Since 2008, Brazil has held the dubious distinction of spending more on pesticides than anyplace else on earth. But what has the country's farmers, public health professionals and environmental advocates even more worried is Brazil's corresponding rise in planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops, engineered to tolerate mega-doses of herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup). And these crops are driving emergence of herbicide-tolerant "superweeds".
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shocked the American public with its hasty approval of three highly controversial GE crops in a row (alfalfa, sugar beets and ethanol corn). In doing so, the agency effectively thumbed its nose at U.S. federal courts and spit in the face of consumers and farmers alike. Now, USDA has apparently decided that getting sued for ignoring U.S. environmental laws is getting to be too much of a hassle. So they've come up with a new plan: why not let Monsanto evaluate the potential harms of its new transgenic products? It’ll be so much quicker this way. And save USDA a lot of money.
Tomorrow morning, as you pour milk into your kids’ cereal bowls or buy a latte to get you going, take a moment to think about the dairy and other family farmers who will be braving gusty winds off Lake Michigan to converge on the steps of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These farmers are demanding an end to the price fixing and speculation by traders that has bankrupted thousands of family farmers across the U.S., while spurring food crises worldwide.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the American public’s nearly unified demand for labeling of GMOs. Now, across the country, people are preparing to take to the streets to express their views.
The Millions Against Monsanto campaign is organizing a Rally for the Right to Know in front of the White House on Saturday, March 26. And plans for local rallies are popping up everywhere, including — last I checked — in California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennesee and Wisconsin.
On Feb. 4, USDA announced a “partial deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugar beets to allow planting in 2011. The move came despite a December federal court decision in which the judge ordered that GE beets already planted to produce seed “shall be removed from the ground”. USDA has defied the court on behalf of Monsanto before.
At the annual World Economic Forum this past weekend in Davos, Switzerland, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Director Rajiv Shah stood beside CEOs from Monsanto and other infamous giant corporations, and announced U.S. support for a “New Vision for Agriculture.”
Yes, you should be worried.
On January 27, Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack announced the USDA's decision to de-regulate Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa, allowing it to be grown anywhere and placing both organic and conventional farmers at risk. “We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said Pat Trask, a conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in litigation to prevent planting of GE alfalfa.
Please join me today in urging the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to block approval of GE alfalfa. Things are moving quickly in Washington, and frankly, they aren't looking good. Ignoring rulings from three District courts and the Supreme Court, the demands of over 50 members of Congress and concern expressed by his agency’s own scientists (not to mention farmers and the public), Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is apparently refusing to take action to prohibit the planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.