by Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network
Recent media coverage of Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, which would permit companies to label foods made with genetically engineered (GE) crops, highlights the gulf between citizens demanding the right to know what’s in our food and corporations desperate to keep the public in the dark. According to the California secretary of state, Monsanto and the rest of the pesticide industry’s “Big 6” have contributed $13.5 million so far to defeat this initiative, and have put stopping it at the top of their agenda. Add the money from “Big Food” companies and the opposition funding grows to almost $25 million, with an even bigger “gusher” of corporate cash on its way.
Many of my neighbors are rightly concerned about the possible health harms of eating food made with GE products. Since most of us are already eating the stuff unknowingly, and because we have no independent long-term health studies monitoring the consequences, we have become involuntary participants in a massive uncontrolled experiment. Not a good thing. My concerns, however, go beyond what’s on the supermarket shelf.
The dirty little secret behind GE crops is that they are marketing engines for the pesticide industry. Whatever the ads and manipulated media spots say, this is why Monsanto et al. are pulling out all the stops to stop California’s labeling initiative.
GE = More Pesticides
Ninety-nine percent of GE crops on the market are engineered to either contain a pesticide or survive being doused with herbicides. This has led to surging herbicide use; contamination of our air, soil, and water; millions of acres of farmland infested with RoundUp-resistant “superweeds” and “superbugs”; and a desperate recourse to older and more toxic pesticides driven by the pesticide companies themselves, and thus, a continuing cycle of pesticide-related illnesses.
This means that every time we buy GE foods, we are also buying into a pesticide- dependent farming system that is poisoning our farmworkers, our family farmers, rural and urban communities alike, our bees, and our environment as a whole.
It’s the pesticide treadmill all over again. But this time, GE crops are the turbocharged growth engine for the pesticide industry. No wonder pesticide manufacturers are fiercely opposed to Californians demanding the right to know. And that’s not all the Big 6 companies have been up to.
Back at the lab, Dow AgroSciences has engineered a new suite of GE seeds (corn, cotton, and soy) to be used with the older and much more toxic herbicide 2,4-D.
2,4-D–resistant corn is a very bad idea. Its introduction into American farmland is expected to drive a substantial increase in pesticide use. 2,4-D is an herbicide known to be especially toxic to kids. It also drifts off target crops, threatening to damage vulnerable other crops like grapes and tomatoes. Conventional farmers facing crop damage and organic farmers who would lose certification oppose its introduction—but that hasn’t stopped Dow.
And that’s just the first of the new generation of herbicide-resistant GE crops headed our way. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists 12 new GE products currently in the pipeline for approval, most engineered for use with various combinations of herbicides.
Moving brazenly from selling to the marketplace into rewriting our very laws, industry allies in Congress are threatening sweeping policy changes that would fast-track GE crop approvals. Three riders to the Farm Bill will—if approved—gut the USDA’s already weak regulatory process for GE seeds. A fourth rider in the House Agricultural Appropriations Bill would enable USDA to permit continued planting of GE crops, even when a court of law has ruled that such crops were approved illegally.
As House and Senate move to pass a 2012 Farm Bill, these dangerous biotech riders could slip through — unraveling what little regulatory oversight the executive branch of the U.S. government has not yet abrogated, and stripping the last of our democratic checks and balances by rendering the courts essentially moot on this topic. We must be vigilant in defending what remains of our democracy.
Take action » Please join us in urging Congress to stand up to pressure from the Big 6 pesticide corporations, defend our democracy, and reject the pro-GE riders in the Farm Bill.
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman is a senior scientist and director of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Pesticide Action Network (PAN). Marcia holds a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University. She has written extensively on the ecological, social, and political dimensions of food and agriculture, and was a lead author of the UN-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development.
The foxes in the hen house? Obama appointed Monsanto chief lobbyist Michael Taylor as senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA a year ago. This is the same man that was in charge of FDA policy when GMO’s were allowed into the US food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety. He had been Monsanto’s attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA [and then] he became Monsanto’s Vice President and chief lobbyist.
You’re right, Karla. Indeed, there has been a long tradition of pesticide industry appointments to key public agency positions (see: http://www.panna.org/issues/pesticides-profit/undue-influence). And then there’s the influence of the agribusiness industry’s “generous” lobbying contributions to Congress & to pres. candidates (at over $2 million for Romney, that’s twice as has been given to Obama so far; see http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=A). Makes the public’s voice — our voices — all the more urgently needed!
I’ve softly touched on this issue yet already I am flabbergasted and appauled by the consensus of any popular outlook that sees gmos having any benefit to the general health outcomes for the consumer. Furthermore I am blown away that this is is so hidden on part of any persons in volved in seed to final product available for consumption. It is the right of the consumer to know what they are purchasing, especially a product that is in the testing stage. Sure they may be similar but what assisted growth of any food item? What is known to me or at least partially is the effect gmos result in, they play a part in rearranging the genetics of the consumer. Maybe no immediate proof, maybe further along in life or even next generations. I don’t want to lay in wonder or fear of my food and the affects it has on me., it should have the nutrition I expect when I buy my food. No more ingrediants I have trouble pronouncing!!
Labeling of all kinds would be wonderful. Most people simply do not understand that their food is likely toxic. Irradiated, GMO, herbicides, pesticides, artificial stuff. It is overwhelming. The average person has no idea – and to make it worse – “they” would have you believe that washing fruits and vegetables erases any trace of poison. But it doesn’t. There is mayhem going on inside the food. And it adds up to sickness down the road.
Growing some of your own food is the answer. It saves you money, creates an opportunity for exercise and fresh air, provides more nutritious food for your table – and tastes BETTER! Keep up the good work spreading this message.
Live an Authentic Life
Take advantage of your local farmers markets. Support them with your business. Their products are grown locally and they have an interest in improving the quality of our food.
They only need to print one style of Label for all of their products, the Universal sign for poison… A Skull & Cross Bones.