Eating healthfully can be difficult. Even when you’re paying close attention to your food, following The Rules, making sure half of your plate is full of fresh/local/green/organic vegetables and that you’re only eating protein the size of your own palm and a small serving (less than a quarter cup, maybe?) of carbs (because carbs are evil)… eating well isn’t easy.
There’s a lot of information about food out there. About what food is and what it isn’t. What it can do to you and what it can do for you. How it can kill you and how it can save you. It’s all very… overwhelming. At least, it is to me.
You may have heard or read or seen that the devil-incarnate company, Monsanto, is in the news again this week. Word on the street is that a chemical they use in RoundUp – called glyphosate – probably causes cancer.
Hmm. Well, that’s not good.
Because farmers use RoundUp and spray it on their crops to kill weeds. And if farmers spray it on crops that we eat, doesn’t that mean we’re going to get cancer? And die?
Hmm. Well, that’s not good.
So, the solution to that is… call Monsanto terrible names and boycott/protest/yell loudly about all that they’ve done for agriculture and biotechnology and sustainably feeding the world so we don’t all starve to death… I guess?
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I describe Monsanto as the devil-incarnate because that’s apparently what most people think of the company as a whole. Just do a Google search and you’ll see exactly what I mean. There is such a huge hate on for Monsanto and what they do that I was actually surprised about the magnitude of hate when I was doing my research for this post. I actually find it fascinating that there can be so many people purely and utterly against Monsanto, like, really against them and what they do.
Now, I understand that Monsanto is not perfect. But then again, nothing is. I know that Monsanto has done some less than ideal things in the past. But from what I’ve read through my research, they have improved their technology dramatically and have done some amazing things for the ag industry since changing their focus of products in the early 1980s.
But that’s for another blog post (about GMOs. And it’s coming, just not today).
To be clear, the main concern about the report that hit the news this week was that glyphosate probably causes cancer, and glyphosate is a main ingredient of RoundUp, a herbicide that Monsanto makes and that farmers use to control weeds within their crops.
The key word there, of course, is probably. As in, not for sure. Not definitely. Not absolutely, yes, glyphosate causes cancer.
So in my (rational on most days) mind, that simply begs the question – why are we even talking about this?
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After I read the claims made in the report (and just FYI, I read this article, not the full report itself), I clicked through the link to Monsanto’s response. Because when someone says that something you make probably causes cancer, that’s kind of a big deal. Responding quickly, efficiently and factually is a must. What I read in Monsanto’s response surprised me. A lot.
The report was put out by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A report coming from them seems legit, right? That’s what I thought too, until I read that the report:
> is not based on NEW research or data
> excluded relevant, scientific data from review (specifically, genetic toxicity studies)
> does not use scientific data to support its conclusion (that glyphosate probably causes cancer), and
> the classification doesn’t establish a link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer
What I found truly awe-inspiring was that this same report also puts sunshine, aloe vera, cell phones, coffee and being a barber in the same category – 2A, a possible carcinogen – as glyphosate.
Hmm. Well, that’s…
I don’t know what that is.
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Monsanto is a big company that does some pretty amazing things for agriculture. Amazing things that can also be scary, especially if we, the consumer, don’t understand exactly what it is they’re doing. I will not and do not pretend to understand everything Monsanto does, nor am I a scientist of any calibre that can provide a solid, factual, scientifically based opinion on the report that was released this week. But wouldn’t you agree that when making claims on a topic such as what causes cancer, one might want to base that information on scientific evidence and facts and data? In other words – proof?
The thing is, the IARC doesn’t perform new research. It’s just not what they do. Here’s a great post about what they actually do (and a very thorough explanation of glyphosate as a potential carcinogen).
Understandably, Monsanto is speaking with the World Health Organization about how this report came to be, especially since there’s a lot of science out there that says glyphosate is safe.
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After going through all the different articles and gaining new insight into this topic, I actually felt proud. Proud of myself for being an informed, educated consumer. I know I talked about this already, but it’s a message I will continue to hammer out at you as long as I can because it’s important. Ask questions, do research for arguments both for and against, get smarter, impress your friends at the next cocktail party.
And remember – Monsanto is people, too. I actually know a few people who work for Monsanto. They’re nice folks that eat food, just like the rest of us. Monsanto and their employees care about food safety just as much as we do. So I don’t think it’s fair that we paint them with the devil-incarnate brush, in my humble opinion.
However, I’m not asking you to change how you feel about Monsanto; it’s actually none of my business how you feel. What I am asking is that you fully inform yourself on topics that you’re passionate about. Because then, hopefully, you’ll feel a little bit better the next time you find yourself drinking a mug of hot coffee while basking in the spring sunshine after a hard day’s work at your barbershop.
Happy Farm Friday, everybody!