Organic Farming with Gene Editing

Organic Farming with Gene Editing

Many organic advocates claim that genetically engineered crops are harmful to human health, the environment and the farmers who work with them. Biotechnology advocates fire back that genetically engineered crops are safe, reduce insecticide use and allow farmers in developing countries to produce enough food to feed themselves and their families.

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Study shows positive apple response to Thermaculture

Study shows positive apple response to Thermaculture

North Dakota State University compared two years of fresh apples exposed to periodic Thermaculture versus conventionally grown apples and concluded that the Agrothermal Systems process created significantly higher inducible levels of phenolic metabolities and related antioxidant activity.

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What Is a Donut Peach and Why Are They Everywhere Right Now?

Photo by Alex Lau

Photo by Alex Lau

Call them UFOs, Sauzee Swirls, or Flat Wonderfuls—flat peaches are taking over the world one market at a time.

This summer’s been called The Summer of Sleaze, of Rage, of Missing Out, and of Scam. Might I be so bold to throw my hat into the ring and call it The Summer of the Donut Peach?

Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch, but I’ve seen more squat, pancaked peaches—which are sweeter, milder, and less fuzzy than their spherical sibs—this year than ever before. What once seemed like a rarity, sold at only the fanciest grocery stores (when Florence Fabricant wrote about “a new kind of white peach” sold at Grace’s Marketplace in 1993, she called the fruit “juicy and luscious” though “peculiar” and “positively deformed”) has become commonplace: crates piled high at the farmers’ market, clamshells for sale at Whole Foods and on Fresh Direct. I love their name, their look, and their feel, and I can't leave the market without buying at least one for each palm.

With such a funny shape (they’re like the Persian cats of peaches), you might assume there’s some funny business going on with their breeding. But flat peaches aren’t genetically-modified oddities at all: They’re the descendants of wild pan tao (also called peento) peaches from China, which were introduced to the US nearly 150 years ago. It wasn't until the ‘60s and ‘70s, however, that scientists at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station hybridized the plants to produce hardier, frost-resistant trees with bigger, sweeter, peachier fruit. They called the fruit, low in acid and high in sugar, the Saturn (you can guess why).

Jerry Frecon, now a horticultural consultant and Rutgers professor emeritus, worked with Dr. Fred Hough to develop Saturn at the Agricultural Experiment Station, then, in the ‘80s, brought the variety to Stark Bro’s Nurseries and Orchards Co. in Missouri, which purchased the license to grow and sell the trees.

Though the trees were originally intended for home gardeners, flat peaches growing in Washington were eventually brought to the attention of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, the company credited with making the produce section of the American grocery store infinitely more colorful and flavorful (they introduced spaghetti squash, kiwi, alfalfa sprouts, and hundreds of other fruits and vegetables to the US market). Karen Caplan, Frieda's President and CEO and daughter of founder Dr. Frieda Caplan, remembers sitting in the conference room when a salesperson representing the farm pulled out the flat peaches. "Oh my God! They look like doughnuts!" And so the peach was named. In 1986, Frieda's Specialty Produce trademarked the Donut name and enjoyed exclusivity as the flat peach purveyor for about a decade. With its juicy sweetness and eye-catching shape, "the Donut Peach "was a dream come true," Caplan told me. "It was just a darling."

When the Stark Bro’s' license for the Saturn peach expired in the early 2000s, more farmers were able to grow flat peaches than ever before, opening up the market and putting flat peaches in more stores. And since those early days, many more varieties of trademarked flat peaches have been introduced in US markets—Frecon estimates there are 15 to 20 kinds in this country, and many more around the world—as people have grafted and hybridized. You’ll find Galaxy, UFO, TangoOs, BuenOs, Sweet Bagels, Sauzee Swirls, Flat Wonderfuls, and Peach Pies, just to name a few. (The Stark Bro's stopped selling Donut Peaches in 2009, when it became economically inviable for their supplier to keep growing them.)

You could sneak a donut peach into this  peach lassi sorbet .

You could sneak a donut peach into this peach lassi sorbet.

