Bigger is not better

by Caroline Brown

Research by a biochemist at UT-Austin shows that the nutritious value of fruits & vegetables has decreased over the last few decades. Based on data from the US Dep’t of Agriculture, the study looked at the levels of 13 nutrients in fruits and vegetables and found that the values of 6 of them (protein, calcium, vitamin C, phosphorus, iron, and riboflavin) had decreased by up to 38 percent.

It turns out that it’s a reflection of the American tendency to judge value by size and cost, not quality. Here’s what the researcher, Donald Davis, had to say to ABC News:

Like any other competitive industry, farmers’ attempts to drive up profits have led them to use new techniques to increase production, Davis said. The faster-grown fruits don’t have as much time to develop the nutrients.

“Farmers get paid by the weight of a crop, not by amount of nutrients,” Davis said. He called this the “dilution effect”: As fruits and vegetables grown in the United States become larger and more plentiful, they provide fewer vitamins and minerals.

“It’s a simple inverse relationship: The higher the yield, the lower the nutrients,” he said.

Davis said this happens because slower-growing crops have more time to absorb nutrients from both the sun and the soil.

Note that Davis says that “farmers” are attempting to drive up their profits. But I think his use of the term “farmers” is misleading. Exactly which “farmers” does he mean? For example, is he talking about the people who own 100-year old family farm a couple of miles down the road from me, who operate a farmstand 8 months out of the year? Or, does he mean corporate farmers, who frankly should not be described as “farmers” but should instead be called “agribusiness.”

Just asking.

You can read more about the study here.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


2 Responses to “Bigger is not better”

  1. A very good study. It tends to support what is becoming an even more obvious need to return to sustainable horticulture practices.

    Jerry –


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