Science Fair Project: Organic produce healthier — for fruit flies

Sadly for this young scientist, nutrient levels in organic and conventional produce are the same, regardless of what happened to the fruit flies. Possibly lower pesticides residues may have had something to do with fruit fly health — but that’s pesticides’ raison d’etre. Kudos for creativity, though!

Read more at the NYTimes.

19 thoughts on “Science Fair Project: Organic produce healthier — for fruit flies”

  1. I think there’s a missing point to this Science fair project. Where did the person purchase the inorganic foods versus the location where the organic foods came from? I need to know if they were locally grown or not. This is important, because most fruits and vegetables whether organic or not that are picked early to be shipped to grocery stores have less nutritional content than those locally grown that have time to ripen on the vine and or not picked green to sit on store pallets in the back to ripen before being shelves for human consumption. So, it may have nothing to do with pesticide residues.

  2. I eat organic, and pay extra for it, for the same reason that I bought a BMW and not a Hyundai. I am willing to pay a premium for what I perceive as a difference in a purchasing decision with which I am faced. I have done my own analysis, such as reading this research,, and thus make a choice which I find in my family’s and my best interest. For those of you that scoff a those of us that like this freedom of choice, and choose to spend our money how we like, there still are a few counties left of this planet with limited choice. I suggest you try North Korea first.

  3. I say save a dollar and don’t test anything.

    If a substance shows promise, an entrepreneur will test it. Get the government out of it.

  4. I assume that neither of us purchases organic produce. For me, their benefit has never been proven. But the crux of my initial statement was that the question is the important factor. You ask: ‘Which one?’ That is a compelling question that should be examined by somebody. Which compound, if any, are significant and how do we wade through the plethora of possibilities in the most effective manner?

    There are more stars in the universe than compounds in an orange. We don’t say “well, there are billions, we can’t look at them all’. We also don’t say that stars have been claimed to have mystical properties for centuries, so there’s no need to study them. Nor, its converse.
    Some scientific inquiries produce no interesting result…and that by it self is a significant result. Then when someone says: organic produce provides NO benefit or harm, they have something to stand on.

    In addition, the process itself my shed light on solving other problems. Proving a theorem about sudoku puzzles may seem trivial and directly useless, but the processes used were found to be applicable to more valuable problems.

    So, I stand by my statement, this young girls project raised some compelling questions. But I do agree with you that I doubt that organic produce has mystical powers.

  5. There are a million substances that might ______________.

    We can’t test everything for everything. Magical claims for organic food has been going on for decades. Without something more concrete to go on, there is no reason to test organic foods.

    And which one? I presume there are a 1,000 of them. We can’t test them all for everything.

  6. Well, you, like the NYTimes, have your ‘right’ answer. I find it interesting that you consider these potential properties as mystical. Clearly, many, if not most, organisms produce defensive chemical compounds in responds to pathogens. Do these have any impact (positive or negative) upon other organisms that consume them? In humans, salicylic acid, a compound apparently involved in plant immune response, may have an impact, though I don’t know if it is in significant. Do you?

  7. Sorry, I disagree. Whether “organic” food has mystical qualities does not need to be pursued; her project does not raise compelling questions.

  8. This statement caught my eye: One intriguing idea raises the question of whether organically raised plants produce more natural compounds to ward off pests and fungi, and whether those compounds offer additional health benefits to flies, animals and humans who consume organic foods.

    I’ve always believed science was more about finding good questions than the ‘right’ answer. This girls science project raised many compelling questions. They should be pursued to find out what other questions they may raise. The problem with the NYT is that they tend to stop asking questions as soon as they’ve heard an answer they like.

  9. Nowhere in the actual PAPER did they measure the amounts of micronutrients or much of anything else other than gross amounts of the food. While there is that claim of increased C ONLY from research previous to the paper, this was apparently not verified in the actual experiment.

