Wednesday, August 10, 2022

No, We Don’t Raise Toxic Wheat


Over the weekend, a blog post “The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic” went viral claiming a common wheat harvest protocol of “drenching wheat fields with Roundup” was the real reason people were getting sick from eating wheat.  Thousands of people shared the blog post all over Facebook and Twitter, blindsiding wheat growers. 


According to the post :  

Common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest 

Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosphate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980.  It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.


Common wheat harvest protocol?  

While Roundup is approved for pre-harvest use, it is rarely used in Montana.   There are no specific stats for how many farmers apply roundup pre-harvest as it isn’t officially tracked at this time.  However, Andy Taylor of Taylor Aviation, who handles aerial herbicide application for most of the Golden Triangle, could account for approximately 3000 acres they treated pre-harvest with Roundup out of area encompassing around 900,000 acres of wheat for the summer of 2014.  Arlene Rice with Hi-Line Chemical, knew of 150 acres that had been treated pre-harvest out of 250,000 acres.  With 45{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086} of Montana’s wheat crop grown in the Golden Triangle, these stats give a pretty good account that pre-harvest application of Roundup isn’t exactly a common practice when the total is less than 01{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086}.  Stats for other areas of Montana were reporting similar results or even less.  Just how much wheat does Montana account for?  According to the Montana Agricultural Statistics, Montana was ranked 3rd in the nation in 2013 for total wheat production with 203 million bushels, farmed on 5.2 million acres.  

The Toxic Wheat post bases its evidence that pre-harvest Roundup application is a common practice on a USDA report.  However, the report is a 2012 Agricultural Chemical Use Survey and doesn’t even list pre-harvest application as one of the herbicide uses that were tracked. The report simply tracked herbicide usage for “The period starting immediately after harvest of the previous year’s crop and ending at harvest of the current year’s crop.”  Nor was glyphosate even listed as one of the top herbicides for winter or spring wheat.  Only durum wheat was showing usage on 45{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086} of the acres planted.  Check out the report HERE.  

Another report used to back up the Toxic Wheat theory is an 2008 publication from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board in England discussing the pre-harvest glyphosate application trials and a great chart showing glyphosate residue in bread decreasing.  The report does not list the practice as common and in several places lists where the trials showed no benefits from the practice.  Check out the report HERE.

Both Nurse Loves a Farmer and the Prairie Californian put together two excellent blog posts explaining how pre-harvest application of Roundup works, why they use it on their farms, and what the risks are.  Be sure to check out their posts HERE and HERE.  

It is vital to get out the facts, even if it is an uphill battle.  Pseudoscience reports like Toxic Wheat get spread rapidly around the internet and can influence consumer attitudes and behavior.  Agriculture practices in particular have been under attack from many consumer groups and a lack of good information only fuels the fire.  According to Jayson O’Neill, the Public Information Specialist from the Montana Department of Agriculture, the lesson for the ag industry has been the importance of engaging with the public and getting their message out.  People are thinking more about their food and how it is produced.  Ignoring controversy or misinformation only allows it to spread unchecked.



Jami Howell

Northern Ag Network

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