Today’s guest is the farm babe Michelle Miller. I know you guys loved that previous episode where we dove into a lot of different myth-busting of conventional versus organic farming. So, let’s get into it.
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Michelle Miller is a genius! She is a big agricultural nerd, influencer, and educator.
Why shouldn’t we be fearing GMOs?
GMO means genetically modified organism. Everything we eat has been modified in some way, there’s really no such thing as natural foods. When you look at GMOs that relate specifically to plant breeding methods, like transgenic or cisgenic, there’s many different ways that scientists can genetically modify plants.
Farmers choose to plant corn and soybean because they allow farmers to use no more insecticides or safer herbicides and less tillage. Doing it allows you to be more environmentally friendly, while using less pesticides in the process.
There are actually only 10 GMO crops commercially available in the US. GMOs tend to be your corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa. So your fresh produce, there’s a very small percentage of it that would actually be considered a GMO. So apples, potatoes, summer squash, those would have a GMO variety. Other than that, pretty much all of your food is still technically considered non-GMO.
A lot of times that label is put on products where there’s no GMO alternative. But the problem with that label is the non-GMO project label spreads a lot of misinformation about farming, and is really just a marketing ploy.
Monsanto was a seed and chemical company that got bought out by Bayer. They became a Seed Company in the 90’s. They used to be a big chemical company, they created Agent Orange. But over time, they got bought out and kept the old name, but weren’t a chemical company although people kept associating them with that.
Organic versus Non-Organic Farming and Pesticide Use
Pesticides are so well regulated and tested. When farmers use them, we have to go through certifications, licenses, trainings… You have to really know what you’re doing and understand the label.
No farmer wants to use pesticides; they are so expensive, they’re time consuming to use. But at the end of the day, crops need to be protected. It is the farmers jobs to protect these crops. The dosage used is so very minimal – you’re looking at less than 2 pop cans on an area larger than a football field 1 or 2 days in an entire year.
A lot of times people think organic means pesticide free – but that is just not true, they just have to use a naturally-derived type of pesticide. Still, natural doesn’t mean anything in terms of toxicity. Again, just like with non-GMO, it is very based in marketing.
There are farmers that do organic practices that can do things a little bit differently. Yes, sometimes they’re using more biological methods. But the thing is, that research is found and solved – non-organic farms can do the exact same practices. If you compare, there’s really no difference other than the fact that they paid to have a certification and they might charge more money to the consumer.
Most produce gets washed before it leaves the farm, and then as the consumer, you know you should be washing your produce. Even if there were high pesticide levels, you’re still looking at parts per billion. Check out safefruitsandveggies.com, and you can put in your weight to see how much of something you’d have to eat for pesticide residues to affect you – it’s always an asinine amount.
Local versus Non-local farming
It’s nice to know where your food comes from – if you can tour a farm and learn where it comes from, and know the farmers behind it. When you’re buying in a grocery store, it could come from all over the place. But when you’re buying local, you’re supporting that farm, you know exactly what the practices are.
Knowing where it comes from and buying in season is important for supporting your community.
What does Michelle want the public to know about farming and its impact on our food in our health?
One of her favorite myths to bust is the myth behind big agriculture.
A lot of times people think big farms are bad farms. She wants people to know that whether you’re buying the most expensive or the cheapest or whatever, all of our food is very well regulated.
Some of the biggest farms have the best technology and the best care. Many of these people working on these farms have phD’s and masters degrees. Feel comfortable knowing that these animals are very well taken care of and that there is a lot of science that goes into our food.
The most frustrating thing that Michelle debunks all the time
Michelle hates the expression factory farm. It drives her crazy because if you look at the statistics, 98% of farms in the US are family farms.
She used to fear this herself, and a lot of the negative publicity surrounding animal agriculture tends to come from vegan animal rights activist groups. We always want to share the bad news, the sad news, the shocking news, and the stuff goes viral, but it’s usually not an accurate portrayal.
But when you start these so-called factory farms, you realize the science and evidence and the farmers behind it that care so much, just because a farm looks different, that doesn’t mean the farmer’s values have changed. It’s just science and technology allow farms today to do a lot more with a lot less.
How does hormones in our food impact our own hormones?
All of our food naturally contains hormones in some way, shape, or form. But interestingly enough, did you know that there’s actually no such thing as added hormones in your dairy, pork, or poultry?
When you buy a package of chicken, and it says no added hormones or steroids, there is an asterisk on there that says federal law strictly prohibits the use of hormones in poultry. So again, a lot of this is just marketing and misinformation. It’s just hype to sell products. That’s what the food companies want, using fear based marketing, for you to think the other stuff is pumped full of hormones. But that’s not even true.
Now, hormones can be used on beef cattle, but there is a fraction of a billionth of a gram difference. Let’s say for example, you had a six-ounce steak that had a hormone and one that did not, there would be a point six nanogram difference, like a fraction of a billionth of a gram.
So, unless you’re eating 16,000 pounds of beef per day, you’re not going to affect your hormones. There is no nutritional difference between anything when it comes to that realm. Michelle doesn’t think the hormone aspect would have a big role to play there.
Dairy science is so specific now, and most farms don’t use rBST anymore. We usually no longer have to worry about cows that can’t produce enough milk, so you actually won’t really see milk that came from cows with rBST.
What excites her to farm?
For Michelle, it’s harvest right now, which is exciting! 2020 has been such a bad year for everything, in general. But we’re still kind of hearing from different parts of the country on farmers that are having good harvests.
We got hit with some storms, but nothing too terrible to affect the farm too much. She’s grateful for that. She’s always looking to the silver lining. Michelle thinks that’s what farmers are good at; finding the sunlight and the rainbow after the storm.