And while the original Saturns had easily removable pits, with pink skin and white flesh, there are now flat peaches with yellow skin, or yellow flesh, or stones that cling. Flat nectarines, which will soon be introduced to the New Jersey Breeding Program, are already grown and distributed as the oblong Nectapie by California’s Family Tree Farms.

Photo by Ted Cavanaugh.

Photo by Ted Cavanaugh.

When Lou Terrulli of Baldor Specialty Foods, one of the largest distributors of produce and specialty foods in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, first encountered flat peaches in the ‘90s, he was struck by their small stature, high sugar content, and short growing window. These days, the demand is high, he imagines, because people “learn about something today and can have it tomorrow.” More growers are finding the need to put [flat peach] trees in their orchard to supply the ‘Baldors of the world.”

Of the three farmers I spoke with at the Union Square Greenmarket, two had started growing flat peaches in the past five years. Since they’re susceptible to blight and finicky in their development (the skins split as the peaches grow outwards), they demand a higher price. For that reason, Frecon explained, “they have to have really good flavor. If they don’t, people aren’t going to pay extra money for them.”

One particular farmer at Union Square named Joe, who requested that I not mention his last name or his orchard, has been growing flat peaches for ten years. When I asked him which of the three varieties at the stand (yellow-fleshed donuts, white-fleshed donuts, and greenish-skinned mango peaches) was his favorite, he explained that he thought all were silly. They’re good snack-sized fruit for kids, he told me, but “if you’re an adult you should be eating regular peaches.” (Self-sabotage.)

This adult, however, finds donut peaches irresistible. Brilliant marketers, you win! And while most peach experts I spoke to agreed that the novelty of a smushed peach might wear off (particularly if the flavor can’t keep up with the price), I want to make it clear to any horticulturists out there reading this story: I would buy a flat plum and a flat apricot. Flat cherry? I’ll pass.

Sustainable produce packaging debate far from wrapped up

Shannon Boase and Ian Anderson of CKF.

Shannon Boase and Ian Anderson of CKF.

“This story of recycling is the wrong subject. You want to make the grower earn money and monetize the product.”

Before he rushes off to a meeting, this remark from Massimo Bellotti of French plastic packaging company Groupe Guillin shows the conflict at play between the commercial interests of the fresh produce industry and a tide of anti-plastic sentiment sweeping across the globe.

In the words of Will Mercer of British company Coveris, technical advances in plastic packaging have extended shelf life and improved hygiene by warding off microbial threats while also substantially cutting food waste and the associated environmental footprint.

“But the big bit that we actually forgot was to bring the consumer along,” Mercer said during a talk at Fruit Logistica in Berlin last month. 

Grass paper greenliner

Grass paper greenliner

So where exactly have consumers been left behind on this journey? And how can the fresh produce and packaging industries get them back on board while also responding to shifting preferences towards more environmentally-friendly solutions? 

The cold turkey approach to plastic adopted by a section of society and retail will undoubtedly help alleviate the gargantuan problem of plastic islands floating around the world’s oceans, but a real solution needs to be systemic and involve the plastic companies themselves.

In this special feature, we take a look at the challenges of making ‘green’ packaging affordable and accessible, the competing environmental interests of plastic waste versus food waste, and the innovators harnessing new materials for the shopping aisle.

Article Highlights:

  • Compostable, biodegradable, recyclable
  • A plastic packaging industry perspective
  • Sustainable Packaging in practice – a matter of execution and willpower
  • Food waste versus plastic waste
  • Could grass paper solutions be the next frontier?

Article by Fresh Fruit Portal

Nature & More to Eliminate Millions of Packaging Units with Natural Branding

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Nature & More, Europe's leading distributor of organic produce, is going to mark organic fruits and vegetables with Natural Branding, in close cooperation with Swedish supermarket chain ICA, in order to save on plastic packaging. Natural Branding is the organic version of laser marking. The first organic products that will be sold with Natural Branding are avocados and sweet potatoes. Just on avocados alone, this will eliminate at least 725,000 packaging units in the coming year. With more products and customers, the number can easily run into millions. 

