A wheat farmer weighs in on Wheat Belly

Keith Lewis, a wheat farmer, left this insightful comment about modern wheat growing practices:

You conclude in your book that modern wheat breeding has dramatically changed the nutritional value of wheat. Modern wheat farming has as well.

I have been a wheat farmer for 50 yrs and one wheat production practice that is very common is applying the herbicide Roundup (glyposate) just prior to harvest. Roundup is licensed for preharvest weed control. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture result in roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. Farmers like this practice because Roundup kills the wheat plant allowing an earlier harvest.

A wheat field often ripens unevenly, thus applying Roundup preharvest evens up the greener parts of the field with the more mature. The result is on the less mature areas Roundup is translocated into the kernels and eventually harvested as such.

This practice is not licensed. Farmers mistakenly call it “dessication.” Consumers eating products made from wheat flour are undoubtedly consuming minute amounts of Roundup. An interesting aside, malt barley which is made into beer is not acceptable in the marketplace if it has been sprayed with preharvest Roundup. Lentils and peas are not accepted in the market place if it was sprayed with preharvest roundup….. but wheat is ok.. This farming practice greatly concerns me and it should further concern consumers of wheat products.

I went on a wheat and refined sugar free diet before I read your excellent book. I lost 30 lbs in three months. What a remarkable change…… In my 69th year I have never felt better.

In Wheat Belly, I focused on the changes introduced into the plant itself. But there are other aspects of wheat beyond the genetics and biochemistry of the plant, such as bleaching agents, pesticides, additives, and residues of herbicides like Roundup, as Mr. Lewis points out.

How much worse can this thing get?

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Ann

    Well, there you have it. From the farmer’s lips to our ears. If he’s willing to stick to his guns, this will be one more nail in wheat’s coffin!

    Maybe someone should check in with him periodically and make sure he hasn’t been “disappeared”….

    • Missympnypenny

      I agree, but noticed his age. I think he probly tired
      of the newfangled ways to change the harvest. I say
      he’s brave if this has been his bread & butter so
      to speak!

  2. Wow! And there it is…straight from a farmer who knows the awful secret of wheat farming. Thank goodness there are at least a handful of concerned farmers out there willing to acknowledge this issue. Thank you for sharing this comment.

    And thank you for the book! I couldn’t put it down and read it straight through when I got it! I tout your wheat message to people often and truly believe getting off wheat has changed everything for me! I now realize I have an intolerance for gluten that I didn’t have when I was young. Getting off of it actually gave me my life back – I had painful edema in my legs that magically disappeared when I got off gluten. And I had the worst problem with lethargy before. I never would have thought to consider wheat as the culprit until I read your book. So, again, thank you!

    ~Jodie

  3. a report came out the other day where a study showed that RoundUp decreases testosterone levels in males, interesting.

    • Dana

      Causes more illness in farmworkers, too. Just think, you’re getting minute amounts of it in your food–and they are being *drenched* in it.

      And people say there’s no point in buying organic. What about the rights of the people actually doing the scut work to bring your food to you–don’t they have some right to maintain good health?

      (I mean “you” generally, of course. This just aggravates me to no end.)

      • Sarah

        Here in Idaho farm country, I’ve known multiple farmers who have had cancer, and everyone believes it is because of the chemicals they have used over the years. Just a couple of decades ago, they didn’t use anything to protect themselves from the chemicals, and they talk about just having it all over their hands & arms & legs regularly. If they are dying from cancer now, then I don’t want to be eating the stuff that gave them cancer!

      • Karen Scribner

        Buy food with the NonGMO Project Verified logo. This is more important than buying organic for the consumer. GMO seeds can be planted and grown with organic methods (if they can survive without the chemical input sold for that crop) and sold as an organic crop. I heard this from Courtney Pineau. Assistant Director of http://www.nongmoverified.org at theheirloomexpo.com.

  4. Boundless

    The base article here neglects to tell us if we should be worried about RoundUp in grains (and beans, don’t forget). Have a look at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundup_%28herbicide%29
    And it’s not just the glyphosate. The RoundUp product contains other chemicals.
    A quote from the Wiki:
    The authors concluded that the damage was “not related to the active ingredient, but to another component of the herbicide mixture”

  5. Lorraine

    Wow! So…is he still going to be a wheat farmer? :O)

    Heal thy self…poison the rest of the nation…sigh. :o(

      • Dana

        “I was only following orders.”

        There’s market demand for grass-fed beef, too. He should seriously consider looking into that as a new career.

