By Dr. Mercola
Mark Kastel, founder of the farm policy research group Cornucopia, is deeply dedicated to making sure we have high-quality food and that we're not being deceived about what we're eating.
Here, we discuss Agent Orange, and one of its active ingredients, which is now creeping into our food supply.
As described by Kastel, Cornucopia's mission is:
"To empower farmers, consumers, and wholesale buyers with information, so that they can make good, discerning purchasing decisions in the marketplace.
Among other things, we act as an organic industry watchdog to preserve the integrity and authenticity of the organic label and products to make sure that it remains to be a true marketplace alternative for people who want safer and more nutritious food."
Agent Orange Ingredient Headed Toward Your Plate?
To most people, "Agent Orange" is synonymous with the Vietnam war.
Many veterans suffered permanent side effects from their exposure to this potent defoliant, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese children have been born with serious birth defects as a result of its use during the war.
Now, one of the active ingredients in Agent Orange, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), a broadleaf herbicide, may be introduced directly into our food supply, because weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, which is used in massive quantities on all genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops. It's estimated that more than 130 types of weeds spanning 40 U.S. states are now herbicide-resistant, and they're showing no signs of stopping. In fact, the situation is getting progressively worse.
"Agent Orange was an herbicide used to defoliate the jungles in Vietnam and South East Asia, which also include a myriad of other incredibly toxic chemicals that we know had profound deleterious effect on the health of the indigenous people who lived in South East Asia and to our veterans who served there," Kastel says. Now we see one of these ingredients, 2,4-D, introduced [into our food supply] because the Dow Company... is introducing a new genetically engineered corn plant that "will be resistant to 2,4-D."
Yes, Dow AgroSciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals), which was one of the original manufacturers of Agent Orange, has developed a new generation of genetically modified (GM) crops called "Enlist", designed to resist not just one, but THREE different herbicides: glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), glufosinate, and 2,4-D, in the same way that Monsanto's Roundup-Ready crops are resistant to glyphosate.
After a mere 15 years' worth of consistent use on Roundup Ready crops, vast areas are now overrun with glyphosate-resistant superweeds that can't be destroyed. What makes them think triple-resistant crops are going to be any better, or produce different end results?
Why "Agent Orange"-Resistant Crops are a BAD Idea
Interestingly enough, the use of 2,4-D is not new, as it is actually one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. What is new is that once staple crops like soy and corn that are engineered to be resistant to 2,4-D begin to flourish, the herbicide will be applied to U.S. farm land on an unprecedented scale -- not unlike its indiscriminate application during Vietnam.
There are also some other unanswered questions relating to this new breed of 2,4-D-resistant crops.
"The curious part about this – we had to do some research to understand, and I don't know if we fully understand it yet – is that corn is naturally resistant to 2,4-D, and that 2,4-D has been used as a corn herbicide, a post-emergent herbicide for decades," Kastel says.
"This is legal, perfectly legal; even though we know that there are profound negative impacts to human health, and that this chemical residue ends up in our food system, in our soil and water, and ends up creating serious occupational exposures and risks for the people who produce our food; it's still licensed by the EPA and approved for use by the USDA on our food crops.
The curious part is, if corn is already resistant to 2,4-D, why are they injecting that genetically engineered cultivar?
The answer seems to be that there might be some incremental level of benefit in that. Right now there are application windows, certain times during crop growth, that it would probably not kill the plant but stunt its growth. [With approval] the restrictions on the spraying will be relieved.
If this takes off—if Dow can convince agronomists, extension services, extension agents, universities (where they spend a lot of money), and farmers that this is a better seed with a potential for higher yields, we're going to see really large increases in the application of 2,4-D in our countryside."
Of course, the whole point of engineering resistance to an herbicide within a plant is so that you can "carpet bomb" an entire field, leaving only your GM crop standing. If 2,4-D resistant crops receive approval and eventually replace Monsanto's failing Roundup-resistant crops as Dow intends, it is likely that billions of pounds of 2,4-D will be needed, on top of the already insane levels of Roundup being used (1.6 billion lbs were used in 2007 in the US alone!).
