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March 2014

Latest Research Studies and Reports
Pesticide exposure increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease
A recent study published in JAMA Neurology shows that exposure to DDT may be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Rutgers University investigated the differences in levels of the break-down product of DDT, called DDE, in patients with Alzheimer’s versus those without the disease. They found that DDE levels in the blood of individuals with Alzheimer’s were almost four times greater than people in the control group who did not have Alzheimer’s disease. While the use of DDT has been banned in the United States since 1972, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that DDT is still found in 75-80 percent of people’s blood due to the high persistence of the chemical and its use in conventional production of food overseas. This is especially concerning for people with genetic predispositions toward developing Alzheimer’s. The study found that patients with a version of the ApoE gene (ApoE4) had greatly increased odds of developing Alzheimer’s when exposed to DDT.
 
More evidence of how pesticides harm bees
A study out of Penn State and the University of Florida this year showed that pesticides may be killing honeybee larvae within their hives. The PLOS publication focused on four common pesticides—fluvalinate, coumaphos, chlorothalonil and chlorpyrifos. Researchers found that exposure to some pesticide cocktails combining these chemicals have a synergistic effect on bee larvae, and are more toxic than one would expect from individual pesticide exposure levels. The study also found that even inactive ingredients in pesticides, such as the inert additive NMP, can be highly toxic to honeybee larvae. The authors previously found that forager bees bring back an average of six different pesticides to their hives from the pollen that they collect. This pollen can be fed to the larvae, killing the bees before they have a chance to mature. "We found that four of the pesticides most commonly found in beehives kill bee larvae," said Jim Frazier, professor of entomology at Penn State. "We also found that the negative effects of these pesticides are sometimes greater when the pesticides occur in combinations within the hive. Since pesticide safety is judged almost entirely on adult honeybee sensitivity to individual pesticides and also does not consider mixtures of pesticides, the risk assessment process that the Environmental Protection Agency uses should be changed,” Frazier added.
 
Organic farms have a positive effect on biodiversity
A new European study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that organic farms are able to support more species than conventional farms. Researchers from the UK (Oxford), Sweden (SLU), and Switzerland (University of Zurich) teamed up to examine the evidence of how different agricultural methods affect the diversity of life present on farms. They found that on average, organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect, and animal species than conventional farms. When pollinators such as bees were looked at individually, they found that organic farms had 50 percent higher species diversity than conventional farms. “Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the study. “Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialized nations.”

Latest Updates from The Organic Center
Annual VIP Dinner a rousing success
The Organic Center’s (The Center’s) annual VIP Dinner, held Friday evening, March 7, in conjunction with Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA, raised over $500,000 for the work of the non-profit research and education organization. The event was attended by a capacity crowd of 470—the largest ever. There, attendees heard highlights from the research projects supported by The Center during the past year and its vision for the future. In addition, during the dinner, Dr. Charles Benbrook, currently a research professor the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, became the first recipient of The Center’s Award of Excellence. Dr. Benbrook served as The Center’s original Chief Scientist, and currently is a member of its Science Advisory Board

'Mommy bloggers' enjoy media event on the science behind organic
To further emphasize the value of the organic guarantee, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and The Center held a private media brunch at Natural Products Expo West to share compelling scientific research and no-fuss menu ideas for affordable all-organic meals. Together, OTA and The Center set out to demonstrate that a family of four can prepare 100 percent organic meals for $25 or less a day. Chef Heather Hartman prepared and served a full day’s menu with delicious and healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. As bloggers and journalists sampled the organic fare, The Center’s Director of Science Programs Jessica Shade, Ph.D., discussed the latest scientific studies behind the ingredients in each recipe. Stay tuned for ‘mommy bloggers’ to take the message that organic is worth it to all their networks.

The Center’s Featured Scientist:  Kim Harley
This month, The Organic Center featured Dr. Kim Harley, an adjunct assistant professor of Maternal and Child Health in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and associate director for Health Effects Research at the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH). She is a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist. Her work focuses on the association between exposure to common endocrine-disrupting chemicals (including pesticides, flame retardants, and bisphenol A) and fertility, birth outcome, child development and timing of puberty. We interviewed her about one of her ongoing projects named the Hermosa Study, which is a youth-led, community-based study looking at chemical exposure for Latina teenage girls from personal care products.
 
The Organic Center at MOSES
The Organic Center gave a workshop at this year’s Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference. The workshop covered topics such as the nutritional benefits of organic, the health effects of pesticide exposure, and the environmental benefits of organic food and farming. The Organic Center also had a booth featuring a preview of a quiz allowing participants to test their knowledge about the science behind the benefits of organic. We plan to launch the quiz on our website soon – so keep an eye out for it!
 
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