        • AllisonK

          The guy “only following orders” is trying to provide for his family.
          The wheat farmer has spent much of his life obtaining expensive farm machinery, land etc.
          Yes, I agree with you, there are other markets. However, it’s not like getting a new job and taking a different bus to work and nothing else changes. He still has to provide in the meantime. He can’t just put up fences overnight and suddenly have a cattle farm.

          • Sarah

            Exactly. It would be almost totally impossible for said wheat farmer to “switch careers.” Do you know how much a new tractor costs these days? $250,000.

        • keith lewis

          Dana… I am a retired grain and oilseed farmer and no longer produce grains of any kind on my farm (I do produce forages for hay) nor am I following anyone’s “orders”. The farming practices I described are used extensively by my neighbors and most other wheat farmers. I completely disagree with them. The reason I reduced and eliminated wheat from my diet was because I did not wish to consume Roundup. It was later that I discovered Dr. Davis’s book. Consumer demand forced the malting industry to force farmers to not apply Roundup to their malt barley crops and risk contamination of their beer. Consumer demand could do the same for wheat products. That does not entirely remove the risk of consuming wheat products. The next hurdle for the wheat industry is Roundup Ready wheat. Wheat genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide coming soon in most wheat products.

          • Jill

            Thank you for the information you have provided! I really appreciate knowing this and can share with my family who still like to eat wheat products. You are to be saluted for your honesty and integrity!

        • Karen Scribner

          Most people are so used to wasting food they balk at $22/lb for grass fed meats. They do not know they are saving money: the meat has less water to cook out and you will save money by not going to the doctor so much. The fat and water that cooks out in the pan can be used to cook veggies or organic fancy Lundberg rice.

    • Lori

      The farmer doesn’t actually say that he uses Roundup on his wheat. He only mentions that it is a common practice.

  6. Freddie

    I’m disappointed that you chose to delete my comment about the problems on your Facebook page rather than responding to it, and I’m sure this comment will disappear too. Robert has driven at least three people from the page, and probably more. He’s not a credit to you or to Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis. It’s a shame that a person like that is being allowed to sour your page and perhaps make people deaf to such an important health message. I won’t be commenting again.

    • Ann

      Wow – most of us really like Robert quite a lot. Is it his honesty that bothers you? He is a frank, common sense commentator who speaks from his own experience with a sense of humor and candor. What’s not to like?

      If all you can do is focus on the things you consider a “personality flaw” instead of all the good ideas, inspiration, shared experiences, recipes, and advice, perhaps you are not a good candidate for a “group” environment.

      In a large group of people, feelings are going to get hurt once in a while – it’s kind of like a family that way.

      In my opinion, WB wouldn’t be WB without Robert!

      • Tori Spinoso

        Go Robert! I Love all of your comments. Please don’t stop posting due to one or two people.

    • Hi, Freddie–

      The one thing I do not tolerate is calling people names here. You continue to be welcome here, but nobody will be insulting anyone.

      Personally, I find Robert a personable, crazily intelligent, and fascinating person. He may have his rough edges, but who doesn’t?

    • Gary

      Robert is a riot! He seems like one of those what-you-see-is-what-you-get-guys. He definitelly has an edge sometimes, especialyy towards those “i am going to only give up half my wheat” folks or “i will go ahead and eat spelt and oodles of quinoa.”. But at the end of the day he gets it, and he is right 99 percent of the time. The FB page is a public forum, with alot of newbies who havent yet read the book. Perhaps he is overzealous at times in making sure people don’t bastardize the WB message, but he DOES make sure people don’t bastardize the message, and that is important to other newbies coming to the site for information. Robert is in the right corner.

    • Pam

      I can say that I’m one of the fortunate people that knows Robert (aka ‘Bob’) in person and while some people may say he’s “hard core” or “crazy” – …. oh wait – I agree to that. But I mean that in the most loving way possible. He is a FANTASTIC person and I’m lucky to call him my neighbor and friend. Yes, he may point out flaws in recipes or recommend ways to do things that will cut down on carbs or grains – but he has done more ‘learning’ and research on this than most ever would care to so I trust his opinions and welcome his suggestions. We disagree on ‘low carb’ because I’m a runner and he is not – but I never feel like he is discounting my new wheat free diet because I let more carbs slip through. His humor is dry (as dry as my 1cup coconut flour muffins) but when you take a chance to pick up on it – it will make you giggle. I can’t tell you how many “Bobisms” my husband and I like to quote from emails and text messages from him. Of course no one likes to have their food, diet, meals or methods critiqued and yes, we should all be praised for making an attempt – he simply makes suggestions on how to make our attempt better. I can’t see him scaring anyone off and if anything he has made people better and made positive suggestions and praises to those who have seen benefits. That’s my 2 cents anyway.

