Young Student Answers Organic Debate With Fruit Flies

By Heather Callaghan

When Dallas-based 16-year old Ria Chhabra was in middle school, she overheard her parents debating the value of organic versus conventional produce. She decided to put the debate to rest and win the local science fair.

She discovered that organic had more vitamin C than what we call conventional produce (with pesticides). She kept going and recently, her work was published in PLOS ONE peer reviewed online science journal. Check out her work, β€œOrganically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster.” She has won a variety of honors including lab privileges that grad students envy.

What was her big conclusion? After weeks of tracking the activities of fruit flies it was determined that the ones who feasted on organic potatoes, raisins, or soy had health that soared past the ones dining on conventional produce. Organic versus conventional bananas did not pose significant difference. She tested for stress resistance, fertility and longevity. Scientists are hesitant to correlate fruit fly health with humans, but love to use them for study because of their short life spans and quicker results.

She is called “extraordinary” by the lone professor with a fly lab who embraced her request for help. Dr. Johannes Bauer of South Methodist University enjoyed working with his youngest colleague and will be sorry to see her go soon, as she’ll have her pick of top colleges. β€œThe seriousness with which she approached this was just stunning,” he stated.

Now a sophomore in Plano, Texas, Ria said:

I had no idea what publishing my research meant. My mom told me, ‘This is a pretty big deal.’

She is currently studying Type 2 diabetes in fruit flies at the lab for her 10th grade science fair project. But she wants to build on that with the study of alternative treatment like cinnamon and turmeric – and see if it alleviates the disorder in flies. 
Dr. Bauer had some interesting thoughts on organic produce and fly health – sort of like the “which came first, chicken or egg?” scenario. Are the different health outcomes of the flies due to pesticide and fungicide residue on the conventional fruit – or, do the bonus nutrients in organic build greater survival and ward off pests and fungi? Instead of and/or couldn’t it be a “both”? He wants to explore those health benefits for animals and humans but adds, “There are no hard data on that…”

A TV doctor made waves when he recanted his previous praise for organic and suddenly decided there was no difference, almost mimicking a New York Times article verbatim. Think she’ll be on his show anytime soon? Around the same time, an organic activist suddenly switched to GMO love with great apologies and desire for “real science.” With hope, Ria’s hard work, praised by reputable science journals, will stand the test of time and spread to quell the “no difference between organic and conventional” talk.

There is no more debate for Ria’s family – it’s organic from now on.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

  • Anonymous

    No 'real' scientist can do that kind of work and keep working. Modern science comes from politicians who inform what will be found in advance. GMO food is healthy, or you will be fired then someone who finds that answer can replace you. What is truly beyond amazing.. they let her work go public. GMO is here to stay. One some make all decisions. They decidered. The poor masses are as REPULSIVE a food source to them as industrial meat farming is repulsive to the masses (they still eat it).

  • This is true, and Monsanto has been poisoning life since before 1901. They are the reason for the rise in health issues, cancers, death, diabetes, alzheimers, asthma, adhd, bipolar, hormonal imbalances…. high blood pressure (although dealing with political issues and survival adds to it), and there is little that can be done about it.

    But what can be done, must be done! Future generations are counting on it.

    The FDA, USDA, and other government programs put in place to "protect" the citizens of this country are only there to regulate what you eat, what they can force down your throat, what medications you need; even, in some States, force medication on you!!

    This is the goal: "Make a sick society by adding fluoride, gmos and spraying toxins in the sky, then tell them we have the cure. Only, you can't choose natural cures, no, it MUST be approved by us, and if you have side effects, we have a pill for that too."

  • i have to beg the differ "anonymous" i seen what they hell they do in those "farms", and i dont buy NO MEAT FROM THEM!, and ur saying that gmos are heathy? think about the small fish that eats zoo plankton (microscopic animals, and that has mercury), then a little bigger fish , then a little bigger fish eats the bass, then a shark eats the pike. by the time the shark eats the pike; there is SO MUCH mercury it could fill 50-60 thermonitors. AND THATS SAFE!? TAKE OFF UR DAMN MASKS AND OPEN UR EYES!
    gmo's causes cancer, obesity, diabetes, and lord knows what else

  • Amy

    Yes, iDare2Dream, what CAN be done MUST be done!
    Attend your local rally for March Against Monsanto on May 25th EVERYWHERE & the Boycott Kellogg's Honk & Wave Rally on Earth Day weekend. Buy local, support your local farmers, buy organic, grow your own food and stop buying processed foods unless they are GMO-free. Download & print out a Shopping Guide to know what is safe to eat and what to avoid! If companies stop making as much money off of these genetically modified foods, they will switch back. That IS why they buy products from Monsanto. They sell GMO-free products across the world, but not in our own country. Show them you will NOT tolerate it! IT MUST BE STOPPED BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! When will we learn to stop and quit trying to play God?

  • Anonymous

    thermonitor? What the hell is a thermonitor David Miller?
    Do you perhaps mean thermometer? The mercury-filled glass tube that can indicate the temperature of something?
    Perhaps if the morons of this world started pronouncing things properly, you would not have been misled by them David. They pronounce it as ther-MOM-eter, when it is actually a thermo-meter. And ditto for other things like ki-LOM-eter which should be kilo-metre (a thousand metres). Or the precision instrument which they call a mi-CROM-eter, when it should be pronounced as micro-meter (an instrument to measure distance to fraction of a millimetre accuracy).
    But I suspect I'm preaching to the terminally dull…

  • Anonymous

    God, Monsanto is a sick company. Don't the employees there even care about their own families being poisened off with their horrible products?

  • Anonymous

    And your comment applies to the article how?
    So what if auto-spell check didn't catch something?
    David's points are spot on. You know it, this is why you have no genuine rebuttal, just a nasty attitude. Shameful.

  • Anonymous

    Being nasty and critical is not helpimg your case. GMOs are not natural substances and they never will be.

  • Anonymous

    Hear, hear…

  • Brilliant work, coming from a young scientist who isn't being blinded by the agenda of big chemical agriculture.

    I hope to see her work being publiushed far and wide, and that it will open the eyes of more and more human beings to the value of organic agriculture, and to the dangers posed to our own health by chemical agriculture…..

  • Yes, they care about themselves and their families – and eat organic! Last year, a Monsanto memo was leaked – it assured the employees that only organic would be served in the cafeteria.

    To me, this is very elitist and cold blooded of them – and telling.

  • The head of the FDA used to be a Monsanto executive.

  • Anonymous

    i think it is a matter of time before she gets sued by the companies producing GMO seeds. isn't this just the american way?

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