We live in the Age of Information. Twenty-four hour news channels, Twitter, the internet, and various forms of social media are prevalent. Many argue, and correctly, that having instant platforms for information and instant access to information is a good thing. However, there is a downside – a lack of vetting of what is presented as data and fact. In the “Good Old Days” news outlets took great pains to verify facts and researchers needed to have articles reviewed by peers for the veracity of the methods used, the analysis of the data, and the conclusions made. While this still happens, a great majority of what is available publically hasn’t been through this vetting process or the information has been cherry picked and twisted. This is definitely a problem with the deluge of information regarding agriculture.
The purpose of this column isn’t to persuade anyone to accept a given point of view but to have us all take the time to consider sources of information, critically examine the facts, and draw our own conclusions. Let’s consider a few examples.
• High fructose corn syrup or corn sugar is an extreme health hazard but “regular” sugar is okay. If you take time to examine the facts, the problem isn’t fructose per say but over consumption. While fructose is a sugar, unlike other sugars (sucrose), it is metabolized by the liver, not the pancreas with insulin. Overconsumption does lead to problems according to research but in the U.S. the overconsumption of sugars period is the problem, especially in soft drink form. Moderation is the key as our bodies did not evolve to ingest large amounts of sugar period.
• Agricultural producers in Kansas pay little in taxes. While there are accommodations in the tax code to help agriculture, producers do pay taxes. The easiest way to address this issue is for you to speak with several farmers.
• GMO crops pose a health risk to consumers. Meta-analysis of thousands of studies have found absolutely no results to indicate any health problems associated with the consumption of GMO foods. The few studies purporting this have been debunked and many withdrawn.
• Organic foods are safer and healthier than conventionally produced foods. First, properly produced conventional foods are as safe or in some cases even safer than organically produced foods according to research and statistical records. Food processing rigorously following proper HAACP plans are safe. The reality is we have the safest food supply we have ever had. There have been serious foodborne illness outbreaks with both production methods when proper procedures aren’t followed. As far as healthier goes, the data indicate proper handling, storage, processing and preparation is the deciding factor in the health/nutritional quality of foods not organic vs. conventional.
Some of you may agree with the above or vehemently disagree. Hopefully this causes you to do some research, check the sources and develop your own informed opinion.