  7. Chad LaFarge

    We just started my wheat-free diet one week ago. I’ve dropped 8 lbs in just 7 days and am amazed by this. I’d be curious to see the result of incorporating the “old wheat” and seeing what a change it makes.

    • Great, Chad!

      But I would not be so quick to add back “old wheat.” It may be less harmful, but not necessarily truly healthy.

      Should you proceed, please let us know what you experience.

  8. Jan

    Not counting all the disastrous effects of wheat that we now know, thanks to Dr.D and Wheat Belly, can people still give regular (non-organic) wheat products to their children, much less eat it themselves? Yikes! Kids in this country are eating wheat from AM to PM in various forms. Those chemicals remain in the tissues just like lead, mercury and other poisonous toxins. That is reason enough not to eat wheat! I see “health conscious” vegetarians and vegans routinely depending on whole wheat for its benefits…the impact of this farmer’s message is huge! His message should be shared on the “mommy blogs” because they need to know! I will do my best to spread the word.

    Thanks Keith! I agree with Lorraine. Knowing this, will you stop the practice, even if you lose income? Will you spread the word to other farmers? Knowledge is power, so the saying goes!

    • keith lewis

      Jan…I no longer produce wheat as I explained to Dana. If I were to grow wheat again I would do it differently . I have talked to many farmers about what I believe to be a big problem. I hate to say it but most view Roundup as a very useful tool and would not discontinue it’s use at this time. For now Dr. Davis’ advice appears to me to be the best course of action. Eliminate wheat.

    • Gary

      Two comments. Keith, thank you for stepping forward. It takes a lot of courage sometimes to step up and say what you think is right, especially when going against the grain. As to the comment about children….the wheat-free epiphany is indeed disruptive within the family. I have three children, one vegetarian who will be an adult on Friday, one 1-week wheat-free teen, and a much younger child somewhat confused about what is going on. We are working through it. I am just trying to lead by example. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    • Boundless

      > … looks like wheat is the new tobacco industry.

      There are some differences:

      Wheat may be more lethal. Heavy tobacco use is estimated to reduce lifespan by 14 years. I don’t have a figure handy for the health care costs. We don’t yet know what the numbers are for wheat, but I expect them to be at least as high.

      Tobacco is a recreational substance and not sold as food. It was always clear that you could live without tobacco. The weed never earned a spot in the USDA’s food pyramid scheme, unlike grains.

      No one was really surprised when the Surgeon General blew the whistle on tobacco. Many will be surprised, and severely skeptical, when they learn about grains generally, and technowheat in particular. Grains are the #3 thing to eat at ChooseMyPlate.gov, with no front page warning about wheat or even a specific footnote about gluten. And not only is the “plate” loaded with poison, it’s also way too high in carbs with high-fructose fruit products leading the parade. Every other government agency endorses this get-fat-and-die-early-and-guilty menu. Expect further skepticism about low-carb paleo.

      The wheat situation may be a bit less conspiratorial. It’s not clear just how much the wheat industry knows, misunderstands, or has avoided knowing, and for how long, about how pernicious their product is. Tobacco knew, for at least a half century. Children were discouraged from smoking.

      Farmers may act. Speaking as someone who also owns wheat ground, we stopped planting wheat as soon as we read the book. Given the potential liability, and risk of holding a worthless crop if the market collapses, you may see farmers flee wheat faster than they abandoned tobacco. Wheat ground is generally suitable for multiple crops.

      Second hand smoke is a significant issue. Second hand wheat is not (unless you are a fetus). Each individual can drop their grain exposure risk to zero, regardless of what others choose. We don’t need a crusade against consuming wheat in public places.

      But as Dr.Davis reminds us above, the wheat industry dwarfs even the historical the tobacco industry. Expect hysteria. By the way, the USDA is still managing a price support program for tobacco. What needs to happen could take some time. It will be interesting to see if wheat arises as a campaign issue this year. My guess is that it won’t, but if it does, public reaction will be unpredictable, and more than one candidate will take an invalid position.

      • Wouldn’t you love to see the internal emails in the wheat industry and agribusiness?

        Just as the internal emails of Big Tobacco exposed that they knew a lot more than they admitted decades earlier, so I suspect we would find a similar situation with modern “technowheat.”

  9. Hedda Keith

    I read your book and quit consuming wheat two months ago. Love it!! Lost 6 pounds and feel great. I have a question: I am from Colombia, S.A. Do wheat in other countries are sprayed with Roundup or similar chemicals, or is it only the wheat in USA? I know USA export a lot of the wheat to other countries but still… I was just wondering if other countries have the same problem with genetically modified seeds. Thank you

    • Boundless

      re: … wheat in other countries are sprayed with Roundup …

      The primary active ingredient in RoundUp (Glyphosate) is out of patent, and used in competing products sold world-wide under different names, including Buccaneer, Razor Pro, Genesis Extra II, Rodeo, Aquaneat and Aquamaster. These may have different additives, with different effects.

