By Dr. Mercola
A late-breaking study shows that genetically engineered (GE) crops have led to a 404 million pound increase in overall pesticide use from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011. This equates to an increase of about seven percent over the last 16 years.
The report, published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe,1 effectively undermines the declared value of crops genetically engineered to be protected against herbicides and insects. The whole premise for GE crops was to make it easier to kill weeds and diminish crop loss to harmful pests.
But instead, these modified crops have led to resistance, both in weeds and pests, leaving farmers to struggle with an increasingly difficult situation. More than two dozen weed species are now resistant to glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup.
Things are Rapidly Getting Worse...
According to the author, Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University:
"Contrary to often-repeated claims that today's genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.
If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50 percent. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future."
According to Benbrook, rapidly increasing weed resistance is now driving up the volume of herbicide needed by about 25 percent annually. In a statement to Reuters,2 Benbrook said:
"Things are getting worse, fast. In order to deal with rapidly spreading resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand use of older, higher-risk herbicides. To stop corn and cotton insects from developing resistance to Bt, farmers planting Bt crops are being asked to spray the insecticides that Bt corn and cotton were designed to displace."
Insanity Level: Full Steam Ahead
One of those higher-risk chemicals is 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) – one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate battle fields in the jungles of Vietnam, with horrendous consequences to the health of those exposed. If you want to see some of its effects on children who were exposed in the womb, you can do so on DigitalJournalist.org3 – but I warn you the photos are very graphic and upsetting.
Benbrook's paper includes a model showing how a 2,4-D-resistant corn product, if released in 2013, would affect the use of 2,4-D on farm fields. According to his projections, which he refers to as "conservative" assumptions, use of 2,4-D could reach 103.4 million pounds annually as early as 2019 – up from the current level of 3.3 million pounds in 2010.
Due to the toxic nature of 2,4-D, the results of such a massive increase in use would raise risks of birth defects and reproductive problems in those who consume the food, not to mention the severe hazard it poses to aquatic and other ecosystems. This is valuable information indeed, considering the fact that biotech giant Dow's new GE product, dubbed "Enlist," is a three-gene, herbicide-tolerant soybean engineered to be resistant to not only glyphosate, but glufosinate and 2,4-D as well!
Talk about a triple whammy of trouble coming down the pike...
Ironically, Dow touts their new product as a solution to Monsanto's failing Roundup Ready GE crops. This despite the fact that 28 species across 16 plant families have already evolved resistance to herbicides with a similar mode of action as 2,4-D, according to a 2011 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,4 in which the authors criticize speculation that 2,4-D would not cause resistance. Remember that Monsanto recently won a billion dollar award in their suit against Dow.
Civil Society Groups Urge Global Leaders to Institute Biosafety Protection
In related news, civil society groups from multiple nations convening at a recent Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Meeting urged global leaders to "follow the Convention on Biological Diversity, in letter and spirit," downtoearth.org reports.5
"They appealed to global nations to ensure that biodiversity, and with it the access of the local people to their biological heritage, is not sacrificed for risky and irreversible technologies like genetic engineering in agriculture. They demanded that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and living modified organisms (LMOs) are not released into the environment. Their appeal came in the backdrop of growing evidence on the impacts of genetically engineered crops on biodiversity and human health."
India has been growing genetically engineered Bt cotton since 2002, and after a mere decade, the livelihoods of farmers across the country have faltered at an unprecedented rate. According to the featured article:
"Studies have shown that it has not only failed to increase yields or reduce pesticide usage as claimed by the biotech seed industry but has increased the cost of cultivation of cotton, and thereby pushing the cotton farmers into further distress. The situation is particularly acute in the rainfed regions in the country, which comprises 65 percent of the area under cotton cultivation.
Highlighting the Bt cotton experience, Sridhar said: 'It is unfortunate that India learned its lesson the hard way from its tryst with Bt cotton and it is our poor farmers who are continuing to pay with their lives.
It is time that governments across the world realize that techno-fixes like GM crops can neither solve agrarian distress nor provide food security. The solutions to these lie in ecological farming where the triple bottom lines of social, ecological and economical sustainability are met.'"
The Lies that Allowed Monsanto to Get their GE Products Onto Your Dinner Plate
In 2009, President Obama appointed former Monsanto VP for Public Policy, Michael Taylor, as a senior adviser for the FDA, turning a deaf ear to the loud protests from consumer groups. Taylor is currently serving as the deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA – a position that includes ensuring food labels contain clear and accurate information. He also oversees strategy for food safety, and planning new food safety legislation.
To say he's a fox guarding a hen house would be an understatement. This sentiment is shared by most people who are even remotely aware of food safety issues. At the time of Taylor's appointment, GE expert Jeffrey Smith commented:6
"The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke."
Now, the opposition is gaining steam yet again with an online petition7 calling for Taylor's removal.
"President Obama, I oppose your appointment of Michael Taylor. Taylor is the same person who was Food Safety Czar at the FDA when genetically modified organisms were allowed into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty," the petition reads. If you agree, feel free to sign the petition.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.