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Agriculture Myths

Posted in Food Policy,Food Safety on January 15, 2019

Everywhere you read, you can find myths on every subject available. While there are a few myths that turn out to be true, most are not. Taking the time to research them, most myths are found to have no proof to back them up and are usually started by urban legends. I am in no way making fun of myths, I just want to help us understand they exist and for us to use logical thinking – and maybe to dispel a few along the way. Here are some Agriculture Myths that you may have heard.

Food safety and the agricultural (Ag) industry walk hand in hand, but how much of the Ag side do we really know and understand? I can honestly say I am in the camp of not knowing much at all so this has been an enlightening journey for me. A word of warning though: as always, it is best to do your own research and make informed decisions on your own. Don’t just listen to what others say, find out for yourself.

For the purpose of this discussion (if you haven’t picked up on it) is Ag myths. There are a lot of them. I want us to look at a few of them, look at some facts that can either prove or dispel these myths, and maybe understand where these came from. If along the way we learn a thing or two, all the better. I know I did.

Myth: Farmers are Rich

According to the USDA, farmers may make more on average than the non-farm household but there are factors not usually considered by the general public. As a non-farmer I was blown away by the simple money facts concerning the equipment it takes to run a farm. How does a car payment compare to the payment of a half-a-million dollar combine? Along with all the other machines and equipment, farmers pay more for these necessities then we are aware of. Yes, there are farmers who are well-off financially but the majority of it for the love of what they do. There is a life lesson in there somewhere.

Myth: Pesticides are Killing Us

I refer to pesticides as a necessary evil. Yes, there is an issue but not as much as some would lead you to believe. And the alternative is a food shortage that would lead to millions going hungry. Looking to official reports as well as personal opinions, we can see pesticides are not to a level where eating farm-grown foods will harm the normal consumer. A report in the Journal of Toxicology, Carl Winter summarizes the same: yes, there are levels of pesticides in some food we consume but “the actual risk is tiny.”

One of the fallacies of non-scientific reporting is not understanding levels of pesticides in produce so how can we compare that to safety levels? Mr. Winter uses a three-pillar system which includes: how much are we really getting in our food, how much of a particular food are we eating, and how bad is the amount ingested. This sound logic helps us understand our food is safer than we are lead to believe.

Speaking of doing more research on this important subject, I would ask you to start here. This farming blog not only has a lot of information on pesticides, but can be used as a launching point for further reading.

Myth: Brown Eggs are More Nutritious

The truth is, the color of the shell has to do with the bread of chicken laying the egg. The North Carolina Egg Association (yes that is a real thing) states “The color of the shell is only determined by the breed of the chicken … sometimes brown eggs cost more, but that’s usually because breeds that lay brown eggs tend to be larger and therefore consume more feed.”

Again, I never knew this was a thing. I love learning new things! I hope you do as well.

Myth: Larger Farms are What Feed the World

For this myth, we turn to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the facts. A report done four years ago states that nine out of ten farms are family farms. The FAO estimated that three-quarters of farms producing produce for the world are smaller than 2.5 acres. These family owned farms not only feed themselves but supply others products as well.

“Family farms produce about 80 percent of the world’s food. Their prevalence and output mean they ‘are vital to the solution of the hunger problem’ afflicting more than 800 million people.” The push for policies to protect the smaller farmer are still being reformed and set to the front of the world’s minds.

The next time you meet a family farmer or maybe talk to one you already know, thank them for what they do.

Myth: Brown Cows Produce Chocolate Milk

Wait. What? I must admit, I have used this as a silly joke in the past, as I am sure some of you have. But did you know this was actually a myth people believe? Most of us adults understand how ridiculous this idea is. Farmers use this myth as a way to speak to the silly way non-farmers spread rumors as truth.

We know cows produce white milk and chocolate is added later to make the most delicious drink known to mankind. The point here is to not always believe what you hear. This myth should make you laugh, but think about the ramifications: spreading false information is never a good idea.

In this short, but (hopefully) informative talk, I’ve given just a small sample of Agricultural myths. Trust me, there a more out there. It has always been my stance here to cause you to think outside the box, do more research, and think for yourselves. I am no professional. I do however have a love for food safety and a desire to learn all I can. So read up on our wonderful agriculture families and what they bring to us. Take the time to thank them for their hard work too.

By: Dwight Spencer, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)