by Debbie Pearson
Medical writer and editor, Annita Manning once brought up a good point: “High-tech tomatoes. Mysterious milk. Supersquash. Are we supposed to eat this stuff? Or is it going to eat us?” We’ve known since 2003, through scientific research and lab testing, that these new-fangled bio-tech foods are not all they’re cracked up to be. The subject has popped up again in recent months at protests nation-wide, with greater fervor, as time is running short. It’s been confirmed that bio-tech products are not only depriving us from the nutrition our bodies require and making us sick, they’re quickly sucking the life out of our soil, turning our fertile farmland into a barren desert.
Our global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by the year 2050. Some believe that with a population of those proportions, it may not be possible to feed and clothe everyone. Will bio-technology will be our saving grace? Today’s bio-technology brings us the advantage of having the “highest yielding conventional and biotech seeds on the market, advanced traits and technologies that enable more nutritious and durable crops, and the safest, most effective crop protection solutions”(1). Companies who manufacture these Bio-tech products claim that they can keep insects and weeds at bay, and increase productivity, all while ensuring environmental standards are met.
Monsanto Company is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation who does all this and more. The largest of the bio-tech producers, it prides itself on the “dedication to positive and supportive relationships with farmers, sustainable and environmentally-conscious agricultural practices, policies that promote safe, healthy and reliable food sources for our growing planet, and ethical, transparent and competitive business conduct.”(1) They also pride themselves in working alongside Regulatory agencies like the EPA, FDA and the USDA to ensure food safety. In fact, they work so closely that many of Monsanto’s former employees now have positions in Congress, the Senate, and in the above-named government regulatory agencies (4). It makes one think there could be a conflict of interest here, much to the detriment of our environment.
Monsanto has a lengthy history of bringing us the deadliest chemicals known to man. The company began in 1901 with their first product saccharine. In 1919, they brought us salicylic acid and rubber-processing materials. The 1920’s brought us sulfuric acid. 1940’s, it was plastics, including polystyrene, synthetic fibers, DDT, Agent Orange, aspartame, bovine somatotropin (BST), and PCB’s. They were also involved with developing the first nuclear weapons. In 1954, they formed Mobay and marketed polyurethanes in the US. In 1968, they were the first company to start mass production of LED’s, using gallium arsenide phosphide. We see these every day on digital clocks, watches, and calculators. They were the largest producer of Agent Orange during the Viet Nam war, which caused profound health damage to our US soldiers and the children born to them after exposure to the herbicide.
Now they bring us “Roundup”, a highly toxic pesticide, when used along with Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready seeds, will successfully combat weeds. According to USDA scientist Robert Kremer, Roundup may also be damaging to the soil with repeated use (2). The main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which may be causing fungal root disease of farm crops and plants.
Another scientist, Michael McNeill, Ph.D, at an August 2011 conference in Boulder, Colorado, has observed trends that are consistent with the research that Kremer has done. According to Boulder Weekly magazine:
McNeill explains that glyphosate is a chelating agent, which means it clamps onto molecules that are valuable to a plant, like iron, calcium, manganese, and zinc….The farmers’ increased use of Roundup is actually harming their crops, according to McNeill, because it is killing micronutrients in the soil that they need, a development that has been documented in several scientific papers by the nation’s leading experts in the field. For example, he says, harmful fungi and parasites like fusarium, phytopthora and pythium are on the rise as a result of the poison, while beneficial fungi and other organisms that help plants reduce minerals to a usable state are on the decline. He explains that the overuse of glyphosate mean that oxidizing agents are on the rise, creating oxides that plants can’t use, leading to lower yields and higher susceptibility to disease.(3)
There are also reports of Roundup having produced weed-killer resistant weeds. These warnings from scientists should cause enough concern to at least look into these issues. But Monsanto has knowingly and falsely informed the public, claiming that glyphosate/RoundUp begins to decompose once it absorbs into the soil. There is no other source that we know of that supports Monsanto’s claims besides the company and their cronies.
Despite this history, Monsanto has been entrusted to “feed the masses” with their bio-tech products. Despite all scientific warnings, which have been disregarded and downplayed by the regulatory agencies that have been put in place to protect the public from unsafe food and products. The same regulatory agencies that are run by government appointed former employees of the mega-corporation Monsanto (4).
Monsanto is very adamant about their mission to feed the world, developing their science to accomplish just that. After all, the world’s food security depends on the steady production of healthy, nutritious crops, right? Hence, the “need” for large-scale farming. Large-scale farming calls for large-scale measures to keep weeds under control.
The human species has survived for millions of years without the need for toxic chemicals for weed control. They are unnecessary and there are alternatives (5).
More farmers these days have shown an interest in transitioning from bio-technology back to a simpler approach to farming. This approach would not require the soil to be rebuilt because of the overuse of toxic chemicals, and has been proven to be sustainable to the health of our farmlands.
Buying organic produce from local producers is not only beneficial to our health and the health of our environment, but also to our economy. Local Food Co-ops have been cropping up across the country, which also cuts the risk of food contamination while stored in warehouses for cross-country transportation. It’s a slow start, but it is catching on. If we don’t do something fast, a massive percentage of our farmland will be so over-wrought with damaged soil, it will take years to reverse the effects.
http://www.monsanto.com/products/Pages/default.aspx Retrieved 18 February 2012.
http://grist.org/politics/usda-downplays-own-scientists-research-on-danger-of-roundup/ Retrieved 18 February 2012.
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-6211-expert-gmos-to-blame-for-problems-in-plants-animals.html Retrieved 18 February 2012.
Stonebrook, Shelley. “The 10 Worst Garden Weeds.” Mother Earth News 247 (August/September 2011).
About the author:
Debbie Pearson has made her home in Colorado for the last 20 years, and is currently a Photography major at the Academy of Art University. While taking a required journalism class for the Associates program, she has discovered that she enjoys writing just as much as she does photography.