2,4-D—Do You Really Want to Feed this to Your Kids?
Ironically, while Dow's new crops would seriously escalate the use of 2,4-D, Monsanto is currently facing a class-action lawsuit involving another Agent Orange ingredient: 2,4,5-Ti. The suit alleges that homes and schools near one of its 2,4,5-T chemical plants are now contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin, a byproduct of the manufacturing process.
This should be a wake-up call to those considering widespread application of any toxic Agent Orange ingredient.
And let's be clear. The EPA acknowledges that 2,4-D is far from a benign chemical.
Researchers have linked it to increased cancer risks, especially soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma. No less than four American studies have found an association between chlorophenoxy herbicide use (such as 2,4-D) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. EPA researchers have also discovered higher rates of birth defects in countries with high rates of 2,4-D application to farm fields. In fact, birth defects were 60 to 90 percent more likely in such countries, and birth defects were also found to peak in babies conceived in the spring, when fields were being sprayed the most. The most common birth defects included defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, and musculoskeletal defects such as clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits.
If that's not bad enough, consider this EPA summary of 2,4-Dii:
"Health effects of chronic or acute 2,4-D exposure reported for adults included blood, liver, and kidney toxicity. Specific effects included a reduction in hemoglobin and red blood cell numbers, decreased liver enzyme activity, and increased kidney weight. Acute exposure can result in skin and eye irritation. Acute exposure to very high concentrations of 2,4-D can cause the following clinical symptoms: stupor; coma; coughing; burning sensations in lungs; loss of muscular coordination; nausea; vomiting; or dizziness.
Experimental animal studies of chronic oral exposure have reported adverse effects on the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, adrenals, and ovaries/testes. In addition, some experimental animal studies have reported teratogenic effects (birth defects) at high doses, including increased fetal death, urinary tract malformation, and extra ribs.
When adult female experimental animals were exposed to 2,4-D during their pregnancy and lactation periods, their exposed offspring exhibited neurological effects, including delayed neurobehavioral development and changes in several neurotransmitter levels or binding activities and ganglioside levels in the brain. Delayed neurobehavioral development was manifested as delays in acquisition of certain motor skills such as the righting reflex."
The EASIEST Way to Protect the Health of Your Family...
So, what can you do to protect your health and the health of your family from the ever growing threats posed by genetically engineered foods and mounting herbicide use? Kastel says it well:
"Don't panic. Go organic."
Yes, it's getting increasingly difficult to keep tabs of what's being added to the food supply, and trying to keep track of everything to avoid can be a daunting task. It's much easier to simply switch to organic foods; bypassing all the concerns about processed food ingredients, chemical residues on conventionally-grown fresh produce, and the multi-layered hazards related to genetically engineered foods, whether fresh or processed.
By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM organisms, must be produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and come from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed, although now that GM alfalfa is approved, grass-fed will not always mean GMO free.
"There aren't that many things that we can totally take control over in terms of our health and our future health and the health of our offspring, but pure food and pure water is one of those," Kastel says.
"We know that there has been peer-reviewed research that indicates a demonstratively lower level of any kind of contamination in organic food... Peer-reviewed literature clearly illustrates its nutritional superiority. On a micro basis, we need to protect ourselves and our families. It really contributes to the richness and quality of life, because organic food tastes better. And in terms of an investment, what could be a better investment than the health and well-being of your family?
We should also become politically involved, because what's so insidious is that these novel genes permeate our environment. They can even contaminate organic food. We need to be activists."
Now's the Time to Take Action!
Cornucopia.org has a "Say No to Dow AgroScience's GE Corn Petition" on their website. Please sign this petition, which will automatically send a letter to USDA secretary Tom Vilsack and President Obama, voicing your concerns. Part of this petition also asks for labeling of genetically engineered foods.
"The industry is vehemently resisting that, because they know very well that given a choice – just like in Europe where they do have a choice because of mandatory labeling – consumers will not vote to subject their children to become, in essence, human guinea pigs, because there's been virtually no human health testing on any of these novel genetically mutated life forms," Kastel says.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, the food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.