In Iowa earlier this week, organic and conventional farmers delivered over 40,000 petition signatures and a clear message to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: Stop the approval of "next generation" GE corn and soy crops. Now.
Dow’s 2,4-D-resistant corn is the first of 10 herbicide-resistant crops in the queue pending USDA approval, with Monsanto’s dicamba soy and others not far behind. If approved, these new GE crops would dramatically drive up the use of harmful pesticides, placing the burden of increased costs and health risks on farmers and local communities.
"The whole suite of new GE seeds is a bad idea for farmers and farm communities,” said Denise O’Brien, an Iowa farmer, and former Obama Administration agricultural policy advisor. “The pesticide industry is introducing one troubling GE seed after another.”
Of particular concern are 2,4-D and dicamba-resistant crops. Both herbicides are known to drift to neighboring fields, directly and through volatilization, damaging crops not engineered to withstand repeated application of these chemicals — particularly non-GE soy and other broadleaf plants. Conventional farmers could lose crops, while organic farmers could lose both crops and certification.
In the first 15 years of commercial use, herbicide-resistant crops increased pesticide use by 500 million pounds. And in 2011 alone, GE crops used 20 percent more pesticides on average than non-GE crops. In short: GE crops drive up the use of pesticides, leaving farmers and local communities to pay the price.
In addition to the damage herbicide drift can inflict on neighboring crops, more use of these chemicals exposes those living on or near farms to unnecessary health risks. 2,4-D, for example, has been linked to birth defects, neurological damage and cancer — and children are especially susceptible to its effects.
Another pitfall of herbicide resistant crops is the emergence of "superweeds" on more than 10 million acres of farmland across the country. The problem has hit the Midwest especially hard, and was cited by the farmers delivering petition signatures to USDA this week.
"Herbicide-resistant crops may, in the short run, make it easy to weed out weeds," said George Naylor, a conventional corn and soy farmer in Iowa. "But even the 2012 Herbicide Guide from Iowa State University notes, 'History has proven time and again that herbicide-based weed management will inevitably fail.'”
Still, pesticide corporations — the "Big 6," including Monsanto and Dow — continue to stack seeds with herbicide-resistant traits, tethering farmers to ever-more intensive pesticide use.
Troy Roush, an Indiana farmer, is particularly concerned about dicamba-resistant soy hitting the market. In the video below — FixFood's "Danger of Dicamba" — Roush explains:
The danger of dicamba is it's a very volatile compound, it simply will not stay put. It'll go to a gaseous state and literally rise up above the crop that it's been applied to, and the slightest bit of wind can move it off target. Whatever it settles on, it kills...If I'm not using their GMO soybean, I'm going to get wiped out by my neighbors. In essence, all farmers will be forced to use GMO soybeans. It's serious business.