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BLOG POST: ​Are your vegetables healthy?

Blog post   •   Jun 27, 2016 13:45 GMT

BLOG POST: Have you ever wondered if you can trust what you eat? If it’s healthy for you or if the vegetables contains unwanted chemicals? In who should you trust? 

With todays farming practices we heavily depend on pesticides to produce the amount of vegetables we consume. Without the use of pesticides more than half of the worlds crops would be lost due to plant pests and deceases.

European Food Safety Authority yearly issue a report which states that 97% of food samples evaluated contain pesticide residue levels that fall within the legal limits which are trading standards. These limits has a built in safety margin, but the fact is we eat pesticides.

But what about organically produced vegetables, are they any better? Today only one percent of all farmland is certified organic why the luxury of eating organic isn’t for everyone. Organic farming can’t use the same pesticides and fertilizers as traditional farming, so what do they use instead? Naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin and rotenone are permitted and together with biological pest control such as insects and mites most pests could be avoided.

To fertilize organically you use fertilizers derived from animal matter, human excreta or vegetable matter. (e.g. compost, manure). The big problem here are the medical residues left in urine and treated wastewater. Recent studies [1] have shown that medicals like carbamazepine can be traced in the urine of people that has eaten plants watered with treated wastewater. Also antibiotics in cow dung and heavy metals from contaminated soils are taken up by vegetables [2][3]. This means that what we perceive as clean organic might have issues.

So is there a way to obtain safe and nutritious vegetables? As Head of Research and Development at Plantagon I daily se examples on how a controlled environment can benefit growth, nutrient content and taste. This might sound artificial but I have learnt that it’s not stranger than that you keep total control on the environment and the soil, getting the same result every harvest. Wine taste different every year depending on weather and the soil and Swedish strawberries are tasty because of long bight summer days and cool nights.

With 100% controlled input in a growing facility you will obtain 100% safe food with a nutritional value and taste that will match the taste from newly picked vegetables from your own garden. When these factors fluctuate, plants have ability to acclimate, adjusting their morphological characteristics such as weight, leaf area, stem length, and leaf color, as well as their composition of minerals, pigments, proteins, organic acids, and secondary metabolites. Therefore, environmental control in plant factories enables the production of vegetables with characteristics that better meet customer demands.

Closed greenhouses does not need pesticides, they use less nutrients than traditional farming, over 100 times less water and gives many times more output due to multiple (up to 20) crop cycles per year. But will this ever be perceived as natural? With education of customers and new labels based on coming standards for food produced in the city and that plant factories are becoming more common I personally think that you gladly will pay more for this.

Imagine when you instead of comparing price per kg can compare nutritional value and can trust that what you eat is 100% safe and actually healthy for you.

Joakim Rytterborn,
Head of Research & Development at Plantagon

The ideas and thoughts presented in this blog are my personal views and need not subscribe entirely to Plantagon.

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Please watch out for up-coming blog post by:

  • Sepehr Mousavi, Sustainability Strategist, Plantagon and Chair to Swedish Standards Institute ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’ committee
  • Shrikant Ramakrishnan, Global Business Development Director, Plantagon

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[1] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b06256

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23581689

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16393813

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