Jessica Shade has taken over leadership of science programs at The Organic Center, housed in the Washington, D.C., office of the Organic Trade Association.
The directorship was newly created for the purpose of managing upcoming science programs and related communicated activities for the center, according to a news release. She began work on Feb. 19.
The center’s mission is to find evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate those findings to the public, according to the release.
Effective communication with consumers is one area Shade hopes to focus on in this position.
“Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between science and the public, because science is reported in journals that are not always accessible to the public without costly subscriptions, and the articles are written in language that is difficult to understand,” Shade said in an e-mail.
She says this barrier can distance consumers.
“I hope to act as an instrument to connect the public and industry with scientific research studies that impact them,” Shade said.
Shade also hopes to encourage consumers to choose organic options as a way to increase environmental benefits.
“Eating organic is one of the simplest ways people can help the environment, and one of my goals is to remind environmentally minded individuals that their consumption choices really do matter,” she said in an e-mail.
Some of Shade’s predictions for the organic industry over the next few years include an increase in the number of organic-specific crop varieties.
“These varieties are selected for their ability to thrive in organically managed conditions without the aid of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers,” she said.
In addition to these growing benefits, Shade says the organic varieties have nutritional benefits, too.
“One of the unintended benefits of selecting for the ability to maintain health and vigor in low-input farming systems is that the crops tend to make more nutrients that are beneficial to humans,” she said.
Shade recently met with Jim Myers, a professor at Oregon State University, who is working with the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative.
“Recently, one of professor Myers’ graduate students compared their organic broccoli varieties with conventional varieties and found higher carotenoids in the organic variety,” she said.
Other future collaborative projects include weed-resistant carrots and disease-resistant snap peas, as well as seed corn varieties designed for cold soil emergence and winter squash with long-term storability.