PESTICIDES ARE NOT REGULATED – FALSE!

We have a surprise for you! The crop protection industry works in concert with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal and state regulatory agencies to bring products to market after a thorough evaluation and approval process.

EPA regulates pesticide use pursuant to the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Before a pesticide can be sold to farmers, pesticide manufacturers must demonstrate that the pesticide will not result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and a crop may not be treated with a pesticide unless EPA has specifically approved the pesticide for use on that crop.

Federal law ensures that any pesticide residues on your food are safe for you and your family. The process of gaining pre-market approval or “registering” a new pesticide product is intentionally rigorous, and it takes up to a decade before a new product is available to growers. As companies register new products, EPA requires them to submit more than 1,000 pages of scientific data that evaluate any potential product risk for the Agency to review.

Since 1959, Congress has updated pesticide laws multiple times and currently mandates that EPA re-review registered products at least every 15 years to make sure they meet current scientific and regulatory standards. In addition, manufacturers spend a great deal of resources ensuring the continued agronomic value of their products.

Source: http://giveacrop.org/myth-vs-fact/ 

FARMERS DON’T SPRAY A LOT OF CHEMICALS …

If you’re worried about the chemicals or pesticides in your food, Sarah, a farmer from North Dakota can ease your mind.

In this video, she teaches us that farmers are applying chemicals equaling no more than a cup of coffee to their fields that are about the size of a football field. She also explains that the technology farmers use today allows them to control the size of the droplets of pesticides they apply and that they can apply varying amounts to the field – depending on each section’s need – down to the square inch.

Feel better? If not, ask questions in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

YOU’VE GOT A NASTY BUG ON YOUR HANDS

This is definitely funny, and we love the way that CropLife America makes using crop protection funny, but it’s a serious issue too.

My son learned about using pesticides this year with his 4-H flower gardening project. Asian beetles were eating his geraniums until we got the trusty old Seven from the garage and sprinkled some all over his flowers, protecting his hard work for the coming county fair.

The same is true for farmers and their crops, except more is on the line. If they don’t use pesticides to protect their crops from bugs, diseases, and weeds, their crop could fail. And without an income for the year, the future of the family farm is in jeopardy.

Crop protection is sorely needed. Yes, the idea of pesticides is a scary one for some people, but farmers use them safely and each pesticide is thoroughly tested before it is approved for use.

Stay tuned for more on crop protection the rest of this week!

ORGANIC VS CONVENTIONAL FARMING – WHAT’S THE SAME, WHAT’S DIFFERENT?

[Republished from Illinois Farm Families]

Organic versus conventional – it’s a highly debated topic. As a farmer who has employed both methods, perhaps I can offer a valuable point of view to help you make the best choice for you and your family.

What’s the same?

  • Pesticides – There are pesticides approved for use in both types of farming. Farmers use these to protect their crops from bugs and disease.
  • Soil health – Farmers use a variety of tools and practices to maintain soil and water health on farms of every shape and size.
  • Sustainability – All farmers think about sustainability. The tools farmers can use vary slightly between conventional and organic, but the desired result is the same.
  • Farmers care – We all care about growing safe food for our families and preserving our land for years to come.
  • Safety – Whether or not you’re reaching for an “organic” label at the store, the food you’re eating is safe. Furthermore, research shows very little difference between the nutritional value of organic and conventionally grown foods.

What’s different?

  • Pesticides – While there are approved pesticides for use in both types of farming, pesticides used on organic farms must be naturally derived whereas conventional farms can use synthetic pesticides.
  • GMOs – Genetically modified crops are not allowed in organic farming. GMOs can be grown in our conventional fields and help us avoid using pesticides among other benefits.
  • Cost – But you already knew that. Generally speaking, certified organic food costs more.
  • So, yes, there are some differences between conventional and organic farming, but there isn’t necessarily a “right” and a “wrong” way to farm. It all comes down to what is best for each individual farmer and their land. In my case, I’m comfortable growing both and I feed both to my family. I’m making what I believe are the best choices and I encourage you to do the same..

