In one week, the US Department of Agriculture clearly demonstrated that it favors the bottom line of one biotechnology company, Monsanto, while putting the organic food industry at-risk and ignoring more than 400,000 people who expressed concerns about genetically engineered (GE) foods. On January 27, USDA approved unrestricted plantings of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically engineered alfalfa and followed that on February 4 by allowing restricted plantings of GE sugar beets.
With the sugar beet decision, USDA also ignored a federal court ruling that prohibits plantings of the GE beets.
Health and environmental risks of GE crops
The agency’s policy toward GE crops is basically to rubber stamp their approval, despite continued concerns over the health and environmental risks of GE crops. Here are some recent research findings.
- A multigenerational study on hamsters fed GE soy found that by the third generation the hamsters had lost the ability to reproduce. They also suffered slower growth and there was a high mortality rate among the hamster pups.
- A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that insecticidal proteins from GE corn are entering streams throughout the Midwest. No one knows the impacts of these GE proteins on the environment.
- Studies have found that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup herbicide used extensively with Roundup Ready GE crops, is linked to more than 40 plant diseases, is toxic to beneficial soil nutrients, reduces manganese, an essential nutrient in plants, and has been shown to be toxic to human cells.
US farmers are now using so much Roundup herbicide that more and more weeds are becoming resistant to it. Nearly 11 million acres of farmland contained Roundup resistant weeds last year and the problem is growing exponentially.
Amazingly, in its court ordered environmental review of GE alfalfa, USDA ignored the weed resistance problem. Now farmers will use even more Roundup and other harmful herbicides with GE alfalfa and sugar beets.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by elvisripley