Organic avocados in supermarkets are usually packed in plastic foil because they must be distinguished from conventional avocados that are sold in bulk. The supermarkets want to prevent organic avocados from being weighed and paid for as conventional, because of the price difference. The same goes for sweet potatoes, apples, and many other organic products. Stickers can be an alternative, but the problem there is they come off, and besides they use paper, glue, ink, etc. 

Nature & More can now mark fresh produce without using any materials. Natural Branding is the organic approach to marking fruits and vegetables with a laser beam. In the process, a bit of pigment is removed from the outer layer of the peel. This contact-free method was approved by EU Organic certifier SKAL, no additional substances are used, and the method is so superficial that it has no effect on taste or shelf life. The energy needed for a marking is less than 1% of the energy needed for a sticker. 

Paul Hendriks, packaging expert at Nature & More, is very pleased with the new technology. "The most sustainable way to pack is not to pack. I have been saying that for years, but it has been difficult to bring about in the supermarket. With Natural Branding it becomes a logical option. We are very glad that ICA, as a front-runner, is taking this sustainable road with us. We think green consumers will be delighted, because research shows again and again that they disapprove of plastic packaging."

Nature & More expects to save a lot of plastic and energy with Natural Branding. In 2015, Eosta sold 725,380 packs of avocados to major Swedish retail chain ICA. To pack them, 217 km (135 miles) of plastic foil was used, at a width of 30 cm (11.8 inches). Measured in weight, this is 2,042 kg of plastic. Measured in CO2, it is equivalent to an average car driving 1.3 times around the world. On top of the plastic savings, the use of cardboard boxes and pallets can be decreased as well, says Hendriks. 

Nature & More is the "trace & tell" trademark for organic fruits and vegetables of distributor Eosta, Europe's market leader in fresh produce, based in the Netherlands. Nature & More is constantly searching for ways to pack less. Nature & More campaigns Save Our Soils and True Cost of Food drew international attention.

Source: Nature & More

Article by Perishable News

New Research Examines Avocados’ Potential Impact On Cognitive Health In Older Adults

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MISSION VIEJO, Calif. – Consuming one fresh avocado per day may lead to improved cognitive function in healthy older adults due to increased lutein levels in the brain and eye, according to new research published in the journal Nutrients. The research tracked how 40 healthy adults ages 50 and over who ate one fresh avocado a day for six months experienced a 25% increase in lutein levels in their eyes and significantly improved working memory and problem-solving skills. Lutein is a carotenoid, or pigment, commonly found in fruits and vegetables that accumulates in the blood, eye and brain and may act as an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.

As study participants incorporated one medium avocado into their daily diet, researchers monitored gradual growth in the amount of lutein in their eyes and progressive improvement in cognition skills as measured by tests designed to evaluate memory, processing speed and attention levels. In contrast, the control group which did not eat avocados experienced fewer improvements in cognitive health during the study period.  The research, “Avocado Consumption Increases Macular Pigment Density in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” was conducted at Tufts University and supported by the Hass Avocado Board.

These findings are based on the consumption of one whole avocado each day (369 mcg lutein). Additional research is needed to determine whether the results could be replicated with consumption of the recognized serving size of 1/3 of an avocado per day (136 mcg lutein). The control diet included either one medium potato, or one cup of chickpeas in place of the avocado. Chickpeas and potatoes were used as the control diet because they provided a similar level of calories, but a negligible amount of lutein and monounsaturated fats.

“The results of this study suggest that the monounsaturated fats, fiber, lutein and other bioactives make avocados particularly effective at enriching neural lutein levels, which may provide benefits for not only eye health, but for brain health,” said Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., lead investigator of the study from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University. “Furthermore, the results of this new research reveal that lutein levels in the eye more than doubled in subjects that consumed fresh avocados, compared to a supplement, as evidenced by my previous published research. Thus, a balanced diet that includes fresh avocados may be an effective strategy for cognitive health.”