TRENT SANDERSON

Trent farms with his family in northern Illinois. He also enjoys learning and educating other farmers about the environmental benefits of cover crops. He lives on the farm with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son Owen. 

AG-IFY YOUR HEALTH CLASS LESSON

It’s pretty simple to incorporate another subject into whatever lesson you are teaching. We do it all the time in agriculture education without even thinking about it. For example, in a BSAA (biological science applications in agriculture) class we practice surveying the lay of the land which includes being able to calculate slope, something that is learned in a math class. In an introduction to agriculture class we learn about the dust bowl which was caused in part by poor agricultural practices and without even thinking about it, we are incorporating a history lesson into an agriculture class.

As an agriculture education major who is currently student teaching, this seems like no big deal to me. I incorporate different subject areas into my lessons every single day, but I think it’s pretty rare to see agriculture incorporated into another subject’s lessons. So let’s talk about a recent experience I had that I know would have been one of the best ways to incorporate agriculture into a different classroom setting.

10-17-16organic-labelMy older sister is a high school and junior high health and physical education teacher. At a family dinner recently, she was talking about how she was currently teaching nutrition in her health class and was having students ask questions about whether organic food is better than non-organic and other topics of the such. As soon as she said this, a light clicked on in my head and I realized that would have been a perfect time to incorporate an agriculture-based lesson on teaching students to understand where their food comes from.

To incorporate this into her lesson, she could simply start the class out by getting a basic understanding of the class and what they know and believe. To do this, she could start out by asking students if they know where their food comes from. If the students understand that their food is grown by a farmer and doesn’t just appear in a grocery store, then she could move on to asking if they know how the food is grown or what it takes to grow a plant? 10-17-16my_plate_logoOn the Illinois Ag in the Classroom website there is My Plate activity that shows not only the correct portion sizes of food, but you can also click on each of the portions on the plate and learn how that food is grown and also do some activities with each food group. After explaining to the students how food is grown, she could go into a discussion of asking students who choose to eat organic food and why they choose to do so. She could then proceed to ask students what they believe some of the current buzz words and phrases me. One topic she could discuss is that of Subway’s current promotion of “antibiotic-free meat.” This marketing scheme actually doesn’t even make any sense as it is illegal for farmers to sell any type of meat or animal food product that has any trace of antibiotics. If this is a topic that she feels uncomfortable teaching, she could have students use their devices to go to the Illinois Farm Families where they can learn what all these buzzwords mean, actually meet the people who grow their food, and even personally ask questions to farmers and growers around Illinois.

With all of the co-teaching and diversity within teaching happening right now, don’t forget to try to incorporate in the area that feeds, clothes, and fuels you and your students everyday!

ellen-youngEllen Young
Illinois State University

WHEN GMO AND ORGANIC APPEAR IN THE SAME SENTENCE

What do Organic and GMO have in common?

Organic and GMO have at least one thing in common, and that is they both use Bacillus thuringiensis, also known as bT.

What’s the significance of bT?

In its simplest form, bT is a naturally occurring bacteria creating a protein that makes insects sick when they eat it. Therefore, bT is used for crops to kill off insects (as a pesticide), however it is completely safe for human consumption and safe for our environment.

Why is bT safe for humans and not insects?

10-10-16url1When an insect eats this bT protein, it messes with their digestion/absorption of food and causes them to die off. However, bT is completely safe for human consumption and safe for our environment. Sort of like comparing the diets of cows and humans… if humans were to eat a bunch of grass like cows do, then it would cause serious digestive issues and other health risks. However, cows are perfectly healthy when they eat grass because their systems are made to consume it!

How is bT used?

