Jane Brody, a long-time health columnist for The New York Times, has undoubtedly written great columns over the years, but her most recent one, published on December 31, 2012, was not one of them. In fact, this column, which claims to debunk health myths, is one of the most misinformed columns on health, nutrition and the environment to be published recently in the Times, filled with factual errors as well as outdated nutrition information. The piece warrants a detailed rebuttal, because so many people turn to the Times and to Brody for health advice and this time she was way off the mark.The impetus for the piece, Brody says, is that we should, “start the new year on scientifically sound footing by addressing some nutritional falsehoods that circulate widely in cyberspace, locker rooms, supermarkets and health food stores.” This made it all more the disturbing to read a list of health myths she’s allegedly debunking. Instead, Brody reinforces some old myths and creates some new ones along the way.
A few sentences into the piece she writes, “when did ‘chemical’ become a dirty word?” quoting Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal. This should immediately raise a red flag to anyone familiar with this common refrain touted by spokespeople for Big Ag and Big Food. Sure, chemicals are everywhere, and are the basis of even the most pure and natural food, but when most people refer to chemicals in their food it usually means they are concerned with synthetic chemicals in the form of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, or as highly processed ingredients that end up in food products. Brody goes on to say that Schwarcz is “one of Canada’s brightest scientific minds.”
It turns out, Schwarcz heads the research office at McGill that is officially listed as a resource institution affiliated with The Council for Biotechnology. This group, according to its website, “communicates science-based information about the benefits and safety of agricultural biotechnology and its contributions to a sustainable food chain. Its members are the leading agricultural biotechnology companies.” Which biotech companies? Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, and Syngenta, among others, all of which are responsible for the development and sale of the aforementioned synthetic chemicals that many Americans are trying to avoid in their diets. Despite this fact, Brody urges her readers to use Schwarcz’s tips and “make wiser choices about what does, and does not, pass your lips in 2013.” …(more).
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