The Problem of Nutrition in Agriculture
A well-known study conducted by Donald Davis of the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas in Austin, compared data gathered by the USDA in 1950 and 1999 on the nutrient content of 43 fruit and vegetable crops and found that six out of 13 nutrients studied had declined by 9-38% over this time period. The nutrients affected were phosphorous, iron, calcium, protein, riboflavin, and ascorbic acid. Similar results showing a significant decline of nutrients in food were found in studies done in Great Britain and Australia.
Dr. David Thomas, PhD, published an analysis to the Australian Medical Research Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Fisheries and Foods, and the Food Standards
Agency. He compared data available in 1940 with that in 1991 and showed that there was a substantial loss in mineral and trace element content in every group of food he investigated. Some results of his study are shown.
This means that it has been getting more difficult for people to get the same level of nutrition from the food they eat. The impact on this for poor people is of particular concern. According to a report by the Global Hunger Index, two billion people globally suffer from “hidden hunger.” Hidden hunger occurs when the quality of food people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements, so the food is deficient in micronutrients such as the vitamins and minerals that they need for their growth and development. The number of people suffering from this condition is more than double the 805 million people who do not have enough calories to eat.
The impact of undernutrition is greatest on young children and pregnant women and can include stunted growth, mental impairment, and lowered immune system function.
In the United States, nutritionists emphasize that it is now possible to be obese and yet suffer health effects from malnutrition. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, energy-rich, nutrient-poor foods make up about 27% of daily caloric intake in the American diet. Many Americans are meeting daily energy (caloric) needs but are not meeting the daily nutrient needs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries. The CDC found that 20 percent to 40 percent of the deaths from each cause could be prevented. In addition, three of the five causes (heart disease, cancer, and stroke) have underlying risk factors of poor diet. Although America is a first-world country and claims to have an advanced healthcare system, there are thousands of preventable deaths each year that could potentially be avoided by providing safe and nutritious food.
Many people around the world depend on vitamin supplements to maintain their health. If foods are able to provide more nutrients, people would be able to stay nourished naturally without needing to take supplements. Having nutrient-rich foods is especially important in underdeveloped or third-world countries. If the nutrient level of plants can be increased, people living in these countries would be able to sustain themselves with high quality foods that will keep them healthy.
Soil scientists are pointing to studies that show that the decline of nutrients in plants is not necessarily a lack of fertilizer, but rather a disruption in normal biological processes found in nature.
Australian soil scientist Dr. Christine Jones shows that crops grown in healthy, biologically active soils have higher nutrient levels than crops grown in soils with conventional farming practices. She believes the low nutrient content of foods from conventional farming is due to the poor soil conditions. In biologically healthy conditions 85 to 90 percent of plant nutrient acquisition is mediated by microbes. The minerals are not available to the plants because the soil biology that facilitates this has been disrupted. These disruptions include heavy tillage, leaving the soil bare between plantings, and the application of herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.
Implementing principles of regenerative agriculture can help restore the natural balance of healthy soils by increasing microbial life – resulting in a higher nutrient uptake by the plants we eat. This will provide safer, healthier, and more nutrient-rich plants.
The Future of Regenerative Agriculture - Nutrition
In conclusion, many studies have shown that the nutritional quality of the foods we eat have been on the decline. As the world population increases and there is a growing demand for nutritional food, regenerative agriculture becomes the key to restoring the soil and nutrients that will help supply safer and healthier food for us and the generations to come.
“Ask not what your food can do for you, but what our food will do for us all in the decades to come. The answer to whether our food feeds us all for better health lies in the health of our soil, not biotechnologies. Simply, if our soil contains the
nutrients our bodies need for better health, so too can our food. Investing in our soil is the best health investment we must all make.” - Ashley Koff, nutrition expert & creator of Better Nutrition Simplified