“While the conclusions drawn are from a single study that cannot be generalized to all populations, the study’s outcome helps to reinforce and advance the body of published research on avocado benefits and their role in everyday healthy living,” said Nikki Ford, Ph.D., Director of Nutrition of the Hass Avocado Board. “Avocados are a nutrient-dense, cholesterol-free fruit with naturally good fats, and are a delicious and easy way to add more fruits and vegetables to everyday healthy eating plans.”

To view the abstract or the published article, click here. For more information on avocado nutrition research visit LoveOneToday.com/Research.

Source: Hass Avocado Board

Get Your Red On

A red dress, red lipstick, red shoes...they all get noticed. Red is a rich, vibrant color that conveys an energetic vibe, and it's no different with red-hued foods. All fresh produce provides a myriad of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, but the nutritional ante is upped when it comes to foods such as tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guavas, apricots, red peppers and papayas, especially Caribbean Red® papayas.

What makes these fruits so vibrantly colored are the naturally occurring yellow, orange and red pigments called carotenoids. Primary dietary carotenoids include lutein, beta-carotene, lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin, all of which act as antioxidants in the body. As antioxidants, they tamp down inflammation and can be effective as cancer-fighting agents. Results from a variety of epidemiological studies indicate that a high intake of lycopene-rich foods can reduce the risk of several types of cancers, most notably prostate cancer.

As fruit ripens and gets darker, the lycopene content increases, so it stands to reason that a ripe Caribbean Red® papaya would be a particularly good way to consume this important phytonutrient.

While papayas are a terrific source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and the digestive enzyme papain, it's the lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin that set papayas apart from other fruits.

Currently, there is no recommended daily guideline for lycopene intake, but by eating a variety of foods from this color palette, one can be assured of increasing one's lycopene intake.

When it comes to cryptoxanthin, papayas move to the top of the list. What makes cryptoxanthin interesting is that it doesn't pass through the gastrointestinal tract when digested but instead gets directly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it can be measured.

Why should this matter? Because one of the duties of cryptoxanthin is to inhibit new blood vessel formation, also known as angiogenesis. If developing cancer cells are denied a blood vessel lifeline, then they have a limited existence. The thinking is that by eating cryptoxanthin-rich foods such as papaya, one can nip cancer cells in the bud.

Because Caribbean Red® papayas are available year- round in mainstream supermarkets, they're an accessible choice for maintaining a nutrient-dense and cancer-fighting diet. And because papayas can be fairly hefty in size, it makes them an ideal fruit for freezing, so you'll know that you'll always have some on hand.

Article by Donna Shields, BrooksTropicals.com

FDA Allows More Fresh Fruits & Vegetables to Bear Health Claims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is amending a regulation that authorizes a health claim on the relationship between dietary saturated fat and cholesterol and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) to expand the use of the claim to certain raw fruits and vegetables that were previously ineligible to make the claim.

To make a claim regarding the relationship between dietary saturated fat and cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease a food must typically, among other requirements, contain a certain amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber and meet the definitions of a “low saturated fat,” “low fat” and “low cholesterol” food.

Some fruits and vegetables had been ineligible to bear the claim because they do not meet the health claim requirements for containing a minimum amount of certain nutrients and/or they do not meet the definition of a “low fat” food. For example, grapes, plums, beets, and cucumbers do not contain the threshold levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber and avocados do not meet the requirement for “low fat.”

In October 2012, the American Heart Association (AHA) submitted a citizen petition asking the FDA to amend the existing regulation about health claims and the relationship between dietary saturated fat and cholesterol and risk of CHD. The agency responded to AHA’s petition by issuing an interim final rule to allow raw fruits and vegetables to make a claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The FDA is not amending the health claim requirements for frozen or canned vegetables at this time, but invites comment on the issue.

This interim final rule is effective immediately and has a 75-day comment period.

For More Information:

Source: FDA

Article by Perishable News

New Grapes And Health Monograph Details Science Linking Grapes And Health

A newly released book titled Grapes and Health: A Monograph offers a thorough review of the current science linking the consumption of grapes to better health.  Designed for health and science professionals, this 235-page authoritative reference is a compilation and synthesis of peer-reviewed, grape-specific research which demonstrates the significant scope of the health impact of grape consumption.

