We Need Common Sense to Understand Risk

April 4, 2019 | 5 MIN READ

Global Food

Sustainable Agriculture

We Need Common Sense to Understand Risk

Soil and Crop Management

April 4, 2019 | 5 MIN READ

This post is featured content from Global Farmer Network and was originally published on March 15th, 2019. The author, Ted Sheely, raises lettuce, cotton, tomatoes, onions, pistachios, wine grapes and garlic on a family farm in the California San Joaquin Valley.

If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? As a dad, I may have used that line to get one of my kids to use common sense when considering risk.

But sometimes risk can be blown out of proportion. Perspective helps.

There’s a group in California that wants to ban a tool that I use on my farm to help me battle weeds. They go about it by scaring us about the risk. This time, they’ve taken it to the ridiculous. They have tested to find an infinitesimal trace of glyphosate in beer and wine. Let me introduce perspective.

Alcohol is a known carcinogen. It’s on the list on this web site from the American Cancer Society. That risk is in the category of Group 1 from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international organization renowned for finding almost everything to be a cancer risk. Alcohol falls between Aflatoxin and Aluminum Production on this list.

Alcohol is also on the list from the National Toxicology Program. The American Cancer Society site goes on to explain that things on the list don’t always cause cancer.

Glyphosate is also on the IARC’s list, in a lower group, 2A, falling between Glycidol and working as a hairdresser. There is some controversy as to how glyphosate even got on the list, given all of the studies that have shown it to be perfectly safe. Here’s an article on that investigation.

This whole idea of generating worry about glyphosate is nonsense and driven by an anti-technology agenda. That’s the only thing that explains why people are even driven to test the level of glyphosate in alcohol. What next? Do we test for glyphosate in arsenic and asbestos?

Glyphosate, We Need Common Sense to Understand Risk

We live on our farm and eat what we grow. My grandchildren play in the fields. If I had any concerns about the safety of glyphosate, I wouldn’t use it. At every step, we use this crop-protection product with great care, following the product guidelines and applying only the right amounts. You might use it to take care of your lawn.

This group that’s stoking our fears says the highest level found in their testing was in an amount so small that a 125-lb. adult would have to guzzle more than 300 gallons of wine per day for life to reach this mark. That’s more than a bottle of wine per minute, without sleep.

I like a good chardonnay as much as the next person, but even I know my limits.

The crazy continues. Even at this level, the group tries to assert that heavy drinkers should be cautious. For people who drink that much beer and wine, of course, glyphosate is the least of their worries. Their massive intake of alcohol is much more harmful.

While there’s no excuse for drinking too much, farmers have many reasons for using glyphosate. This product is popular because it’s effective and much safer than some other herbicide options available. It also works well in a no-till farming system that helps to conserve the soil.

In the end, it’s all about healthy crops, whether they’re the hops and grapes that go into our beer and wine or the soybeans that go to feedlots. When our plants fend off weeds, they’re bigger, stronger, and better able to fight disease. They’re also more delicious and affordable.

You know what? I think I’ll drink to that.

Ted Sheely also volunteers as a board member for the Global Farmer Network and is Chairman of the Horizon Growers (pistachios). He has provided leadership to the National Cotton Council, Cotton Incorporated, California Farm Bureau and Westlands Water District. Ted’s long-standing interest and investment in water availability, quality, and use has earned him recognition by the California Water Policy Conference with the Innovative Water Conservation Award. You can email Ted at tsheely@globalfarmernetwork.org