Monday, December 8, 2014

Amish Popcorn, Wheat and Bad Ideas

Last week I was in a local farm supply store, they had the usual displays at the end of the aisle trying to get unsuspecting customers to buy stuff they really don’t need. One of those displays was for Amish popcorn which made me wonder why Amish popcorn would be superior to regular, old generic popcorn. Then I saw something else that made me scratch my head even more, microwave Amish popcorn. Really, the Amish have microwaves?
Soon after I made this discovery I had another friend send me an article he had found on the internet. This “article” was from a person purporting to be the “healthy home economist”. I must say that I have no idea if she really is a home economist or even healthy but I do know that what she alleged in her blog post was completely false and really bad information. It did prove just how little most people really know about food or how it is produced.
This so-called expert started off by claiming that she knew people who had problems with wheat and had traveled to Europe and dined on wheat products without any ailments. This made her wonder why the difference could be between the two continents and their wheat. She quickly ruled out gluten or hybridization of wheat. Good, I thought at least she is not fanning the flames of those two fires. Then she unveiled her theory of why people suffer the myriad of ailments increasingly blamed on wheat.
She settled upon glyphosate herbicides like Round-up. I was surprised to learn that, according to the healthy home economist,”conventional wheat farmers” (her words not mine) often sprayed their wheat with glyphosate to kill the wheat plants to aid with harvest. This surprised me since I am one of those “conventional wheat farmers” and I have never put this practice to use or seen any of my neighboring “conventional wheat farmers” utilize it either, even though she said it was common.
OK, so I have heard of farmers using an herbicide to kill weeds in wheat as a last ditch effort to rescue a crop due to weather or herbicide failure but that is exceedingly rare. Maybe this is a practice in other types of wheat but not here in the Wheat State. An expert was quoted saying that the wheat was sprayed 7 to 10 days before harvest and this made the wheat plant release more seed (I have a degree in agronomy but I must have missed that course). She went on to say that farmers then combined the wheat with glyphosate residue in the kernels.
A nice little antidote about Monsanto salesmen drinking Round-up to prove its non-toxicity was included. Again, this is a practice I have never witnessed. She went on to reference a little known study that said while Round-up was not immediately toxic that it disrupted enzymes (which it does in plants so it surely does the same in humans) and caused ailments currently attributed to gluten intolerance. Wow, now if that is not the mother of all inferences I don’t know what is.
I could go on and on about how poor the science was behind this and even go into greater lengths about how this is not a common practice, but that is not my point. This blog made the rounds and probably is still bouncing around and it carries about as much credibility as Amish popcorn. The sad state of affairs is that many of our customers out there really do not have any idea where their food comes from or how it is produced and they are prime targets for bad information. This is extremely frustrating and even maddening. You feel like the little Dutch boy plugging holes in the dikes. You stop one rumor and another one pops up in its place. What do we do?
I know I sound like a broken record but as farmers and ranchers we need to keep telling our story. We need to share the science and technology that goes into producing the food, but that is not enough. We also need to let our consumers get to know us and build that level of trust. We do produce their food in a manner that is safe for them and the environment, despite what the “experts” might say.
Some of this is just funny like my Amish popcorn, gluten-free steak, grass-fed pork or non-gmo Cheerios. But is does go to prove just how gullible we are when it comes to what we eat and buzz words and fads that spring up from our lack of knowledge. Now pardon me as I try to figure out just how the Amish microwave I bought on aisle 3 works.

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