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Misquotes of 'Variation in Mineral Composition of Vegetables'

A study conducted at Rutgers University (Bear et al., 1948) is frequently misquoted as evidence supporting the position that organically grown vegetables are significantly superior in minerals and trace elements to conventionally grown vegetables. In reviewing the original publication, one can clearly see that this was not the intention of the study nor does it give support to this premise. The purpose of the study was to compare the mineral composition of vegetables "as one proceeds from south to north and from east to west in the United States." Samples of cabbage, lettuce, snapbean, spinach, and tomato were obtained from commercial fields of these crops and analyzed for mineral composition. A total of 204 samples were examined. The vegetables sampled were usually, but not always, of the same variety. The authors reported, in a table, the range in mineral concentration as highest and lowest values observed among the vegetables sampled. These highest and lowest values have been misrepresented as vegetables grown organically and inorganically, respectively, in various organic farming and healthfood newsletters, which cite the report (copies of the misquotes are available on request).

The authors discussed the influence of soil type, fertilizer practice, and climate on the observed differences in mineral composition. The study only provides a general survey of their possible influence and did not compare synthetic fertilizer and organic practices.

Received 11 Mar. 1991.

Crop Science Dept.
Rutgers Univ.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901


Bear, F.E., S.J. Toth, and A.L. Prince. 1948. Variation in mineral composition of vegetables. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 13:380-384.

Reprinted from the Soil Science Society of America Journal
Volume 55, No. 5, September-October 1991
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