Stop Spewing Myths About Grain and Health, say Ontario Farmers

Sarah Foster 2012

owenI think every farmer is tired of reading about activists saying agriculture is making Canadians unhealthy, especially when the opposite is true. From what I read and hear, it’s sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary choices that are leading to alarming rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, not the crops and livestock that ultimately become part of a balanced diet.

The fledgling Healthy Grains Institute is set up to counter some of the accusations. This year-old initiative is described as an authoritative group of leading scientists and health practitioners, committed to providing science-based information to Canadians about the benefits of whole grains.

Earlier this week, it got a big boost when the Grain Farmers of Ontario, one of the province’s leading commodity groups representing 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers, announced it was becoming a member.

That’s a plus for both organizations.

Joining the institute aligns with the grain farmers’ own thinking about having solid facts and information available to tackle grain-based food misconceptions, says Nicole Mackellar, Market Development at Grain Farmers of Ontario.

“Working with scientific advisors and registered dieticians across Canada gives us unprecedented insight to the perceptions of grains, while also understanding the nutritional benefits,” she says.

And for the institute’s part, it gets added credibility and connectivity with Ontario’s largest commodity organization, covering five million acres of farmland in the province.

As well, Ontario is the heart of Canada’s food processing industry, where a lot of criticism about grains is aimed.

The connection between the grain farmers and the institute is the kind of real action agriculture needs. Rhetoric surrounding grains and processing is becoming increasingly popular — witness the meteoric rise of the self-help book, Wheat Belly. Obesity-panicked societies are intensifying their search for sources of their many illnesses, and grain is in their sights. Farmers can’t be left all alone to explain or defend their crops’ nutritional benefits, or be held solely responsible for accounting for what happens to those crops once they leave their farms.

The best explanations to complicated nutrition questions have understandable, research-based positions. In that light, let’s anticipate clear, high-profile, real talk from the institute about grain. Let’s see proactive measures that kill grain myths at the ugly larvae stage, before they become the beautiful-looking butterflies that people just can’t resist. That’s real action, too.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as

@theurbancowboy

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One Comment

Charlene

So true! We are in such a hurry to blame someone, or something else for our troubles. I called in to a radio program discussing wheat belly one time because what people said disgusted me with how misinformed it was. I told them I have a “wheat belly” too, because I eat too much, not because of what I eat (meaning wheat containing products). We are living longer and healthier lives than ever before in the history of society and still are unsatisfied. Talk about “first world” problems!

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