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Pumping Up the Pesticides

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

pumping up the pesticides

Story at-a-glance -

  • Genetically engineered Enlist E3 soybeans are designed to tolerate glyphosate, glufosinate (another herbicide) and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), one of the ingredients in Agent Orange
  • By 2020, the use of 2,4-D on U.S. farms could rise between 100% and 600%
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen in 2015, and there is concern it may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and soft-tissue cancer known as sarcoma
  • It’s likely that 2,4-D will cause similar damage to nearby crops and other plants as dicamba, as both are known for drifting

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide, sprayed with unprecedented abandon throughout the world.1 The consequences of this practice are now becoming apparent, with weeds becoming increasingly resistant to it — and a jury finding in yet another landmark trial that the chemical caused cancer.

With the resistance, farmers sold a bill of goods about glyphosate are now scrambling to find a solution for uncontrollable weeds that have outsmarted the man-made chemical. The solution from agribusinesses entities is to introduce new genetically engineered (GE) crops designed to withstand not only glyphosate but also additional herbicides to kill off the weeds glyphosate leaves behind.

Enlist E3 soybeans, made by Corteva Agriscience, a division of DowDupont and seed company MS Technologies, is one of the latest, designed to tolerate glyphosate, glufosinate (another herbicide) and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate battlefields in the jungles of Vietnam, with horrendous consequences to the health of those exposed.

Use of 2,4-D May Increase 600% by 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of Enlist Duo — an herbicide manufactured by Dow Chemical that combines 2,4-D with Roundup, to be used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered to tolerate both 2,4-D and glyphosate — in 2014.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that by 2020, the use of 2,4-D on America's farms could rise between 100% and 600% now that it has been approved as part of Enlist Duo,” the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated.2

2,4-D is also a common ingredient in “weed and feed” lawn care products, because it kills weeds without harming grass, fruits or vegetables, the latter of which makes it very popular among farmers.

This is concerning because the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ruled 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen in 2015, and there is concern it may increase the risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and soft-tissue cancer known as sarcoma.

Further, it’s an endocrine-disrupting chemical that may negatively affect thyroid hormones and brain development. It may also be associated with birth defects, reduced fertility and brain development.3 “This is just going to absolutely be a disaster,” Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Investigate Midwest.4

Will 2,4-D Cause Similar Problems as Dicamba?

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans are GE plants designed to tolerate both glyphosate and dicamba, a highly volatile herbicide known for drifting and damaging off-target crops.

Millions of acres across U.S. have been damaged by dicamba drift,5 and there’s also disturbing information that the chemical is also harming trees. Dicamba use has also turned farmers against one another, as those experiencing damaged crops blame neighboring farms for spraying dicamba.

In November 2016, a dispute over dicamba drift turned deadly, when Arkansas soybean and cotton farmer Mike Wallace was shot and killed by another farmer, Allan Curtis Jones, when Wallace confronted Jones about damage Jones’s spraying had done to Wallace’s pear trees. In a jury trial, Jones was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 24 years in prison for it.6,7

Since then Xtend cotton and soybeans have become prolific in the U.S., in part because some farmers plant them just so they’ll be protected against their neighbor’s dicamba drift.

Now some experts are questioning whether the 2,4-D-resistant crops (Enlist) will be vulnerable to damage from drifting dicamba, and vice versa — will the dicamba-resistant crops be damaged by drifting 2,4-D?

Charles Benbrook, a visiting professor at the University of Newcastle who studies pesticides, told Investigate Midwest that, “If there is no cross-resistance … [he] projected that Corteva, a division of DowDupont, and Bayer, which owns Monsanto, will likely have to come up with a deal to put the resistant genes in both companies’ systems, increasing the price for farmers.”8

What’s more, it’s likely that 2,4-D will cause similar damage as dicamba, as both are known for drifting, and will muddle assessments of which chemical is to blame. Also speaking to Investigate Midwest, Donley said, “Industry is going to use this to say, ‘how do you know it’s our product?’ It’s going to enable the industry to do what they do best, which is sow doubt in the public.”9

The never-ending quest for more pesticides isn’t likely to end here. “It’s a poor answer to a complex situation, and it’s going to be getting worse,” Donley continued. “In five-to-10 years, we’re going to be looking for the next herbicide. History tells us what’s going to happen in this case. It’s kind of crazy we’re even considering going here.”10

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Monsanto Loses Another Case

Thousands of people across the U.S. have filed lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused them to develop cancer. In March 2015, IARC determined glyphosate to be a "probable carcinogen" based on evidence showing the popular weed-killing chemical can cause Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" it can also cause cancer in animals.