BT is widely used in both Organic farming and GMO farming as a natural pesticide. However, the process in which it is used is where it differentiates. Organic farmers use bT bacteria as a spray onto their crops, whereas GMO farmers use the DNA from the bacteria that produces the protein that insects can’t eat which is then put into the DNA of the GMO plant so that the plant also produces the protein that insects can’t eat. This gene has been engineered to work in plants and is very effective in preventing insect damage without the pesticide sprays.

GMO is the way to go!

10-10-16cars-gmos_xvfxx5_rbsw23GMOs are a necessity for farmers and for the environment! In the United States alone, the majority of corn, soybeans, and cotton have been engineered in the soil of bT, which can also be considered a transgenic crop. This boom has led to more food production and lower prices for consumers. Basically, GMOs produce more with less! Altogether, genetic modification boosts crop yields by 21% and cuts pesticides by 37%. Due to this increase in yield, we get to save on land, therefore protecting the Earth more! With over 15 years of transgenic crops, there has never been a health danger.

10-10-16keep-calm-gmo-safeSo what’s the point?

GMO’s use the same protein pesticide that the organic farmers use to control specific insects. This pesticide is in no way harmful to humans or the environment. The only difference is the way it is applied. Organic sprays it on their crops, GMO farmers put it in the soil. GMO crops allow farmers to use less pesticides!

 

katie-roustio
Katie Roustio
University of Illinois

FIVE FARM WOMEN TO WATCH

Move out of the way gentleman. Here come the ladies in agriculture. These five farm women are making waves in the “agvocation” of agriculture by sharing their personal experiences and daily lives with others on social media. Between Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, these ladies in ag are helping tell their story about what farm life is like as mothers, wives, managers, farmers, and agvocates.

On Instagram you can check out two women from very different aspects of farming. Neither one is better than the other but both have beautiful photos that immediately capture your interest, making you wander… “Is it really that beautiful?”

9-29-16kristin-instagramKristin Reese – @localfarmmom

Kristin Reese is a young mom of two who lives on a farm in Ohio where her and her husband raise and show sheep. However, they also raise other livestock and grain. Through posts about her life she explains production agriculture in easy-to-understand terms that help those who don’t have a farm background understand. You can check out more of how Kristin promotes and discusses ag on her Instagram account localfarmmom.

9-29-16joneve-instagramJoneve Murphy – @farmersroots

Offering an alternative approach to ag, farmersroots Instagram Joneve Murphy is an organic farmer who travels the world capturing organic food production through a lens that helps tell a story with magnificent photos. Her latest adventures in Nicaragua offer an insight into agriculture many aren’t able to experience.

While Instagram provides a beautiful backdrop to conversations about ag, Twitter is where those conversations can get started and grow.

9-29-16twitter-micheleMichele Payn-Knoper -@mpaynspeaker

Twitter Ag Queen Michele Payn-Knoper is the creator of the popular hash tag #agchat. Michele encourages everyone in the industry to share their story, and offers opportunities for people of all backgrounds to come together and to discuss ag topics ranging from nutrition to organic farming in #agchats. This plays a huge part in helping connect the gap between producer and consumer.

The other platform women use is Facebook — with more than one billion people using Facebook, women agvocates are able to help teach moms and women across the world about what their farm life is like.

9-29-16dairy-carrieDairy Carrie – @DairyCarrie

In 2011, Dairy Carrie started sharing her journey of what life was like on her dairy farm in Wisconsin with her husband and their 100 dairy cows. Carrie shares on her Facebook page and website about everything dairy but also about ag in general. She says her “brain to mouth filter is the smallest known to mankind,” but this plays to her advantage as her honesty helps give the transparency needed in today’s agricultural production.

9-29-16the-farmers-wifeThe Farmer’s Wifee – @StaufferDairy

The second woman to watch on Facebook is The Farmer’s Wifee. Krista is a mom and first-generation dairy farmer with her husband in Washington with three kids and 150 dairy cows.  She writes her own blog about daily life, shares facts about her industry, and shares articles that offer insight and knowledge for a range of ag topics for moms everywhere.

