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Who and what should consumers believe?

Wisconsin State Farmer

While reporting on farm concerns, I’m thankful to still see both sides of the issues presented by The Wisconsin State Farmer. A case in point is “Farm consultant concerned over GMOs, use of glyphosate” in the April 21, 2017 issue and “Don’t believe everything you hear about pesticides” in the April 28, 2017 issue.

These concerns are often on the forefront of many meetings and the news. While one authority claims the levels of pesticides (and herbicides and fungicides) in our foods should not influence consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, another consultant observes possible correlations to the usage of those products on our food, our animals and our health. Whom to believe?

Let’s take a look at some historical examples. When X-rays were first discovered they were touted as absolutely safe. X-rays have been used to diagnose many illnesses since that time. However, after many years, we have become aware that too much exposure to X-rays can induce disease and so we have backed off using them indiscriminately.

DDT was the best thing since sliced bread when it came to insect borne disease control in the 1940s. According to the EPA’s website, it took 10 to 20 years to begin reining in the wide use of DDT when it was determined there were many detrimental effects to the use of DDT found in our environment and our bodies. It took until 1972 to ban the use of DDT in the United States, but it was still acceptable to sell that product to other nations for use on their crops.

Regarding food production, market demands perfect uniform fruit and vegetables that travel well and have a long shelf life. In order to produce volume for cost effectiveness, the grower plants crops for mechanical harvest. But if you want flavor, you have to expect fresh produce that won’t last forever, that won’t always be perfectly shaped to fit into the container or refrigerator, that won’t be available year round and that may have a few spots needing removal.

Furthermore, consider the issue of food sensitivity. Why is it that commercially produced fruits, vegetables, baked goods and even milk can generate uncomfortable or even detrimental digestive issues, but organically produced items may not? Persons often labeled lactose intolerant may only be intolerant to the additives or processing of the milk, not to the milk itself. Raw milk may not induce similar reactions upon consumption. It is said that persons wrestling with Celiac’s disease (grain sensitivity) can go to Europe and eat all the bread and pasta they want without difficulty because GMO seed and chemicals are not used on those crops. By extension, individuals often find that unbleached, unbromated, organic flour does not produce a digestive issue, while the converse (commercial flour) definitely is not well tolerated by their bodies.

Finally, college courses teach “How to Lie with Statistics”, demonstrating how polls and studies can be skewed to produce results desired by the authors. So often now, peer reviewed studies producing glowing results in favor of more drugs and chemicals in our world are being withdrawn because the results were either discredited or the authors’ studies were financed by the very producer of the product they were studying. At whose expense? The consuming public! It is not the doctors, nor drug producers who have to live with the results of incorrect medication levels or prescriptions – it is us. It is not the producers of costly GMO grain, to which ever increasing amounts of expensive fertilizer and treatments must be applied, who have to pinch their pennies to consume quality nutritious food in order to feel healthy – it is us.

Thankfully, there are more options available now than there were just a few years ago. We have innovators in the food production field actively researching how to produce more desirable foods, like the Swiss cheese makers referenced in the April 21 article above. There are a lot of local producers willing to provide what the market demands, witness the explosion of farmers markets in many urban locations.

People want fresh, nutritious, good tasting food to both consume in season and preserve for the off season. They do not want foods that are going to make them feel sick or cause illness in the future because currently acceptable levels of toxins or medicines suddenly are discovered to be very wrong.

Darlene Stern