School lunches might not be the perfect sustenance, I don't know. When I was in school the institutionalized food was a weird combination of vague meatoid substances and carbohydrates pushed together into recognizable forms. I think we have come a long way since then, and I'm grateful that many municipalities recognize that many economically challenged families rely on school-based nutrition to feed their children.
Last week I saw a tweet about the horrors of school lunches on Food Chain Radio, a syndicated broadcast by Michael Olson that may be accessed online. The episode hosted perennial wet blanket on science Zen Honeycutt, representing Moms Across America (that Olson slipped and referred to as "Moms Against America"), a group of scientifically distressed moms that search to blame agriculture for their families' health issues.
I engaged Honeycutt in the past on her website. She posted blatantly false data that were absolutely manufactured (claiming for instance that tested corn had no carbon but was alarmingly high in glyphosate, which contains carbon). When I asked questions kindly I was banned from her website. Of course, her responses and the responses of her followers remain.
In this episode Olson allows her to rattle on about how school lunches are full of toxic herbicides and that these "cause" autism to cancer. She made the usual crazy assertions that we know are not consistent with the evidence.
You can read my responses and predict the same-old-same-old tropes that Honeycutt claims. She quotes Seneff, talks about plants "doused" in herbicide, and holds up the half-baked ideas from Don
I gave it a week for the moderator to post it.
Apparently the moderator found science problematic.
I'll post it here. Here is the content deemed unacceptable for Olson's website. If you listen to the episode you can follow along.
As I’m listening I am typing. As a scientist and farmer I have been listening to this, and it bothers me that such false information is given such credence. It is critical that we get this right, and your show has little to match the scientific consensus. Here are a few thoughts as I listen.
1. The crops are not “drenched” in weed killer. Glyphosate active ingredient is applied at 750 ml/acre, about 2 soda cans.
2. Crops are not “infused” with insecticide that harms people. It contains a gene encoding a protein that is toxic to specific insect larvae, not to humans, animals, and non-target insects.
3. Glyphosate is not used on a lot of grains, occasionally depending on weather.
4. If you look at the statements made by Zen Honeycutt over the years you find a record of being wrong about almost everything.
5. how does her son get enteric bacteria in his urine?
6. There is no evidence that glyphosate affects bacteria in the digestive system, it is not present at high enough levels.
7. The testing depends on the kit that is used and the standardization– in most matricies it cannot be accurately detected.
8. Sugar? What is in sucrose from a GE sugar beet that makes it different from non-GE sugar beet? It is sucrose. That’s it. Sucrose.
9. Stephanie Seneff is not a reliable source. Even the anti-GMO movement says she’s out there.
10. Gives a plant AIDS? C’mon. Don Huber wrote to Tom Vilsack in 2011 and claimed a secret organism that was in GE foods. It was total fabrication.
11. Glyphosate is not a great chelator. Although patented that way, patents are broad. Compared to actual chelators like EDTA/EGTA it is not very good. Plus, it is present in parts per billion, whereas most minerals to be chelated (divalent cations) are present at levels several orders of magnitude higher, so they can’t have much effect.
12. Honeycutt has posted and promoted false information before “Stunning Corn Comparison” where the data were absolutely fudged. They were so badly fabricated, and when I inquired she blocked me from the website.
13. Glyphosate has never been shown to be carcinogenic. The data for liver damage and endocrine disruption are thin. Most show no effect. At micro-residue levels present.
14 The experiments that suggest feminization or masculinization use high doses to see these subtle effects.
15 Don Huber—“It will make DDT look like mouthwash” When? It has been used safely for 40 years, with no effect.
16. The Swanson article is a correlation. Purely a correlation. It also overlays with organic food sales. There is no causal effect, and her claim is anecdotal. There are no clinical data to support such claims. If that was true, it would be everywhere. Autism is not a new thing. If you could reverse it with organic food, or avoiding glyphosate, it would be easy to demonstrate clinically.
17. Contained pesticides— how much is there? The dose makes the poison. They can detect a tiny amount and it is far below pharmacological levels but thousands, millions of times.
18. The regulatory bodies like the EPA are extremely rigorous barriers. They rely on independent and company generated data. The IARC mentioned is the one that only accepts published data, and they ignored the largest, best study that shows zero association with glyphosate and cancers. The other examples mentioned in IARC are not statistically significant differences, they are trends at best. That’s in the IARC monograph, and you can compare to the original research.
19. Heavy metals? No idea.
20. Yes, we have traces of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides. These are in tiny levels. Glyphosate is found at parts per trillion—minutes in 32,000 years, parts per billion, seconds in 32 years. The rest of the stuff, who knows. I just don’t trust activists that have lied before. And there is not a lot of hormone in milk and meat. This is what the animals naturally produce, maybe a tiny chip in one ear on some cattle that provide far less hormone than a birth control pill.
21. I completely disagree with gender identity claims. It is not diet related. It is natural variation in humans that is due to how we develop sex organs, and brain development. It is normal and acceptable. Kleinfelter syndrome is a chromosomal segregation disorder, it is rare and not due to “endocrine disruptors”
22. Glyphosate is sprayed on plants, not on soil. Anything sprayed on soil is a waste, and farmers don’t do that. It is a foliar herbicide, it must be sprayed on leaves. Farmers spray the leaves, a little reaches the soil.
23. If you test military food you’ll detect a few parts per billion glyphosate. No question. It goes through the body and shows up in the urine. The levels detected are safe.
The sad part of this is that Honeycutt and her organization are making a sense of risk where none exists. This means parents that believe her will have their kids not eat school lunches. In many cities the school lunches are the best meals they get all day. The artificial risk implied, where none exists, drives parents to push their kids away from school lunches. Then they get nothing, or some alternative that is not as good as the school lunch. It is so disappointing that you listen to a known generator of false information and don’t interview actual scientists or regulators. Then again, they don’t have sensational claims, so the non-alarmist message is not as compelling as, “The sky is falling, kids are being poisoned, and we’re all doomed.” Thanks.
Why does it matter? Many families rely on school lunches to provide nutrition for their kids. As usual, Honeycutt and the well-healed moms of California's suburbs push their scientifically distorted agenda without considering the collateral harm that is imposed on poor families.
When you tell a mom that the school food is poison, she will not allow her child to eat it, and if she has no other choice, the child will go without. The economically challenged will not eat "poison" and instead will foment angry feelings towards a system that would harm children.
Fearful messaging, bad science, scare tactics, and major media have conspired to push Honeycutt's horrific anti-agriculture agenda. Olson's echo chamber is insulated from legitimate scientific criticism, and his listeners were just treated to disinformation that will further affect their views.
Ten years ago Honeycutt pushed false information and doctored numbers. Today she's targeting children, particularly those that don't have parents that prepare lunch at home, or perhaps require a subsidized meal. It is elitist, cruel, and deceptive. Honeycutt should be showered in shame, and Olson as well for enabling and promoting her crusade.