These women know how to make an impact with words. Thanks to them, many people are being educated while the women agvocate using daily life experiences. Different backgrounds, different parts of the ag industry, but all helpful in making a difference.

maxley_jaylynnJaylynn Maxley
University of Illinois

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FOOD LABELS

Going to the grocery store can be an overwhelming experience, especially when it seems like new labels are appearing on products all the time. It is nearly impossible for a consumer to keep up with meanings of food labels. Wading through the Internet for an accurate answer is often a daunting task that quickly results in a headache and confusion. The Ultimate Guide to Food Label’s goal is to take the frustration out of deciphering food labels by presenting information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an understandable format.

Quick Guide to Common Food Labels

Organic: If only it were just that simple! There are multiple organic labels, and they all have a different meaning. Key information from the USDA is highlighted below, but check out this link for more information!

  •  100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, any processing aids must be organic, and product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel. These products may include the USDA organic seal and/or 100% organic claim.
  • 9-8-16organic-food-labelsOrganic: All agricultural ingredients must be certified organic, except those specified on the National List. Non-organic ingredients from the National List can only make up 5% of the non-organic content, excluding salt and water. Product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel. These products may include USDA organic seal and/or organic claim and organic ingredients must be identified.
  • Made with Organic: 70% of the product must be made with certified organic ingredients. Remaining agricultural products are not required to be organically produced, but they cannot be produced using methods that have not been approved. As mentioned above, non-agricultural products must be allowed on the National List. The certifying agent must be named on the information panel of the product label. These products may state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients),” but they cannot include the USDA organic seal, represent the final product as organic or state “made with organic ingredients.” The organic ingredients must be identified with an asterisk or other mark.

Natural: According the USDA, for food to be labeled as natural it cannot contain artificial ingredients or preservatives. The ingredients can only be minimally processed. Foods labeled as natural can contain antibiotics and growth hormones. An application must be submitted for foods labeled, as natural, however no inspections occur and producers do not have to be certified.

Free Range/Cage Free: Applications and certification are not required for products to be labeled as Free Range. However, producers must be able to “demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” More meat and poultry labeling terms are defined by the USDA here.

Grass Fed: The USDA no longer defines this term. However, grass-fed animals are typically raised in pastures or on ranges where they are allowed to graze, instead of in feedlots. Read more about the USDA’s recent decision to get rid of their grass-fed definition here.

9-8-16glutenGluten Free: The FDA has this to say about products labeled as gluten-free:  “Gluten-free” is a voluntary claim that manufacturers may elect to use in the labeling of their foods. However, manufacturers that label their foods “gluten-free” are accountable for using the claim in a truthful and non-misleading manner and for complying with all requirements established by the regulation and enforced by FDA. Gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in wheat, rye, and barley.  Read more about gluten and the labeling of gluten-free products here.

Antibiotic Free: According to the USDA, this term may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if “sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.” All chickens are antibiotic free because no antibiotic residue is present due to withdrawal periods and other closely monitored requirements.

No Hormones Added:

  • 9-8-16no-hormones-addedPork and Poultry: No artificial or added hormones are used in any poultry or hogs in the United States because of regulations from the FDA prohibiting such actions. According to the USDA, “The claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
  • Beef:  “No hormones administered” may be approved for use on the labeling of beef products if “sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.”

Other Resources

For comprehensive information on everything from additives in meat and poultry products to allergies and food safety, check out the USDA’s Food Labeling Fact Sheets.

Ever wonder what the difference between health claims, nutrient content claims, and structure/function claims are? Check out the FDA’s in depth explanation here.

We’ve all seen nutrition labels on countless products, and while it is great to have access to the numbers, they are relatively useless without an understanding of what those numbers and percentages actually mean. The FDA breaks down nutrition labels here.

christy_allenChristy Allen
University of Illinois