In October 2018, the highly regarded medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine published the results of a large French epidemiological study assessing the impact of organic food consumption on cancer.
Their remarkable and encouraging core finding is that individuals who consume the most organic food have a 25% lower chance of facing a newly diagnosed cancer, compared to people consuming the least organic food.
An October 23 “Hot Science” item on Hygeia Analytics, “Organic Food Consumption Lowers Overall Cancer Risks in Large-Scale Study of French Adults” summarizes the study’s methodology and key findings. The short video below provides an overview.
Also on October 23rd, a Hygeia blog was posted on the study entitled “Imagine…” It explores what could happen if people, and the U.S. government, took the study’s findings — and cancer prevention — seriously.
And lastly, for the skeptics among us, we are reposting with permission a story from Environmental Health News that takes a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses in the French study’s methodology, as well as the sadly predictable, polarizing response from card-carrying defenders of the conventional food industry and pesticide-based pest management systems.
Now, the largest consumer-owned food coop in the United States has run a cover story about organic food and cancer risk in their monthly paper, which was written by the Hygeia Analytics team. A sidebar story in the same issue of Sound Consumer is entitled “New study finds less diabetes with organics.” This refers to a Fall 2018 paper in Nutrition that found 20% less cases of diabetes when comparing people who reported they purchased the highest amount of organic food, when compared to those who reported spending little to none of their grocery budget on organic products.
PCC Community Markets is a Seattle-based chain of natural food co-ops with over 58,000 members who will get the story “Eat organic, lower cancer risk by 25%??” delivered right to their mailboxes in the March edition of PCC’s Sound Consumer newsletter. Access on the PCC website (with bonus content not in the newsletter — see the box at the end of the online version of the piece, entitled “How Cancer Develops”), or download and print a pdf here.
The PCC piece picks up where the “Imagine…” blog left off —
“Imagine the excitement if a pharmaceutical company announced the discovery of a new drug that could cut the incidence of breast cancer by 15 percent. Or, even better, imagine a major breakthrough in cancer prevention, such as a way to reduce pre-cancerous cell growth while strengthening the immune system’s ability to stop tumor progression? Suppose such a breakthrough was shown to result in an overall 25 percent reduction in cancer risk?
Wouldn’t such a powerful new way to lower cancer risk be embraced widely and pursued in all ways imaginable? Not necessarily.”
The PCC piece makes the case that Washington State is particularly poised to, with a little imagination and leadership, lead the way in a new organic market surge driven by a wave of health concerns. This is, in part, because state officials, WA-based businesses, foundations, and universities are strutting their stuff aggressively these days and leading progressive, technology-driven change in their respective fields.
A case in point — Washington State has led the resistance against the Trump administration’s sweeping policy changes. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sued the federal government dozens of times, seeking to fulfill his pledge to protect the rights of Washingtonians.
In the private sector, Amazon + Whole Foods is not just changing the way people access food, but working to make it tastier, more convenient, and more nutritious.
Microsoft continues to be a key driver of the ongoing IT revolution, making it easier and cheaper to access, store, and analyze tons of data, enabling scientists and big thinkers with access to computing power to search for answers hidden deep in massive datasets. Meanwhile, Boeing keeps us flying high, way up in the sky, just like superman…
On the philanthropic front, the Gates Foundation provides more money in support of agricultural research and development than nearly all other foundations combined, especially in Africa and Asia. Its footprint on both the Future of Food and public health is deep and growing. Imagine if these impacts were strategically connected?
The WA organic fruit and vegetable industries are booming. Rising sales, in the U.S. and abroad, are driving increases in acreage and major investments in infrastructure.
Growth in Washington State’s organic apple industry is borderline-phenomenal, as covered in our three-part blog: “Part I: A Tipping Point for Organic Apples in the Pacific Northwest?,” “Part II: What is Driving the Growth in Organic Apple Production in WA State?,” Part III: Why U.S. Government Policies are Slowing Growth in Organic Demand.
We hope this piece in Sound Consumer will help the Seattle-Tacoma area movers and shakers in Amazon, Whole Foods, Boeing, Microsoft, the Gates Foundation, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Governor’s office and in the office of State legislatures, among many others, connect these dots —
Grow more organic food. Invest in infrastructure, improve efficiencies, expand domestic and export sales. Create thousands of good paying jobs and new career paths all along the organic food supply chain. Improve soil health and water quality, reduce farmworker risks. And perhaps cut cancer rates by up to 25% and diabetes by 20%. What is WA State waiting for?
- Hot Science post about a 2018 study reporting a 20% reduction in diabetes risk among consumers eating the most organic food
- 2014 British Journal of Cancer paper on organic food and cancer risks for women in the U.K.
- “Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet,” 2014 paper documented lower pesticide residues in urine after a switch to organic
- Buddhini Samarasinghe’s excellent informational article “Hallmarks of Cancer” was published in “Scientific American” in 2013-2014 and explains how cancer develops
- “Cancer in the U.S.” – latest data on cancer incidences in the U.S., developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington
- Index of the annual NIH President’s Cancer Panel reports
- See our Pesticides: Risk Assessment and Regulation page for background on pesticide regulation in the U.S.
- More on human health impacts of pesticides
- Hygeia section Does Glyphosate/Roundup Cause Cancer and Dr. Benbrook’s 2019 paper comparing the IARC and EPA’s assessment of glyphosate genotoxicity