The book begins by establishing the basics of grape biology, such as the presence of thousands of natural compounds – including polyphenols – in grapes of all colors, and the fact that grapes are technically a berry. This foundational information is followed by individual chapters written by subject experts who examine the state of the research in the following key areas: heart health, inflammation, cancer, brain health, gastrointestinal health, joint health, bladder function and eye health. In human studies with California grapes, eating the equivalent of 1-1/2 to 3 servings of fresh grapes a day has shown beneficial effects.  

The evidence that grapes play a role in supporting heart health is well-established. Specifically, grape polyphenols beneficially impact metabolic activities that counter oxidative stress, inflammation and platelet aggregation all of which contribute to atherosclerosis. Grape consumption helps promote healthy, flexible blood vessels through nitric oxide production, which helps support healthy blood flow and pressure.  

Emerging research in other areas of health suggests that the grapes' ability to promote antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities at the cellular level may also play a protective role in eye, brain and joint health, and more. Additionally, in two small human colon cancer studies, grape consumption inhibited target genes responsible for promoting cancer growth, and protected the healthy colon tissue.

"As shown by bona fide scientific studies, the beneficial actions of grapes and grape compounds are multi-faceted and help to explain their ability to impact a wide range of disease states," says John M. Pezzuto, Ph.D., award-winning cancer researcher and editor of Grapes and Health.  

Source: California Table Grape Commission

Article by Perishable News

US Vegetables Category Set To Experience Steady Growth By 2021, Driven By Fresh Produce

Albany, NY -- Fruit and vegetable processing industry has taken a new direction and is growing gradually with strong growth rate annually. Further factors such as rising consumer demand for fresh and healthy products that are easily available and need minimum preparation time are further fueling the market growth. A new study, titled "Vegetables - U.S. - May 2017" has been freshly added to the vast repository of Market Research Hub (MRH), which analyzes the overall U.S. market current scenario of vegetables and fruits, along with consumer's behavior which impacts the market positively. This study is a result of qualitative and quantitative research techniques that aim to drill down to the exact factors that are driving growth, restraining growth and creating new opportunities for growth.

As per the findings of a new study, the vegetable category has experienced stable growth over the past few decades, driven primarily by fresh vegetables and fresh-cut salad. Health concerns are the prime factor which has driven demand for fruits and vegetables as consumers look for healthier and more nutritious options for their diets. The fresh-cut segment has been able to profit as consumers believe fresh-cut is the healthiest format for processed fruits and vegetables. In line with growing health awareness and changing demographics, demand for fruits and vegetables is expected to increase in the long term.

Within the United States, fruit and vegetable production is a major business enterprise and mostly, it focuses on processed fruits and vegetables. Currently, this segment continues to make up a significant share of total fruit and vegetable consumption in the United States. Several types of processing such as drying, canning, freezing, and preparation of jams, juices, and jellies augment the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. The research finds that Vegetable sales grow 13% from 2011-16. As technology improved and consumer incomes increased, it became possible to provide fresh produce year-round. Factors such as income, aging of a population, market promotion, and consumer awareness of the importance of produce, contribute to increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

American consumers now expect fresh tomatoes, strawberries, and sweet corn every month of the year. In addition, a strong demand remains for processed fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable consumption has been shown to be an important part of any diet leading towards good health. As per the research study findings, consumers indicate more interest in vegetables that are fresh, nutritious and natural. Due to this, vegetables category estimated to experience steady growth into 2021, heavily driven by fresh produce. However, frozen produce contains just as many vitamins as fresh even if consumers perceive it differently.

Browse Full Report with TOC - http://www.marketresearchhub.com/report/vegetables-us-may-2017-report.html

Vegetables emerge as the main offering in restaurant dishes and consumption of fresh vegetables similar to frozen and canned. It is a prime factor for the market growth. Total U.S. retail sales and forecast of vegetables, by segment, at current prices for the period 2011 to 2021 is also mentioned in the study.

Source: Market Research Hub

Article by Perishable News