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 EWG’s study was not peer-reviewed, which is commonly done, lending it some credibility.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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