In response to an opinion piece called Trump Should Unshackle Innovation in Ag Biotechnology printed in Lancaster Farming on April 8, 2017, GMO Free PA submitted an editorial response with the hope that it will appear in the issue published on Earth Day 2017. GMO Free PA is committed to connecting farms, food businesses and eaters in Pennsylvania, with the goal of creating a sustainable farming system that produces nutritious food for all.
Read Trump Should Unshackle Innovation in Ag Biotechnology here.
This is our rebuttal:
On Earth Day Embrace Sustainable Agriculture
L. Val Giddings made claims that biotechnology has been “stymied” by “overly cautious regulations,” in his opinion piece (Lancaster Farming, April 8, 2017, Trump Should Unshackle Innovation in Ag Technology). Before we examine Giddings’ questionable claims that genetic engineering (or genetic modification, GM, or GMO) has produced safer and more sustainable crops, let’s investigate Gidding’s backstory.
First, according to powerbase.info, “Dr. Luther Val Giddings is the former Vice President for Food & Agriculture of the Washington DC-based Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the industry’s major trade lobby which represents such corporate giants as DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta. Giddings’ specific responsibility at BIO [was] to promote GM crops.” Giddings cannot be regarded an impartial commentator on this subject.
Consider the timing of last week’s op-ed. Giddings’ pro-GMO commentary suddenly re-emerged just as a new 450-page book called Transgenic Crops: Hazards and Uncertainties was published, which documents over 750 studies disregarded by GMO regulatory bodies.
Next, let’s dissect what Giddings claims is the safety and efficacy of GMOs.
Crops were genetically modified to withstand the killing effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The business model was to sell the “package” of patented GMO seeds with the accompanying chemicals. Farmers are required to sign a contract forbidding them from doing what farmers have always done: selectively save seeds, experiment, replant. According to the USGS, the application of Roundup has increased almost twenty-fold since 1996. This overuse has created immune “superweeds” now growing in 75% of farm fields and has triggered a spiraling increase of toxic pesticide use. A similar failure is reported for Bt insecticide trait.
A Probable Carcinogen
Numerous studies have uncovered the adverse effects of glyphosate on environmental and human health. Pesticide overuse has destroyed soil fertility and caused dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. GMO seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides have decimated bee populations. The World Health Organization’s cancer research arm classifies Roundup as a “probable human carcinogen.” Consequently, California became the first state, in January, to require label warnings on Roundup and glyphosate-based products.
Product liability lawyers are reviewing potential class action lawsuits and individual Roundup cancer lawsuits for users diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma or other cancers following heavy exposure to Roundup.
Alarming Levels of Glyphosate in Food
Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world today, causing alarming levels of glyphosate residue in processed American foods including high fructose corn syrup and soy lecithin. Glyphosate residue is also in food that is not genetically engineered — such as wheat, oats, barley, peas, lentils — because glyphosate is used as a pre-harvest drying agent.
Feed The World
Many myths surrounding GMOs are pervasive, including that biotech crops are necessary to feed the world. GMOs do not now feed the world. In fact, hunger has increased 57% in the U.S. since GMOs were introduced. The United Nations’ 2013 report titled, Wake Up Before It’s Too Late, states that small-scale agro-ecology (organic farming) is the only way to sustainably feed the world. Similarly, the World Bank’s studies state “a wholesale paradigm shift” is necessary to feed the world, calling for a “climate-smart” agriculture system.
On Earth Day, Trump should be facilitating the transition to a sustainable agriculture system, not “ag technology” corporations. Instead of touting tech that is “derived directly from nature,” let’s work with nature. In Pennsylvania, “commonwealth” implies a special devotion of the government to the welfare of its citizens. The regulations in place are intended to protect clean air, clean water and living soil.
It’s the opportune time for Pennsylvania farmers to profit from transitional/organic farming that will produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. The SOIL Institute at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Soil Health Institute are invaluable sources of soil health and sustainable agriculture resources for transitioning farmers.
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