      Brand name RoundUp is, of course, used extensively against clandestine cocaine crops in your country.

      You would need to check local regulations regarding Glyphosate use on legal food crops, and then whether those regulations are followed and/or enforced.

      • Karen Scribner

        Glyphosate is used by 9 companies to make 33 products. If you don’t like Monsanto, buy it from Dow, etc!

  10. Sharon Pinilla

    We have already learnt the effects of wheat on our body and appreciate this, but what this wheat farmer tells us of the use of products such as RoundUp on our food production is horrifying. So much of our food is poisoned from day 1, how can we expect to be healthy, no wonder we are not. thank you from the bottom of my heart for those who will stand up and say what is really going on. If you don’t have your health nothing else matters, no amount of money in the world can compensate for that loss. Who really takes the responsibility for what is being done? I only know now that I have been informed that it is the individual who is responsible for looking after their own health, because there are only are few out there who really care about our health such as Dr Davis. Better late than never!

  11. Gary

    In government, in commerce, socially, in life, people need to do the right thing. You’ve got just one life on this planet and you don’t know when it will end. Don’t die with blood on your hands.

  12. Jean

    I shared this on Facebook. People generally think I’m nuts about grains and low carb (primal) eating, but maybe this will get their attention. I do find that after hearing it probably dozens of times, a few people are asking questions. There’s hope. Thanks, Dr. Davis!

  13. If anyone hasn’t yet seen the documentary Food Inc. I highly recommend it. A whole section about Monsanto, Roundup, and their relationship with modern farmers is extremely enlightening and disturbing.

  14. Sharon

    I shared this on my facebook page last night and already have several comments. I always wondered how wheat fields went from green to yellow seemingly overnight…now I know. I live in an area with a lot of commodity farming and I think farming has gotten to be more about applying chemicals than anything else. Unbelievable how much stuff is sprayed on crops. Probably the biggest turnoff anyone would have is living in farming country and watching how their food crops are grown.

    I’ve been wheat free for years now (Celiac Disease) and went grain, legume, and dairy free (Paleo/Primal diet) back in March. I’ve never felt so good and lost a ton of weight also. My husband lost over 40 lbs. I am a farmer but raising crops for local markets..pastured meats and what organic veggies I can spare from my own garden. I’m glad I chose this path. It’s hard work but I feel good about what I’m selling and I think the sky is the limit for local sustainable food production. :-)

    I found the Wheat Belly book back in the fall and didn’t expect it to be so informative but I could not put it down. The chapter on Celiac Disease scared me to death. I do not cheat on my gluten free diet at all or I pay for it. Now I find if I pig out on any grain (except rice which is OK for me), I feel like crap.

    Great book and good message. I don’t agree with all the diet suggestions in the Wheat Belly book being a “Paleo” person and would recommend really watching the legumes and dairy in one’s diet also but it’s great to see someone finally exposing wheat for the poison that it is! Good work Dr. Davis!

    • Boundless

      Don’t need RoundUp for that (cancer). Organic wheat can manage it all by itself. Heck, I suspect that even heirloom wheat can do so. Wheat provides a source of long-term inflamation to any number of body systems. Need an auto-immune affliction, or some cancer? No problem; wheat can do. RoundUp is just icing on the cake.

      Besides, how can a product that is itself 100% contaminant (technowheat) be contaminated? :)

      My guess is that the consequences of some RoundUp being present in processed dwarf hybrid wheat contribute very little to the overall massive damage done by this toxic mutant (wheat). But RoundUp in otherwise healthful crops are another matter (and the genes in RoundUp Ready crops are also a concern). Since I’m already not eating technowheat, the lesson I take away from the basenote is to avoid all other crops that might have RoundUp exposure. Look for non-GMO. Look for organic. Heck, grow your own.

  15. Paulina J!

    This is the post that would get anyone on the fence about quitting wheat to do it! Great post!

  16. Walt

    Sorry, but where is Keith from? He makes it sound like a common practice, but I live in Kansas (nickname – the Wheat State), work in agriculture, and have never heard of anyone doing this. My guess is that he’s from Canada. Keith, if you’re still reading this thread – is that correct?

