Sitting at the Michigan Wheat Program’s first annual meeting, I have once again refreshed my appreciation for those who produce the food I purchase at a reasonable price and enjoy whenever I feel like eating.
The room was overflowing with men and women who were listening and participating as professionals from every area of the wheat industry offering advice, research information and wheat dos and don’ts.
Why does witnessing this dedication to education amaze me? Because nearly all the people in attendance are business owners who have gone through the trials and tribulations of producing food for consumers. They are still learning new techniques to make themselves more profitable, while producing something that is safe, appealing and will work for the average consumer.
Wheat growers don’t have the benefits of genetically modified technology – yet – so they don’t have a group of GMO haters dogging their industry, but they do have those who are troubled by wheat gluten and those who think flour is as poisonous as arsenic.
And yet, instead of lying down and letting the anti-flour faction walk all over them like a doormat, they continue to try to produce the best product available, because they know there are plenty of people in this nation who appreciate their products.
And, their exports are supporting good nutrition in countries where people are wondering where their next meal is coming from, and appreciate every morsel of food they consume, whether it contains flour or gluten or not.
Near the entrance to the room, there was a table full of Kellogg’s cereal and Jiffy corn muffin mix for everyone to take home. As I sat and looked at all that cereal, I thought about what would be on that table if it weren’t for these wheat growers.
What would millions of children be eating before they head off to school, or what would they eat at school, for that matter? What would millions of people be eating for their midnight snack? What would litter the backseat of a minivan if we didn’t have wheat growers so we could have Cheerios?
The bottom line is, their job isn’t easy. They, like so many other facets of agriculture, have their share of false claims facing their industry. For instance, that gluten-free diets are good for weight reduction or maintenance. The reality is that avoiding gluten, for those without an intolerance, can lead to a nutrient deficiency because of the elimination of an important, widely available set of foods, including bread, pasta and many cereals. Those nutrient deficiencies may include iron, other minerals and B vitamins.
In addition, gluten-free foods can be more expensive and are often higher in calories, which may lead to weight gain, and other grains not containing gluten have no caloric advantage over wheat. Carbohydrates and proteins each have 4 calories per gram.
Another false claim they are up against is that GMO wheat could be the cause of an increase in the incidence of celiac sprue. But the truth is, GMO wheat is not even present in the food stream and, therefore, cannot cause this disease. Scientists are still working on GMO technology for wheat.
They came, they participated, they learned – and they went back to their farms to figure out what they could implement on their operations. Farmers are no slouches; they are an amazing bunch whose livelihood is what keeps us well fed.
Kudos to you!
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.