Dozens of highly educated, passionate people packed a meeting room re­­cently at Drake University, motivated by fear of the unknown.

I should’ve guessed by the title, “Challenges to Providing Safe Drinking Water in the Midwest,” that the real “challenges” these folks face center around their misperceptions of modern farming.

Although I met some very pleasant people, I think their misperceptions aren’t accidental; they’re intentional. I think many in that room distrust or dislike today’s farmers because they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove today’s farming practices are responsible for everything from early menstruation to all kinds of cancer and infertility.

A familiar act

We’ve been here before. But, with today’s 140-character attention spans, too few of us remember when the late, great Walter Cronkite cast a national spotlight on chemophobia (the unrealistic fear of chemicals or compounds perceived as synthetic).

So one by one, speakers at the recent Drinking Water in the Midwest symposium flashed PowerPoint presentations about water quality, saying they found “possible weak correlations” or pointed out work that “merited additional study” about all kinds of things they want people to worry about in their drinking water. Yet (important part here) of all the things they discussed, not one person stood up to present definitive proof that nitrates in drinking water cause health issues.

I think it’s important to note here that I am not a scientist, but neither are the folks these researchers are targeting; they want you to believe their opinion and open up your wallet...