    So I did a little checking, and it seems that only Monsanto’s variety of wheat is harvested this way. A quick (very unscientific) survey of how many acres locally are planted with Monsanto wheat showed zero (I looked at the markers that seed companies place in the fields showing who their customers are). Further checking at the Kansas State website showed that Roundup Ready Wheat (RRW) doesn’t even register on the list of varieties planted in this state. I haven’t checked, but my experience tells me that the other major hard red winter wheat producing states in the US will be similar.

    There are a number of reasons why I suspect that this will never be widespread in the US. First, there is the cost – no farmer I know would add yet another expense (or input) to their business. Second, there is no market incentive here to do so, since weather alone will ripen the wheat fast enough and first to market doesn’t bring a premium.

    I too have started a wheat free diet. But let’s stick to fact based arguments instead of fear mongering based on unverified sources or atypical growing techniques. I don’t think that doing so furthers the cause at all.

    • Gary M

      Hi Walt, the pre-harvest application of Roundup is all over the internet, including instructions and recommendations from Monsanto itself. And from what I have seen on AgTalk discussions, the determination of the timing of the application is pretty darn unscientific. (i.e. use your thumbnail to press a kernel and determine how much it dents – that kind of thing.)

      I have also noticed the concern of regulators and industry participants over different countries having different standards, and that “mixing” grain sources is helpful to diluting the residual toxicity levels to within the “acceptable” ranges. I have spent much of the last two days researching this stuff, as I was shocked. Also, there appears to be a “broker” market for chemicals too, so some farmers may be applying chemicals without proper guidance from the manufacturer.

      Are you implying that US growers don’t really use Monsanto’s seeds? I was under the impression they had the number one market share. I will be researching that further.
      cheers,
      Gary

      • Walt

        I’m not implying anything – I thought I was quite clear. In Kansas, which produces over twice the wheat (in metric tons) than all of Canada, no one is doing this. There is just no reason to do so.

        That you believed that Monsanto was number one in market share [for wheat] is interesting. Where did you get that “fact” from?

        On the plus side, I finally got going (for real) on a wheat free diet. Just a few days in and I feel great – the constant tightness I’ve felt in my throat is gone and I have much more energy.

    • I can’t find the specific thread, but I’ve come across multiple farmers who describe the same practice Keith describes on the Ag Forum.

      In my mind, there is no such thing as “fear mongering” in the world of wheat. It is a crop perfectly crafted to exact maximum damage, herbicide residues or no.

      • Walt

        I did find a thread describing using Roundup as Keith described. All the participants were from Canada (Manitoba to be exact). As I said above – Kansas alone produces twice the Wheat (in tons) as Canada.

        I read some industry publications that I found and most state that American farmers have little interest in Roundup Ready Wheat (RRW), instead they want better control of things like rust and blight. FYI and all that.

    • a different Heidi

      There is also a wealth of info here about GMOs, and the grain/Monsanto issues are not a primary issue for those grain free, the genetically modified is issue huge! As of now, there are no laws requiring labeling. Buy organic, buy non GMO where you can find it!

  17. Greg

    The reason malsters don’t want roundup sprayed on the barley is because it kills the germ of the barley thus making it no good for malt.It will do the same to any grain if sprayed too early before harvest.Ask any farmer that has used it .Yum the products made from this should be healthy.

  18. Max

    20 odd years ago I worked on a farm growing potatoes, onions and watermelon. Roundup was used as a desiccant here too to enable easier harvesting. I was stunned.

  19. keith lewis

    Walt, you got it right, my farm is in Saskatchewan Canada, the ‘ wheat province”. We produce wheat and export around the world including the US. The practice of applying glyphosate preharvest is common in the spring wheat growing areas in western Canada and North Dakota. Perhaps preharvest application of glyphosate is not licenced in Kansas. As I understand the politics of Roundup Ready wheat registration, your National Assn ot Wheat Growers has endorsed the introduction of RR wheat in the US. Monsanto is ready to roll.

    • Walt

      Keith, as I said, there is no market reason to do so here – why add additional inputs that serve no purpose. Kansas produces over twice the tonnage of Wheat as the entirety of Canada, the wheat is mostly hard red (and white) winter wheat, and it is harvested in mid-to-late June. Again, there is really no reason to use RRW here at all.

      So, while the National Association may have endorsed the idea of RRW, no one here is planting it (based on both my anecdotal knowledge and from the K-State extension office reports). In other words, the overwhelming majority of wheat consumed in the US is not the RR variety nor is it harvested using this technique.

      I believe you are honest about your experiences, but what you are doing is called a Fallacy of composition – I don”t think it”s necessary nor productive to use fallacious reasoning to persuade.

      • Anonymous

        @ Walt

        No offense but I’ll take the word of farmers over your review of some office reports and anecdotal knowledge.