Opinion – When it comes to your food, look into the headlines

announcement BlogImagine hearing headlines such as, “Unsafe levels of a weed killer chemical in oat products, report says” on CNN, or “General Mills ditching ‘100 percent natural’ claim in Nature Valley granola bars” from CBS news?

I would be intrigued and want to find out more information regarding these headlines. News stories are written to give you just a summary of a press release and do not go into detail behind the headlines. The problem is our time is a valuable commodity, and we don’t often have it to delve into headlines and research claims made by groups or studies. The accountability should be in the news media to give you the complete story with as many facts as they can without overwhelming their audience. Therein lies the problem with these two headlines and I would like to address them individually.

“Unfair levels of a weed killer chemical in oat products, report says”

Susan Scutti for CNN writes that the organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG), released a report that found “three-quarters of food samples tested showed higher glyphosate levels” than what the group considers safe. According to the EWG, the food tested was some “types of oat cereals, oatmeal, granola, and snack bars.” Here are some of the takeaways from the report. The EWG tested 45 conventionally grown products and 16 organics. Of those samples, 43 of the conventional and five of the organics were found to have traces of Roundup, also known as glyphosate.

The study was released at the same time of the $289 million judgments against Monsanto, creating a heightened sense of awareness of glyphosate. EWG’s study was not peer-reviewed, which is commonly done, lending it some credibility. The group also used an arbitrary measurement, “child-protective health,” for which there is no industry or scientific standard. The positive results were in parts per billion which is 1000 times smaller than the industry standard of parts per million.

Cameron English for The Genetic Literacy Project addresses the study by EWG, stating both the EPA and EU have set what is considered universally acceptable levels and the levels found in the study ranged between 0-6% of those levels or 14,000 times below the acceptable level. English makes the comparison stating you would have to eat 30 bowls of Cheerios every day for a year to approach the EU and EPA standards. So, what do you read out of this? The risk is there, but you have a minimal chance of contracting cancer eating large amounts of Cheerios daily. I’d be more concerned about the amount of sugar eating 30 bowls of Cheerios would do to your body. Yet, the headline produces a sense of urgency and concern for something that is a potentially very low risk.

“General Mills ditching ‘100 percent natural’ claim in Nature Valley granola bars.”

Kate Gibson of CBS news reports that a 2016 lawsuit by consumer groups against General Mills cites that the presence of glyphosate contradicts the label as it states, “made with 100 percent Natural Whole Grain Oats.” General Mills has decided to drop the wording on the label to avoid costly litigation. The lawsuit was brought by the groups, Organic Consumers Association, Moms Across America, and Beyond Pesticides. All three consumer groups have no scientists on their boards.

While grassroots organizations are the basis for political or social change, I wonder what these groups’ motives are? All three have interests in promoting organic practices and promoting products. In the lawsuit, there is nothing mentioning what their means for testing the presence of glyphosate or the amount found in the product. It states where they purchased the product and that a single bar was purchased at three different sites. In the complaint filed in DC Superior Court, all three parties were seeking costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and expert fees, and “equitable relief, as this Court may deem just and proper.” Were their intentions to protect the consumer for mislabeling the product as all-natural, or for financial gains?

Do Your Homework!

These are just two articles about agriculture currently circulating in the press. While time is a valuable commodity, look at the studies or the claims and find out who is making them. Treat it the same as you would about an issue affecting you at the polls, or when it comes time to research the next vehicle you purchase.  Are they credible? Do they have links to a specific group? Most importantly, do they have experience or knowledge in agriculture to make their claims. I understand each group has their own interest in which system of growing food is the best, and there will always be disagreements over what are the best practices.  Ultimately this is the food that you consume; do your homework!

 

 

 

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About Me

Me and Cows

​It has taken me a lot of years to finally figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up. When I was young, I wanted to be a landscape architect and designed my parent’s backyard in their first house in West Hills, California. I did nothing after designing the backyard to becoming a landscape architect, but I always enjoyed gardening. In 1998, I enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College and received my Certificate in Viticulture Management (just a fancy word for grape grower). My business, unfortunately, did not work out, but I did not lose my passion for agriculture. I wanted to keep that passion, but I didn’t know in what capacity I could be a part of this industry.  Fast forward to now, I am currently enrolled at North Dakota State University pursuing my degree in Agriculture Communications.

While I was working in the tasting rooms of Sonoma and Napa counties, I heard a lot of myths about wine and grape growing coming from urbanites. During that time, I was able to resolve some of their issues feeling hopeful that they had a better understanding of wine and the industry. Through this blog, I am hoping to present the facts and dispel some of the rumors that urbanites have of where their food comes from. This blog will attempt not to take any stand, but to give you the resources to study the matter further.

Happy reading!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

 

Why I Created this Blog

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​I created this blog is to educate urbanites on some of the myths and misconceptions that are circulating in the news, blogs, and newsletters regarding agriculture. My mission is to present some of the facts and hope that you as a reader will use the information provided to do further research and come to your own conclusion. It would seem as though someone who is studying agriculture would have some implicit bias. However, as someone who was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived throughout California, I have the unique approach of seeing both sides. I buy organic foods, cage-free eggs, and am conscience about labels. However, I also buy products that contain GMOs and can distinguish if something is labeled antibiotic-free, I know that is by law.
While working in the tasting rooms of wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties, I tried to educate consumers who had misconceptions about wines. A common one I would hear is about sulfites in wine. People would say such things as the sulfites in red wine gives me headaches, or I am allergic to them. Through researching the matter, I found that sulfites are a naturally occurring process in fermentation and are added to preserve the wine. Dried fruit has more sulfites than in wine (20-200 parts per million [ppm] in wine versus 500-3000ppm in fruit), and sulfite intolerance only affects 1% of the population. That hangover you get from wines doesn’t come from sulfites, and as Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at UC Davis states, “There is no medical research data showing that sulfites cause headaches” (Woolf, 2016). It was information such as this and my knowledge of Viticulture (grape growing) that I was able to educate people about the industry.
Hearing facts such as these are a reason why I wanted to study Agriculture Communications. I encourage you to look at the source of information and question what their background is in the matter they write about. Are they a credible source or someone who has a motive? That is my desire, to educate you as a reader to make a decision about the matters affecting you and affecting farmers and ranchers. To show that farmers and ranchers are people just like you and me. They feed the world on their land with the concern of passing it on to another generation.
To show you matters affecting us, I will be addressing issues such methane emissions from livestock and its effect on greenhouse gases. In addition to presenting you with facts about methane emissions, I will inform you what farmers and scientists are doing to reduce emissions from livestock.
Other topics I will address will be glyphosate in wines and cereal. I will present some of the research on glyphosate and what world-wide organizations are showing regarding its effects on people and the environment.  What farmers and ranchers are doing to help conserve carbon in the soil by planting cover crops and how livestock also contributes. These are just some examples of the issues I am hoping to address. If there is an issue or something that you have heard, please feel free to contact me.