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Published on February 7th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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Monsanto GM Sugar Beets (and Alfalfa) Approval: Why This is Bad News

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We have a great post going up tomorrow morning on the USDA’s recent approval of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) — “genetically engineered” (“GE”) if you live in Europe — sugar beets and GM alfalfa from Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report. It will cover health concerns (based on scientific studies), environmental concerns, legal concerns, considerable threats to organic farmers and consumers, and the USDA’s decision to ignore public concerns and comments from hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens. But I wanted to chime in on this with a few comments of my own as well.

Uncertain Science

There are numerous studies that show GM foods can seriously damage animal health and lead to premature death. There are also industry-funded studies which supposedly tell us that GM foods are completely safe.

Now, if  one set of studies shows that something is dangerous, and another set shows it is not, what is the logical, conservative thing to do? Well, at the very least, it is not to feed half the country this thing until more studies verify which is correct.

As leading scientist/geneticist David Suzuki said regarding this topic:

Because we aren’t certain about the effects of GMOs, we must consider one of the guiding principles in science, the precautionary principle. Under this principle, if a policy or action could harm human health or the environment, we must not proceed until we know for sure what the impact will be. And it is up to those proposing the action or policy to prove that it is not harmful.

Seriously, can we get a clue?

We are now conducting a massive experiment on our country and our citizens’ health. With a number of preliminary studies showing it could end up in catastrophe.

Sugar More Dangerous than Ever

That’s part of a headline to a Food & Water Watch news release from earlier today.

“If you thought your sugary treat was bad before, it’s just become a nightmare,” the organization notes.

Why is this the case? Even if you forget the health threats of GMOs themselves, it has been documented that GM crops do not cut the amount of pesticides being used, but they increase it greatly. Because the GM crops are less harmed by these chemicals, farmers can dowse them even more than before. (This is what is causing the growth of very concerning superweeds, which have been called “the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen.”)

What this means is, your food will be even more soaked in chemicals (designed to kill things) than before.

Am I a Conspiracy-Theorist, Anti-Government, Anti-Science Freak?

I hope not. I don’t think of myself as such. In fact, I spend much more time trying to convince people to look into the science of climate change (as I do myself) more in order to understand what has been very soundly studied, what has not, and what the conclusions for society are.

Whereas climate science has developed over the course of many decades and has come to very convincing conclusions that the leading scientific bodies in the world support (i.e. the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the UK’s Royal Society), science on the safety of GMOs is in its infancy, has come to very mixed conclusions (and very concerning conclusions if you removed industry-funded studies from the mix), and does not warrant the mass-production of GM crops, let alone consumption of them.  As Suzuki said, “Because we aren’t certain about the effects of GMOs, we must consider one of the guiding principles in science, the precautionary principle.”

Apparently, the USDA has decided not to.

Tell Obama to Stand Up to Monsanto

There has been a bit of speculation that the USDA caved and approved these GM crops due to pressure from the White House, Congress (in particular, the GOP), and the industry.

Want to tell Obama what you think about testing GMOs on you and your children? Sign Food Democracy Now’s petition to Obama to say “No” to Monsanto here.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • http://Web Tracy

    This is CRAZY. Why are we, as a people, allowing these companies to poison our food supply to make a buck? Or billions of bucks, that is. Come on, folks! We need to use our purchasing power and not support this insanity.

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zach

      truthfully. however, with a quarter of a million comments submitted to the government, can’t put the blame too much on the citizens. though, as you note, purchasing decisions mean more than comments.

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  • http://Web chilepepper99

    Boy, I can remember just a few short years ago, when Obama first got elected; the liberals said a new era was going to be ushered in where the USDA and Obama’s newest political appointees would finally stand up to Monsanto and Cargil. Well, it’s 2 years later and I see that nothing has changed. It seems that political contributions speak louder than common sense. I guess that “organic” garden on the white house lawn was just a token gesture to pacify all of the liberals.

    No blaming Bush on this one…….

  • http://Web John Ruzicka

    I hope you liberal wack jobs are the first ones to go hungry when you overpopulate the world with the kids none of you take of. If you really knew what went on in the agriculture world, and what your food should really cost, you’d think twice about this crap that you’re writing. Farmers are finding ways to use less chemicals all of the time, as well as cutting use of water and commercial fertilizers, but somehow you idiots think everything is “doused” with pesticdes. Give me a break. Why don’t you all move to africa and stop them from reproducing. Maybe then we won’t all starve.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      Hey John – We love discussion around here, but if you could do that without name-calling, I’d really appreciate it. Calling people wack jobs and idiots isn’t the way to have a real conversation, and no one’s mind gets changed when you start out on the defensive like that.

      I also don’t appreciate your implication that the folks at this site who have kids don’t take care of them. My husband and I are planning a family, and I think all the time about how I’m going to raise my children. We’re all people, just like you, and we love our families.

      Can you elaborate on how farmers are using fewer chemicals with GM crops? It feels like buried in those insults, there might be something worth discussing, and I’d love to see some sources to back that part up.

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