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Pesticide pundits set sights on GE battle

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This fall's mix of elections and anniversaries has stirred up a hornet's nest of talking heads.

September marks the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as California is gearing up for a landmark vote on labeling genetically engineered food in November. The combination appears to be a perfect storm for pesticide-promoting pundits.

Their arguments are in line with the same industry myths we've been hearing (and debunking) for years, claiming that DDT is both safe and effective, and that genetically engineered crops are good for the environment, harmless to health and are needed to address world hunger.

Enter Henry Miller, a Fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution with ties to the American Council on Science and Health. Author of numerous articles on the benefits of both DDT and genetic engineering, he is also founding director of FDA's Office of Biotechnology. In an article this month in the San Francisco Chronicle he weighed in vociferously against Prop 37, arguing that genetically engineered foods are so safe that consumers don't need to know when GE ingredients are in their food.

Despite the best attempts of Miller et al. to convince the public otherwise, the facts that have triggered concerns about genetic engineering are very real. GE crops are responsible for a dramatic increase in the use of harmful herbicides over the past 15 years, and have meanwhile failed to improve crop yields as promised.

Follow the money

The money trail — for those promoting either DDT or genetic engineering — usually ends with handful of corporations. These corporations fund think tanks and pundits through a variety of channels, sometimes directly, but also through foundation arms. Usually not too far away are the world’s six largest pesticide manufacturers — the “Big 6” — that control a majority of global seed production, affecting what farmers can grow and what ends up on our dinner tables.

These corporations clearly don’t want to loosen their tight hold on food and farming. In more campaign disclosures released this week, the California Secretary of State revealed that Monsanto alone has contributed over $7 million to block California’s GE labeling initiative. And collectively, the Big 6 have contributed over $19 million to defeat the measure. They’re afraid of what Californians might find out about their food and how it’s grown.

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