The Organic Center Ramps Up Research

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The Organic Center Ramps Up Research


The Organic Center has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for ARS scientists to undertake targeted research on the factors affecting the presence of arsenic in organically grown rice. A $50,000 grant to The Organic Center from the newly formed UNFI Foundation enables the center to conduct the research.

The Washington, D.C.-based center, which recently hired Jessica Shade as its director of science programs, is funding organic rice research led by ARS scientist Anna McClung at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark. The center has also channeled an additional $12,500 in support it received from the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) through a grant also made possible by the UNFI Foundation.

“This research advances the mission of the UNFI Foundation by strengthening consumer confidence in the safety of organic rice and rice-based products through the development of organic farming practices,” said Melody Meyer, executive director of the UNFI Foundation, an offshoot of Providence, R.I.-based wholesaler United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI). “Funding this research is a timely proactive approach to protecting public health, and advancing organic farming.”

Under the agreement, ARS scientists are testing stored samples of organic rice grown under controlled conditions at USDA research facilities, and examining the factors that directly affect the rate of arsenic accumulation in rice grown organically: varietal selection, flooding and organic compliant fertilizers. The aim is to offer future strategies to the organic sector to minimize such accumulation.

“The organic industry is committed to maintaining the safety of food, and to working proactively on solutions to help minimize the presence of arsenic, especially in certified organic foods,” noted Shade. “The Organic Center’s mission includes convening credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, so we are helping to facilitate this research.”

The center is using public investment it has received for research key to the organic industry and important to public health. Because the studies employ stored samples, the research is expected to be completed in a substantially shorter time. Currently, the studies are expected to provide tangible mitigation strategies for the organic sector within a year, and to appear in peer-reviewed journals by USDA scientists.