Former EPA Senior Scientist’s New Article Sets Record Straight
Michael Specter’s articles in the New Yorker bashing Vandana Shiva and the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods (“Seeds of Doubt” and “The Problem with GMO Labels,” 8/25/14) are the latest high-profile pro-GMO articles that fail to engage with the fundamental critique of GE food crops in U.S. soil today — rather than reduce pesticide inputs, GMOs are in fact causing them to skyrocket in both amount and toxicity.
Setting the record straight, Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., former Senior Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently published a well-researched article documenting the devastating facts, “Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops,” in Environmental Working Group’s online publication AgMag. Dr. Seidler’s article cites and links to recent scientific literature and media reports, and it should be required reading for all journalists covering GMOs, as well as for all citizens in general, in order to understand why their right to know if food is genetically engineered is so important. The short discussion below summarizes the major points of his five-page article.
Over 99% of GMO acreage is engineered by chemical companies to tolerate heavy herbicide (glyphosate) use and/or to produce insecticide (Bt) in every cell of every plant over the entire growing season. The result is massive selection pressure that has rapidly created pest resistance — the opposite of integrated pest management where judicious amounts of chemical controls are applied only as necessary. Predictably, just like the overuse of antibiotics in confined factory farms has created resistant “supergerms” leading to animals being overdosed with ever more powerful antibiotics, we now have huge swaths of the country infested with “superweeds” and “superbugs” resistant to glyphosate and Bt, meaning greater volumes of even more toxic pesticides are being applied today.
For example, the use of systemic insecticides, which coat GMO corn and soy seeds and are incorporated and expressed inside the entire plant, has skyrocketed in the last ten years. This includes the use of neonicotinoids (neonics) which are extremely powerful neurotoxins that contaminate our food and water and destroy non-target pollinators and wildlife such as bees, butterflies and birds. In fact, two neonics in widespread use in the U.S. today are currently banned in the EU because of their suspected link to Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.
Mainstream pro-GMO media also fail to discuss the ever-increasing amount of older, much more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D and dicamba being sprayed, along with huge volumes of glyphosate, to deal with superweeds. Most importantly and egregiously, this biased reporting does not mention the imminent approval of the pesticide industry’s next-generation, herbicide-tolerant crops that are resistant not only to glyphosate, but also to high doses of 2,4-D and dicamba, which will lead to huge increases in the amount of these toxic chemicals being sprayed on our foods and farming communities.
The USDA and EPA are in the process of rubber-stamping these GMOs into our farming communities — and unlabeled onto our dinner plates, yet pro-GMO media consistently fail to discuss their imminent approval, while even touting the lower-toxicity profile of glyphosate. Such reporting gives a pass to the chemical pesticide industry that pours millions into lobbying government and media elites and defeating voter ballot initiatives to require labeling of GMO foods.
Farmworkers, and their children in particular, are vulnerable to direct pesticide exposure that contaminates their shoes and clothing — and thus their homes.
Hopefully, Dr. Seidler’s article will be widely read and disseminated, so that reporters can learn the facts and check their biases against industry-fed distortions. Citizens and consumers need to hear the fundamental concern that GMOs are doubling down on, not freeing us from, the pesticide treadmill that contaminates our food and water while lining the pockets of the chemical companies that make both the GMO crops and the pesticides used on them.