In August 2018, a jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Dewayne Johnson in a truly historic case against Monsanto. Johnson — the first of over 11,000 cases pending against the chemical company — claimed Roundup caused his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the court agreed.

Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson, although the award was later reduced to $78 million. Now in a second case, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, ordering Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, to pay more than $80 million.

The jury agreed that Edwin Hardeman’s repeated exposures to Roundup, which he used to kill weeds on his 56-acre property, not only played a role in his cancer diagnosis but also that the company did not warn consumers that the product carried a cancer risk.11

The case was split into two phases, with jurors first finding the chemical to have caused the cancer on purely scientific grounds and the next phase finding that Bayer is liable for damages.12 Ultimately, Hardeman was awarded $75 million in punitive damages, $5.6 million in compensatory damages and $200,000 for medical expenses.13

In a statement, Hardeman's attorneys Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff, said, "… [T]he jury resoundingly held Monsanto accountable for its 40 years of corporate malfeasance and sent a message to Monsanto that it needs to change the way it does business.”14 Bayer is appealing the verdicts in both cases.

Monsanto Had $17 Million Annual Budget to Discredit IARC, Promote Glyphosate

Another glyphosate trial has begun in California, and evidence is expected to be presented revealing Monsanto is taking a page out of the playbook of Big Tobacco, allocating about $17 million in one year in order to discredit IARC scientists that spoke out against glyphosate. The information came from a deposition of Monsanto executive Sam Murphey, who now works for Bayer. U.S. Right to Know revealed:15

“… [I]mmediately after the IARC classification of glyphosate – and continuing to this day – the cancer scientists became the subject of sweeping condemnation from an assortment of organizations, individuals and even some U.S. lawmakers.

They have been accused of operating not on sound science but on behalf of a political agenda, cherry-picking data, and promoting junk science, among other things. The criticisms have been magnified and repeated around the world in news articles, opinion pieces, blogs, Internet Google advertisements and more.

Internal Monsanto documents that have surfaced through discovery for the more than 11,000 lawsuits filed against the company show that among other tactics, Monsanto has been secretly using third parties for its anti-IARC messaging because company executives and public relations agents thought the information would appear more credible coming from entities separate from Monsanto.”

For instance, in 2017, Henry Miller was thoroughly outed as a Monsanto shill during the 2012 Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign in California. Miller, falsely posing as a Stanford professor, promoted genetically engineered foods during this campaign.

In 2015, he published a paper in Forbes Magazine attacking IARC’s findings after it classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Later it was revealed that Miller’s work was in fact ghostwritten by Monsanto.

Monsanto ‘Monitored’ Media, Suggested Discrediting Stories

The company also made a point of monitoring media coverage, known as the “let nothing go” strategy, and would follow up with reporters to offer the company’s point of view, a statement or “additional context” on stories they deemed to be unfit.

Murphey also suggested that a Reuters reporter write an article accusing the chairman of the IARC working group on glyphosate of concealing data. The reporter wrote the story, which was picked up by media outlets around the globe, even though the allegations against the IARC chairman were false.16

As it stands, nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate are used in the U.S. each year,17 with unknown consequences to human health — but what we know so far doesn’t look good. What’s clear is that Monsanto continues to work very hard to suppress any and all negative publicity about its golden child glyphosate, even as the truth continues to emerge.

Ultimately, the question of whether glyphosate causes cancer seems destined to transition to how much glyphosate causes cancer — in what doses and duration?

Bayer is already working on damage control and has created an entity called Partners In Innovation to handle their PR. The team is made up of members from three agencies — Porter Novelli, FleishmanHillard and Global Prairie — all of which previously worked with Bayer or Monsanto (before the merger).18

Pesticides Are Not the Answer

“The reduction of pesticide use is one of the critical drivers to preserve the environment and human health,” according to recent research published in Nature Plants,19 and I couldn’t agree more.

What many people don’t realize is that research shows 59 percent of farmers could cut pesticide usage by 42 percent without harming their production. Forty percent of these farms would even improve their production as a result.20

The findings are eye-opening, especially since the pesticide industry has long maintained that their products are necessary to feed the world. Worldwide, an estimated 7.7 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year, and that number is steadily increasing.21 Yet, the problems are becoming too big to ignore.

To opt-out of the madness, seek out non-GMO, organic foods as much as possible, and support farmers who are using regenerative and biodynamic farming principles instead of chemical pesticides. And once you've gotten into that habit, check your urine for glyphosate to evaluate your eating habits. If your levels are still high, you're still being excessively exposed, be it through water, food or your environment.