from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, supervised the data collection, edited and revised the article.
Contact: Anna Nguyen
July 10, 2007
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land—according to new findings which refute the long-standing assumption that organic farming methods cannot produce enough food to feed the global population.
Researchers from the University of Michigan found that in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms. In developing countries, food production could double or triple using organic methods, said Ivette Perfecto, professor at U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and one the study’s principal investigators. Catherine Badgley, research scientist in the Museum of Paleontology, is a co-author of the paper along with several current and former graduate and undergraduate students from U-M.
“My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can’t produce enough food through organic agriculture,” Perfecto said.
In addition to equal or greater yields, the authors found that those yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, and without putting more farmland into production.
The idea to undertake an exhaustive review of existing data about yields and nitrogen availability was fueled in a roundabout way, when Perfecto and Badgley were teaching a class about the global food system and visiting farms in Southern Michigan.
“We were struck by how much food the organic farmers would produce,” Perfecto said. The researchers set about compiling data from published literature to investigate the two chief objections to organic farming: low yields and lack of organically acceptable nitrogen sources.
Their findings refute those key arguments, Perfecto said, and confirm that organic farming is less environmentally harmful yet can potentially produce more than enough food. This is especially good news for developing countries, where it’s sometimes impossible to deliver food from outside, so farmers must supply their own. Yields in developing countries could increase dramatically by switching to organic farming, Perfecto said.
While that seems counterintuitive, it makes sense because in developing countries, many farmers still do not have the access to the expensive fertilizers and pesticides that farmers use in developed countries to produce those high yields, she said.
After comparing yields of organic and convention farms, the researchers looked at nitrogen availability. To do so, they multiplied the current farm land area by the average amount of nitrogen available for production crops if so-called “green manures” were planted between growing seasons. Green manures are cover crops which are plowed into the soil to provide natural soil amendments instead of synthetic fertilizers. They found that planting green manures between growing seasons provided enough nitrogen to farm organically without synthetic fertilizers.
Organic farming is important because conventional agriculture—which involves high-yielding plants, mechanized tillage, synthetic fertilizers and biocides—is so detrimental to the environment, Perfecto said. For instance, fertilizer runoff from conventional agriculture is the chief culprit in creating dead zones—low oxygen areas where marine life cannot survive. Proponents of organic farming argue that conventional farming also causes soil erosion, greenhouse gas emission, increased pest resistance and loss of biodiversity.
For their analysis, researchers defined the term organic as: practices referred to as sustainable or ecological; that utilize non-synthetic nutrient cycling processes; that exclude or rarely use synthetic pesticides; and sustain or regenerate the soil quality.
Perfecto said the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic is “ridiculous.”
“Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food,” she said.
Contact: Laura Bailey
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