Good News: GMOs Don’t Work!
They’re stupid and they make us stupid.
No increased yields or reduced pesticide use. They do work for Monsanto, however, to increase the use of fossil-fuel based herbicides…Europe banned GMOs 20 years ago. France, Europe’s biggest producer, is kicking our ass in productivity and in reducing chemical use.
Now we can stop wasting time and energy on them — and experimenting on us — and start promoting and developing local permaculture. Ecologically based farming and infrastructure and appropriate policies are needed to help families, farmers, and communities thrive.
Figures from the United States Department of Agriculture show herbicide use skyrocketing in soybeans, a leading G.M. crop, growing by two and a half times in the last two decades, at a time when planted acreage of the crop grew by less than a third. Use in corn was trending downward even before the introduction of G.M. crops, but then nearly doubled from 2002 to 2010, before leveling off. Weed resistance problems in such crops have pushed overall usage up.
Monsanto has said that the corn seed of 2025 will have 14 traits and allow farmers to spray five different kinds of herbicide.
G.M.O.s Were Supposed to Lessen Pesticide Use
Manufacturers also said that genetically modified crops would reduce the need for pesticides. In France, where G.M.O.s are not permitted, pesticide use has significantly declined.
Much of the growth in the use of weed killers in the U.S. has been for Monsanto’s Roundup, in which the active ingredient is glyphosate.
Herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to modified varieties.
And the United States has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides.
Fears about the harmful effects of eating G.M. foods have proved to be largely without scientific basis. The potential harm from pesticides, however, has drawn researchers’ attention. Pesticides are toxic by design — weaponized versions, like sarin, were developed in Nazi Germany — and have been linked to developmental delays and cancer.
“These chemicals are largely unknown,” said David Bellinger, a professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health, whose research has attributed the loss of nearly 17 million I.Q. points among American children 5 years old and under to one class of insecticides. “We do natural experiments on a population,” he said, referring to exposure to chemicals in agriculture, “and wait until it shows up as bad.”
The same companies make and sell both the genetically modified plants and the poisons. Driven by these sales, the combined market capitalizations of Monsanto, the largest seed company, and Syngenta, the Swiss pesticide giant, have grown more than sixfold in the last decade and a half. The two companies are separately involved in merger agreements that would lift their new combined values to more than $100 billion each.
Genetically modified crops can sometimes be effective. Matin Qaim, a researcher at Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany, authored a a meta-analysis of studies that he helped write finding significant yield gains from genetically modified crops. But in an interview and emails, Dr. Qaim said he saw significant effects mostly from insect-resistant varieties in the developing world, particularly in India.
“Currently available G.M. crops would not lead to major yield gains in Europe,” he said. And regarding herbicide-resistant crops in general: “I don’t consider this to be the miracle type of technology that we couldn’t live without.”
But weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup around the world — creating an opening for the industry to sell more seeds and more pesticides.
Growing resistance to Roundup is also reviving old, and contentious, chemicals. One is 2,4-D, an ingredient in Agent Orange, the infamous Vietnam War defoliant. Its potential risks have long divided scientists and have alarmed advocacy groups.
Another is dicamba. In Louisiana, Monsanto is spending nearly $1 billion to begin production of the chemical there. And even though Monsanto’s version is not yet approved for use, the company is already selling seeds that are resistant to it — leading to reports that some farmers are damaging neighbors’ crops by illegally spraying older versions of the toxin.
“We will go where the market and the customers demand our technology.”
— Liam Condon, the head of Bayer’s crop science division
Feed the world in an ecologically based manner
Genetically improved crops have benefited many farmers, but it is clear that genetic improvement alone cannot address the wide variety of complex challenges that farmers face. Ecologically based farming approaches as well as infrastructure and appropriate policies are also needed.
Instead of worrying about the genes in our food, we need to focus on ways to help families, farmers and rural communities thrive. We must be sure that everyone can afford the food and we must minimize environmental degradation.