We Need Common Sense to Understand Risk


If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? As a dad, I may have used that line to get one of my kids to use common sense when considering risk.

But sometimes risk can be blown out of proportion. Perspective helps.

There’s a group in California that wants to ban a tool that I use on my farm to help me battle weeds. They go about it by scaring us about the risk. This time, they’ve taken it to the ridiculous. They have tested to find an infinitesimal trace of glyphosate in beer and wine. Let me introduce perspective.

Alcohol is a known carcinogen. It’s on the list on this web site from the American Cancer Society. That risk is in the category of Group 1 from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international organization renowned for finding almost everything to be a cancer risk. Alcohol falls between Aflatoxin and Aluminum Production on this list.

Alcohol is also on the list from the National Toxicology Program. The American Cancer Society site goes on to explain that things on the list don’t always cause cancer.

Glyphosate is also on the IARC’s list, in a lower group, 2A, falling between Glycidol and working as a hairdresser. There is some controversy as to how glyphosate even got on the list, given all of the studies that have shown it to be perfectly safe. Here’s an article on that investigation.

This whole idea of generating worry about glyphosate is nonsense and driven by an anti-technology agenda. That’s the only thing that explains why people are even driven to test the level of glyphosate in alcohol. What next? Do we test for glyphosate in arsenic and asbestos?

We live on our farm and eat what we grow. My grandchildren play in the fields. If I had any concerns about the safety of glyphosate, I wouldn’t use it. At every step, we use this crop-protection product with great care, following the product guidelines and applying only the right amounts. You might use it to take care of your lawn.

This group that’s stoking our fears says the highest level found in their testing was in an amount so small that a 125-lb. adult would have to guzzle more than 300 gallons of wine per day for life to reach this mark. That’s more than a bottle of wine per minute, without sleep.

I like a good chardonnay as much as the next person, but even I know my limits.

The crazy continues. Even at this level, the group tries to assert that heavy drinkers should be cautious. For people who drink that much beer and wine, of course, glyphosate is the least of their worries. Their massive intake of alcohol is much more harmful.

While there’s no excuse for drinking too much, farmers have many reasons for using glyphosate. This product is popular because it’s effective and much safer than some other herbicide options available. It also works well in a no-till farming system that helps to conserve the soil.

In the end, it’s all about healthy crops, whether they’re the hops and grapes that go into our beer and wine or the soybeans that go to feed lots. When our plants fend off weeds, they’re bigger, stronger, and better able to fight disease. They’re also more delicious and affordable.

You know what? I think I’ll drink to that.



Ted Sheely

Ted Sheely

Ted raises lettuce, cotton, tomatoes, onions, pistachios, wine grapes and garlic on a family farm. Chairman of Horizon Growers (pistachios). Long-standing interest and investment in water availability and quality. Received Innovative Water Conservation Award.

Leave a Reply

2 thoughts on “We Need Common Sense to Understand Risk

  1. I am a retired long time CA PCA. Of course, I agree with everything you say in this piece, Ted, but you’re “preaching to the choir”. I have some time on my hands and have been reading comments on social media about the glyphosate lawsuits. The vast majority of non Ag people believe this nonsense about the unsubstantiated dangers of glyphosate. I don’t know what the answer is. They don’t visit sites like this. They think anyone who supports the use of glyphosate is paid off by corporate America and is a “shill”. True science be damned.

  2. Risk is invitable in Agriculture. One side due to natural climate change, other side use of chemicals on Farm. Although all chemicals cannot considered with alcohal etc., once food to be safty one not cornic and crises to the farmer.
    a simple anlysis is though needed , however it glyco phos or any other chemical as herbiside or pesticide, one had to think on rish of decrease of side effects and alllergy with residuals.