    “For her original middle-school science project, Ria evaluated the vitamin C content of organic produce compared with conventionally farmed foods. When she found higher concentrations of the vitamin in organic foods, she decided she wanted to take the experiment further and measure the effects of organic eating on overall health.”

    Of course, we have absolutely NO IDEA what was or was not done to come to this conclusion!!!

    No attempt was made to insure the claimed organic was actually organic either!!! (what you say?? they might be cheating the customer?!?!?! HORRORS!!!)

    I also noticed they did not state whether they WASHED the non-organic before use!! (of COURSE there may be differences if you leave the insecticides and preservatives etc. on the fruit!!!) Organics should also be washed as there are more deaths from produce born disease than any of us like!!

    There is also the issue that organic is typically FRESHER than non-organic as it can’t last as long without the chemicals. This is seen as a BIG negative by y’all, BUT, I would point out that EVEN IF the report turns out to be valid, it is still better to be able to eat some non-organic that you can AFFORD than NOT to eat organic you CAN’T afford!!!

    While they unequivocally laud the benefits of Organic, looking through the charts show that some of their Non-Organic results were BETTER than the Organic!!!

    In other words this is a typical modern paper. Set out to prove something and then announce it is proven no matter how poor the results actually were!! They did NOT look at any of the real issues or find out what was actually happening where non-organic outperformed or even reasonably insured they were testing what they claimed!!

    A more expert person would probably find additional issues.

    Looks like the lab was grooming another fellow to join their Junk Science group!!

  10. Never, but I was surrounded by a dense swarm a couple times. An infestation would require a steady source of rotten or very ripe fruit. Fruit flies are very picky about their food; your office either had it or perhaps there was a source of artificial scent that attracted them.

    Besides being picky, they are extremely sensitive. I saw them appear out of nowhere while I was standing in a check-in queue at the Girona airport. I had a small plastic bag with a few ripe figs that I picked from trees in (don’t laugh) Figueres on the way to the airport. By the time I approached the counter, the swarm around me grew so dense I could hardly see. No use in swatting them; it’s not us that they are after. They just want to quickly make love and lay eggs in those warm and decomposing figs. Or that banana peel in your office, perhaps. They vanish without trace when those attractions are removed; and they are also sensitive to temperature; they don’t breed well at temperatures below 18C.

  11. Next come a “study” of roosters to “prove” the detrimental effects of X on human pregnancies.

  12. Even so, since vitamin C is a an E-number conservative used in just about anything that needs conserving it’s hard to get not enough of it (granted, anorexics might have a shortage)

  13. When I read the article “vitamins” was Vitamin C. The article also indicated the possiblity of pesticides residues being responsible for the results, as mentioned in the lead in. The write up made it sound like a pretty good, well done science fair project. I’d surmise that, being a science fair project, including a wider sample of “nutrient” levels in organic and inorganic (no carbon?) foods wouldn’t have been within a reasonable. Also, beyond the scope, would be metabolic and chemical reasons that pesticides or other inorganic ingredients decrease vitamin C levels.

  14. Whah.

    The article clearly states:

    “While the results can’t be directly extrapolated to human health”

    “Fruit fly models are often used in research . . . and the results provide clues for better understanding disease and biological processes in humans.”

    Can’t be used for humans . . . can be used for humans. The article is junk.

  15. I see you never had a fruit fly infestation. We had one in the office, our chef sat in a glass cubicle, as we all had developed the tick to swat the fruitflies he did too. Which was pretty hilarious since even close you couldn’t see the fruitflies so he sat there like some weirdo swatting at the air whilst having important visitors.

  16. The article clearly states she started her research AFTER finding higher amounts of Vitamins in the organic produce. To blatantly disregard that is why I’ll never visit your site again. I’ll stick to bloggers who actually READ the articles they comment on.

  17. “While the results can’t be directly extrapolated to human health, the research nonetheless paves the way for additional studies on the relative health benefits of organic versus conventionally grown foods.”

    Dr. Bauer smells research grant money.

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