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Commentary: Beware of False Syllogisms


A syllogism is when two statements are put together to prove a conclusion. A faulty syllogism is when two statements are used to prove a point that is simply not true.  For example, a syllogism would be: Birds can fly; a robin is a bird; thus a robin can fly. A faulty syllogism would be:  Jane is a student; students like to party; this, Jane likes to party.  A careful reading of what passes for analysis today will reveal just how prevalent faulty syllogisms are used to reach all sorts of conclusions that are, in fact, wrong.

Allen County Farm Bureau President Roger Hadley recently drew my attention to an article that claimed that the use of glyphosate on wheat was the cause of wheat allergies in people.  Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist, writing for the REALfarmacy web site, claims that the reason so many people are allergic to wheat is because farmers spray wheat with Roundup, “The effects of deadly glyphosate on your biology are so insidious that lack of symptoms today means literally nothing.” She goes on to say, “Even if you think you have no trouble digesting wheat, it is still very wise to avoid conventional wheat as much as possible in your diet!”  The only proof she offers for such definitive conclusion is: Farmers spray Roundup on wheat; Roundup is bad; thus eating wheat is bad.

Sarah begins her article by expressing her conviction that the rise in dietary problems with gluten was due to the fact that U.S. wheat farmers were secretly using GMO wheat varieties. She expresses relief that this is not the case and gleefully adopts the conviction that it is the use of glyphosate in wheat production that is the cause, “The good news is that the reason wheat has become so toxic in the United States is not because it is secretly GMO as I had feared (thank goodness!).The bad news is that the problem lies with the manner in which wheat is harvested by conventional wheat farmers.” She then trots out data that shows many wheat farmers spray glyphosate on wheat before harvest. She then concludes, with no proof, that this practice is the cause of dietary problems in some people. This practice may not be as wide spread as asserted by Sarah but that is beside the point.

This kind of logic is typical of food fear mongers.  With the overwhelming evidence that biotechnology poses no health risk, these dietary dummkopfs are turning to Roundup as the cause for everything from cancer to autism to gluten allergies. Can’t find a cause for your disease du jour? Just blame Roundup! I mean, California has banned it as a carcinogen, so why not?

There are a couple of facts about wheat that Sarah did not factor into her conclusion. Since the year 2000, U.S. wheat consumption has been declining, yet the incidence of gluten intolerance has been on the rise. Wheat products, like breads, cakes, cookies, and pastas, are made from different kinds of wheat, from different parts of the country, and from different farms with different production practices.  The U.S. is not the major world producer of wheat and imports wheat from the EU and other nations where glyphosate is not used. Wheat actually makes up a relatively small part of many baked goods. For example a loaf of bread only contains 16 ounces of wheat. One bushel of wheat can produce 45 boxes of wheat breakfast cereal. Finally, the fact that the USDA and the FDA have approved the use of glyphosate in wheat production as safe should be considered.

The argument against the use of Roundup in other crops is analogous to those against wheat. These addlepated advocates equate molecules of glyphosate to Uranium-235, which has a half-life of over 700 million years.  Let one molecule of Roundup touch a plant, and it contaminates everything that plant or any part of that plant touches.  This kind of logic is not supported by science and needs to be called out for what it is: false.

Gluten issues are very real for many people, but don’t let quacksalvers like Sarah deceive you with simplistic, false syllogisms based on preconceived prejudices and faulty logic.

By Gary Truitt