As a scientist at Pesticide Action Network, I am frequently asked these days to explain what genetically engineered (GE) crops have to do with pesticides. When I answer that GE crops both contain and drive up pesticide use, I am often met with earnest incredulity. We seem to need to believe that GE technology is the best thing since sliced bread.
In news out earlier this week, food and farming leaders from the Evergreen State are taking up the issue of labeling genetically engineered foods on the state’s ballot. Despite the fact that federal and state governments have largely either ignored or assiduously avoided the issue, Washington joins California in taking the matter directly to the voters.
This should be no surprise, as ballot initiatives have proven the last resort when other policy arenas fail to take up or take action on public issues.
Silent Spring turns 50 next week, giving occasion for all manner of reflection on Rachel Carson's legacy as the author who catalyzed the U.S. environmental movement. The small, but vocal rightwing fringe continues in its campaign to paint Carson as the devil "responsible for more deaths than Hitler." But most mainstream reflections thus far have sought to contemporize Carson by drawing links between the issues she outlined in Silent Spring and the concerns we still face today.
Claiming no special insight other than working daily in Carson's wake, I speculate that she'd be reporting in her way on one of these still-untold and/or under-reported pesticide stories:
Very big news exploding across the papers yesterday. Eating genetically engineered (GE) corn has been strongly linked to serious health effects — including mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage. A team of European scientists yesterday released the first independent long-term animal feeding study of its kind on the health effects of eating GE foods in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
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.
Recent media coverage of Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, which would permit companies to label foods made with genetically engineered (GE) crops, highlights the gulf between citizens demanding the right to know what's in our food and corporations desperate to keep the public in the dark.
Brazil, the world’s second largest user of genetically engineered (GE) seeds, just took Monsanto down a notch. The court focused on Monsanto’s harassment and exploitation of farmers — potentially causing huge financial losses to the company, and keeping their army of lawyers busy for a while. Meanwhile, we celebrate a rare commonsense legal decision.
Monsanto's RoundUp Ready soy seeds comprise 85% of all soy grown in Brazil, and the corporation has been making a tidy profit charging farmers a levy of 2% on top of the cost of seed. In April, a Brazilian court ruled this levy illegal.
Twenty years ago this week Dan Quayle went against scientific consensus to publicly proclaim that genetically engineered foods were “substantially equivalent” to non-GE food, and that he would therefore work to ensure that GE food would not be “hampered by unnecessary regulation.” In the pivotal 1992 FDA ruling that Quayle then proudly claimed as part of his “regulatory relief” agenda, the flood gates for GE were opened.
We’ve been living in that wake ever since because a small clutch of biotech “true believers,” ideologically anti-regulatory government officials and industry lobbyists have kept that flood gate open against great odds.
In the last few weeks beekeepers have reported staggering losses in Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio after their hives foraged on pesticide-treated corn fields. Indiana too, two years ago. What's going on in the Corn Belt?