'Agent Orange Corn': Biotech Companies Are Waging a Chemical Arms Race on Our Food Supply
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The Obama administration announced last week that it expects to approve corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered by Dow Chemical company to tolerate the toxic herbicide — 2,4-D. They are planning this approval despite the fact that use of this herbicide is associated with increased rates of deadly immune system cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and many other serious kinds of illness and reproductive problems.
Weed ecologists are unanimous in warning that approval of these crops will lead to vast increases in the use of this poisonous chemical. Researchers at Penn State say that in soybeans alone, planting of crops resistant to 2,4-D would increase the amount of 2,4-D sprayed on American fields to 100 million pounds per year — four times the current level. The researchers predict a cascade of negative environmental impacts, and add that the increasing use of the herbicide would actually worsen the epidemic of superweeds it is intended to address, by causing weeds to become resistant to multiple herbicides.
A coalition of 144 farming, fishery, environmental and public health groups have asked the USDA not to approve the 2,4-D resistant crops. Citing studies that predict dire consequences to both human and environmental health, they add the concern among farmers that 2,4-D would drift onto their property and kill their crops, causing serious economic damage in rural communities.
But you have a chance to prevent this from happening. We have now entered a 45 day period during which the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is inviting public comments.
The biotech industry continually reassures public officials and the public that genetically engineered foods reduce the amount of pesticides applied to our crops. Is this claim scientifically valid? Or is it just a myth propagated for PR purposes?
A recent study, conducted at Washington State University, provides a conclusive answer. The study was authored by agronomist Charles Benbrook, a former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences. Using official US Department of Agriculture data, he and his team of researchers looked at the effect on pesticide use of the first 13 years (from 1996 to 2008) of GM crop cultivation in the United States.
“Genetically engineered crops have been responsible for an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use of GE crops.”
Total Herbicide Volume Applied…
There may be controversy over whether GMO foods are safe for human consumption. But there is virtually no controversy over the fact that herbicides, like all pesticides, are dangerous. The enormous increase in herbicide use that has occurred as a direct result of the planting of genetically engineered crops has not only poisoned the air, the water, the soil, and farm workers. It has also been directly responsible for the development of the super-weeds that now plague 50% of our agricultural acreage. The biotech industry’s answer to these super weeds — their new corn and soy seeds that have been genetically engineered to be resistant to 2,4-D — would only make our food production systems even more tightly tethered to the pesticide treadmill that has produced the problem in the first place.
Monsanto and Dow Chemical company refer to their new 2,4-D-resistant seeds as an “innovation that works for tomorrow.” They call it “the future of farming.” But these genetically engineered seeds would actually take American agriculture back more than a half-century. 2,4-D was introduced in the 1940s, and became notorious during the Vietnam war for its use as part of the chemical weapon known as “Agent Orange.” This is why the 2,4-D-resistant crops developed by Dow AgroSciences are frequently referred to as “Agent Orange crops.”