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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Teen Scientist Says Fruit Flies Prefer Organic

Posted by on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 10:56 AM

On this gray and somber morning, a little story that contains three of my favorite things—women in science, kids at the grown-up table, and yummy organic produce—is brightening things just a bit. Dallas teenager Ria Chhabra, who started this project in middle school and is now 16, has had her research on organic foods published in a peer-reviewed journal after winning honors at national science competitions.

From Tara Parker-Pope on the NYT Well blog:

The research, titled “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” tracked the effects of organic and conventional diets on the health of fruit flies. By nearly every measure, including fertility, stress resistance and longevity, flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes fared better than those who dined on conventionally raised produce.

She's been working with a Southern Methodist University professor, Dr. Johannes Bauer, in his lab. According to Pope, "Dr. Bauer said that he was happy to have her working in his lab and that her biggest problem was that 'she has too many ideas for her own good.'" Bless you, internet, for the good stuff.

 

Comments (27) RSS

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Fistique 1
Scientist Discovers Pesticides Harm Insects
Posted by Fistique on April 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 2
Conclusion: Pests fare better in the absence of pesticides.

Give that kid a Nobel!
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 18, 2013 at 11:07 AM · Report this
Allyn 3
DDT is the way for me. Kill those damn bugs.
Posted by Allyn on April 18, 2013 at 11:29 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
Technically, fruit flies may be responding to two things.

One is that the level of pesticides is much much lower (usually about one-tenth) in organic foods, which may have pesticide contamination in shipping, handling, and residual traces from nearby crops.

The second is that organic foods tend to have a slightly higher nutrient level of the types of sugars they tend to prefer.

However, some studies show that prepared meals that contain cumin and other spices have higher BPA levels than typical processed foods, so it depends on raw food (fruit, veggies) or prepared meals. I doubt they cooked meals for the fruit flies, but I can check the paper if it's important.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on April 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
Allyn 5
Oh, hell. Fine.

I am so happy to see this young [really, really young] woman pursue and succeed at scientific endeavors. I hope this success and acclaim will take her far in life and encourage other young girls, much like my own children, to learn and discover.

But seriously? Non-pesticide-covered fruit doesn't kill bugs?
Posted by Allyn on April 18, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 6
The fruit files only prefer organic because they are not the ones buying the produce.

Ba-dum-tish.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on April 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM · Report this
fletc3her 7
I think it's that great that young people can get involved in basic science. I never really understood science fairs when I was in school and see it as a real missed opportunity.
Posted by fletc3her on April 18, 2013 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
Obviously fruit flies need vouchers for farmer's markets.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on April 18, 2013 at 12:06 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 9
@5: Yeah, STEM interest is awesome, hopefully she moves to better quality research from this. This is still less cringe-inducing than the stuff I've seen at the college level, I suppose.
Posted by undead ayn rand on April 18, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 10
Quantitatively us. Organic also tastes better. Than as a food source, if it were nature acting, the less tasteful foods would be avoided. So the real test should be to see which they choose when given a choice.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on April 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
Aurophobia 11
Fruit flies eat yeast.
Posted by Aurophobia on April 18, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
12
The possibility that the differences were a result of residual pesticides in the fruit is addressed in the article. The experiment was devised after the student's previous experiments revealed differing levels of nutrients in the two types of produce. She settled on the fruit fly study as a means of testing health effects.

If further experiments demonstrate that some portion of the difference in health outcomes is in fact a result of residual pesticide, that would itself be an interesting finding. So all the people on this thread mocking Ms. Chhabra for this study? Are being dumb.

