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From ONG Forum...Exploring the Link Between Soil Health and Human Health

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall (December 15, 2020)

(NOTE: This article originally appeared in our Oilseed & Grain News, and is a summary of one of the sessions from our sixth annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum, held virtually last month.)

Chronic diseases in the United States and around the world are on the rise, with more than 40 percent of the adult U.S. population (and 18.5 percent of children) classified as obese, a number that has risen 26 percent since 2008. At the same time, soils are degrading and the amount of fertilizer and pesticide in the environment continues to rise. The Rodale Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to growing the organic movement through rigorous research, farmer training, and consumer education, has begun an initiative using their long-term Farming Systems Trial and newer Vegetable Systems Trial to explore the links between how we farm, soil health, and human health.

Last month’s Organic & Non-GMO Forum welcomed Andrew Smith, COO and chief scientist of the Rodale Institute, who explored the links between soil health and human health, and discussed the Institute’s research and current updates on the topic. Smith addressed soil degradation and erosion as largely due to agriculture, and noted that, according to studies, “if erosion around the world continues [as is] we will only have 60 crops, or 60 years left.” He talked of the levels of nutrients in garden crops in 1950 versus 1999, noting that protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin C all significantly declined, and in grains -- corn, sorghum, rice, wheat, and barley -- there were substantial declines in protein present from 1920 to 2002. Smith also addressed the Institute’s research into “food as medicine”, and its current comparison of organic versus conventional foods, which is the longest running side-by-side comparison in North America, started in 1981. Hear some of Smith's presentation in this video snippet. It's not too late to hear from the other expert speakers who presented the Forum, which can be done by registering to gain access to the recorded presentations as well as a database of all attendees, both of which are available for a year. Learn more at


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