The public has found its witch to burn. Glyphosate — or, colloquially, Roundup — is shackled to the stake in front of a heckling public.
It’s folly. It really is. And it’s a red herring. The proliferation of synthetic, agricultural chemicals post-WWII does not reach its height with Roundup. Pound for pound, Roundup is a timid cousin to what’s out there. Its ubiquity makes it an easy target. I’m not the final word on this, and I won’t defend it as above reproach. But I can encourage perspective.
If consumers really care about where their food comes from, and how it’s grown, then they should do better than merely reading headlines. This is not a new suit or a pair of shoes. This is food. Without it, you’d die.
The media landscape surrounding agriculture is problematic. When news broke that trace amounts of glyphosate had been found on the popular breakfast cereal Cheerios, once again the pitchforks were raised.
The problem lies with consumers who are willing to selectively suspend disbelief when it comes to food and food production. There are those who have chosen to consider a parts-per-billion finding to be alarming. It would be a telling exercise to report on what one wouldn’t find on a Cheerio using a parts-per-billion metric. And when a Monsanto — now Bayer — representative is called upon for comment, disbelief seems to be employed gratuitously.
When the ag community responds with “observe the science,” the science itself and those conducting it are called into question as biased.
It has become easy to believe that biotech companies don’t care about human health and food security. And the reporters covering these stories — more often than not — have little to no experience dealing with agricultural topics.
Some of this comes from a belief that corporations — especially large ones — are incapable of acting in an interest that benefits humanity. And some of this comes from the belief that the agricultural community is applying constant pressure to federal regulators in order to get approvals for dubious products and processes.
This is your food. If you care, then care. Disparaging the industry for something like the use of glyphosate is not doing what you think it’s doing. It’s driving a wedge between consumers and farmers.
This needs to change. Our news outlets need to routinely place more importance on agriculture-related topics, giving a public that claims to care about its food access to more information related to its production. Then, perhaps the focus could shift to areas that demand our collective attention.
Last week, I had the honour of leading a bunch of Canadian farm writers on an agricultural tour of Winnipeg and other parts of Manitoba.
Our first stop was the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), which operates in conjunction with St-Boniface hospital. There, a team of highly trained scientists and medical doctors investigate and conduct groundbreaking research on the health benefits of neutraceuticals, natural health products and functional foods, which are foods that have a positive effect on a person’s health above and beyond basic nutrition.
The group of ag-journalists then heard from presenters at the University of Manitoba about implementing self-contained smart farms in order to ensure northern, remote communities have affordable access to nutritious foods.
We heard from researchers wrestling with the idea of food security and what it takes to be truly sustainable.
Farm journalists and farmers care about this stuff, and we understand the language surrounding it.
Food producers are willing to delve into the weeds on these issues, but have limited patience for a public that seems willing to only scratch the surface.
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