It appears this kid is following the scientific method perfectly -- posing a clear question, devising an experiment to test it, and then building on the results by asking further questions and performing more experiments.
Posted by Proteus on April 18, 2013 at 12:55 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 13
@10: "Organic also tastes better. "

This statement is meaningless (and possibly self-deluding.) Farms that use heirloom strains have a tastier product. Huge "organic" congloms that raise things out of season can have tasteless product. Nothing about organic makes an item necessarily tastier. Plenty of organic product ~can~ taste better, but it's the concern and interest in final product that does this, not the use of "organic" pest control.
Posted by undead ayn rand on April 18, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this
sirkowski 14
Another strike against organic.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on April 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM · Report this
Allyn 15
@11 yeah, the food I buy may be destroying the planet, my health, and my children's chances of making babies someday, but at least my house isn't filled with all those damn fruit flies.
Posted by Allyn on April 18, 2013 at 1:45 PM · Report this
Allyn 16
nuts. @15 - sirkowski, not @11.
Posted by Allyn on April 18, 2013 at 1:48 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 17
So, variety really is the spice of life, right, @13?
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on April 18, 2013 at 1:48 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 18
@12: "It appears this kid is following the scientific method perfectly -- posing a clear question, devising an experiment to test it, and then building on the results by asking further questions and performing more experiments.

...

So all the people on this thread mocking Ms. Chhabra for this study? Are being dumb."

It's a flawed study from the get-go. Perfect for science fairs, and there are certainly worse published and peer-reviewed papers, but we're not "dumb" for hoping for better research (yes, even from a child.)

If "organic" was ignored and more specific qualifiers were used, I'd be more interested.
Posted by undead ayn rand on April 18, 2013 at 1:48 PM · Report this
19
I was referring to all the flippant "newsflash: pesticides hurt insects" posts. Because that was addressed in the article.

Your own objections seem to fall more into "sneering internet know-it-all" category. Yes, you're right, science fairs aren't peer-reviewed scientific journals. She should be ashamed of herself.
Posted by Proteus on April 18, 2013 at 2:25 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 20
Tastes better was completely subjective. But side by side, to me they do.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on April 18, 2013 at 3:28 PM · Report this
BLUE 21
Two possible major concerns with the research:
1. No statistical adjustment for multiple comparisons.
2. Possible ad hoc manner of analyses.*

*In the body of the paper it is stated that research was originally conducted only on banana (which showed no statistically significant differences between organic and conventional). Afterwards the research was expanded to

As an aside, it seems many of the commenters are not aware that organic does not mean pesticide free. Organic produce is produced with... organic pesticides. Shit can still kill you.
Posted by BLUE on April 18, 2013 at 5:28 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 22
@19: "Your own objections seem to fall more into "sneering internet know-it-all" category. Yes, you're right, science fairs aren't peer-reviewed scientific journals. She should be ashamed of herself."

My objections have more to do with the overbroad category of "organic", I'm not internet-beating-up on a kid for crying out loud. I'm glad she's getting her experience and working with great people. Getting published will look great on her college application.
Posted by undead ayn rand on April 18, 2013 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Sandiai 23
Here's the link to the article:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%…
Posted by Sandiai on April 18, 2013 at 6:26 PM · Report this
Sandiai 24
You don't see this very often on published articles:

Funding: These authors have no support or funding to report.


Posted by Sandiai on April 18, 2013 at 6:29 PM · Report this
stirwise 25
@18 - If you think the world deserves better-designed research (by children, no less!), then show me what you've done. I want to see your publications. I want to know how you do your research.I want to visit your lab. If you've ever actually designed and executed an experiment as perfect as you demand from this child, please do share. I'd love to know how you've mastered the scientific method.
Posted by stirwise on April 19, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
sirkowski 26
@15 Millions of people would have died without GMO wheat. The only people organic food is feeding is the fauxhemian bourgeois.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on April 19, 2013 at 6:43 PM · Report this
Storbaker 27
@26 I don't mean to insult, but you are frighteningly naive. In 2008 a UN report on the future of agriculture by 400 leading international scientists found no evidence that genetic modification of crops increases yields. The report warned that genetic modification in fact hurts poor farmers, because the patents attached to genetically modified crops are expensive and stop farmers from saving seeds, which they have done for generations.

Additionally, most genetically modified crops are designed to be herbicide-resistant (roundup ready) not designed to increase yield.

And furthermore, wheat is wind pollinated. That's very bad because we do not know all of the potential harm that genetically modified pollen might do when introduced to wild wheats and other grasses. Possibly the most scary impact is sterility of wild species. With wind pollinated GM plants grown outdoors, you cannot control where the genes will end up.
Posted by Storbaker on April 26, 2013 at 9:28 PM · Report this

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