When GMOs were first introduced in the 1990s, they promised higher yields — which would aid in feeding the world — along with a simultaneous reduction in the use of chemicals.
More than two decades later, here is where we stand:
Herbicide use has grown According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, herbicide use in agriculture increased from 420 million pounds in 2005 to 564 million pounds in 2012, a growth of 34%.
Superweeds have become a major problem In a Stratus Ag Research survey, 73% of nearly 4,000 growers polled across the U.S. reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2017. That figure represents 120 million acres in the country. (Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, the ubiquitous herbicide sprayed on GMO crops.)
GMO crops are not delivering an increase in yields In an extensive study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine called Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects, the report found that “there was no evidence that GE crops had changed the rate of increase in yields.”
Without question, this GMO experiment is a colossal failure, to the complete detriment of the well-being of American citizens and the environment.
And now, it is about to get much, much worse under the USDA’s recently announced new GMO regulatory framework called The Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule.
This new rule states that, in many cases, companies will be able to self-determine whether their GMOs should be regulated or not. The issue at play is whether a company’s GMO is a plant pest. If the company concludes that its GMO does not pose a plant pest risk, it will be excluded from government regulation. (A plant pest is anything that can injure, infect or damage any plants or plant products).
By allowing the chemical and seed companies to self-regulate, the USDA wants to abdicate its inherent responsibility for protecting the safety of our food supply, placing it in the hands of corporations. This hands-off approach proved to be an unmitigated disaster in the airline industry with the subsequent Boeing crashes.
“The USDA is intentionally avoiding using its statutory authority to address problems created by GMOs,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. “There is nothing in these regulations to deal with the contamination of organic/conventional crops by genetically-engineered crops. Furthermore, the herbicide-resistant crop systems that dominate biotech agriculture foster noxious weeds immune to multiple herbicides and have caused unprecedented damage to millions of acres of susceptible crops through herbicide drift. These have been among the biggest problems in U.S. agriculture for some time, yet the USDA and its new regulations do nothing to protect farmers from these threats.”
Now, with even less regulation of GMOs, there are two other alarming developments that are sure to intensify.
1) A pesticide arms race Chemical companies will deal with this superweed problem by presenting even more potent solutions.
For example, in New Zealand, Bayer Crop Science is seeking approval for a new GE-corn that is resistant to 12 super-toxic chemicals — glyphosate, 2,4-D, dicamba, glufosinate and eight other herbicides. The seed is also coated with the systemic bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticide and has been called “the most extreme ‘gene-stacked’ food ever grown.”
2) Increase in herbicide residue levels in food “When Roundup Ready GMO crops were introduced, the EPA increased the allowed ‘tolerance’ levels of glyphosate on crops in order to accommodate an increase in the spraying of this chemical. We can expect the same with other herbicides as they become more widely used on farms and end up on the plates of more consumers,” said Bill Freese.
Many politicians in the U.S. sell us on the virtues of less government regulation, with the goal of having a more efficient economy.
While that sounds great in theory, the reality is that we often end up with programs that have a beautiful sounding acronym delivering dreadful outcomes.
This is exactly what we have with the USDA’s new Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule.
By no means is it Sustainable, Ecological or Responsible.
Yet, it will be Efficient in allowing the chemical and seed companies to contaminate organic crops and the environment at a much more rapid pace.
Max Goldberg, Founder
Although the targets are not yet legally binding and will be subject to an impact assessment, the European Commission wants organic farmland to reach 25% by 2030 and the use of chemical pesticides to be reduced by 50%.
According to the April 2020 Organic Produce Performance Report, total organic fresh produce sales grew 18.4% in dollars and 20.5% in volume, versus the same time period last year.
An organic farmer and a Democratic representative from Maine, Chellie Pingree pens an important op-ed about how we can use this moment in time to make long-overdue changes to the food system.
In a recent Organic Trade Association poll, over 90% of respondents indicated that, in their current food shopping, organic is more important than ever.
A great interview in the NYT with Nick Green, CEO and Co-Founder of Thrive Market, about how the company has been dealing with the crushing demand from people ordering online.
With factory-farmed meat suffering a litany of problems, the production of organic and grass-fed meats is growing.
According to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs increased 4.3%, and a separate index for egg prices alone surged by 16.1%.
Michael Pollan examines our broken food system and how we got here. An excellent read.
So far, the company has already converted six stores -- New York City (Bryant Park), San Francisco (SOMA), Baltimore, Austin, Chicago (near DePaul University) and Colorado (Castle Rock).
Researchers from the American Urological Association found that hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction were less prevalent in men who adhered to an organic diet.
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* Organic clothing and textile pioneer Marci Zaroff talks about launching her new line Farm to Home on QVC and the intricacies of selling on this shopping channel.
* Andi Strachan, the head gardener at Yeo Valley Organic Farm in the UK, is starring in the new Netflix series The Big Flower Fight.
* Congrats to my friend Dr. Joel Kahn, whose latest book Lipoprotein(a): The Heart’s Quiet Killer has been a #1 best-seller on Amazon.
* Pitchouline and Moonshadow Grove, two organic producers from California, took home gold medals at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
* New research ties regenerative farming practices to improved human health and nutrition. Rodale Institute has the information.
* Represented by the Richman Law Group, Beyond Pesticides has sued Exxon Mobil Corporation for “false and deceptive marketing,” misrepresenting to consumers that it “has invested significantly in the production and use of clean energy and environmentally beneficial technology.”
* Professor Kathleen Delate and Peter Lawlor, both from the horticulture department at Iowa State University, have released a new video — Gardening While Isolated: Pest Management.
* In collaboration with the Clean Label Project, the Organic Consumers Association has published a report that shows most of the top-selling collagen peptide products test positive for heavy metals.
* Palm Done Right, the group that promotes the production of palm oil that is 100% organic, deforestation-free, wildlife-friendly, fair and social, just launched a transparency in labeling campaign called #SayItOnThe Wrapper.
* The USDA is seeking five nominees for the National Organic Standards Board.
* There will be no Organic Insider next week. We will return on Wednesday, June 3rd.