Michael Specter’s recent articles bashing Vandana Shiva and the labeling of genetically engineered foods (Seeds of Doubt and The Problem with G.M.O. Labels, 8/25/14) in the
New Yorker are the latest high-profile pro-GMO articles that fail to engage with the fundamental critique of genetically engineered food crops in US soil today: rather than reduce pesticide inputs GMOs are causing them to skyrocket in amount and toxicity.
Setting the record straight, Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., former Senior Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency, has recently published a well-researched article documenting the devastating facts, “Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops,” in Environmental Working Group’s online AgMag. Dr. Seidler’s article cites and links recent scientific literature and media reports, and should be required reading for all journalists covering GMOs, as well as for citizens generally to understand why their right to know if food is genetically engineered is so important. The short discussion below summarizes the major points of his five-page article.
Over 99% of GMO acreage is engineered by chemical companies to tolerate heavy herbicide (glyphosate) use and/or produce insecticide (Bt) in every cell of every plant over the entire growing season. The result is massive selection pressure that has rapidly created pest resistance–the opposite of integrated pest management where judicious use of chemical controls is applied only as necessary. Predictably, just like overuse of antibiotics in confined factory farms has created resistant “supergerms” leading to animals being overdosed with ever more powerful antibiotics, we now have huge swaths of the country infested with “superweeds” and “superbugs” resistant to glyphosate and Bt, meaning more volume of more toxic pesticides are being applied.
For example, the use of systemic insecticides, which coat GMO corn and soy seeds and are incorporated and expressed inside the entire plant, has skyrocketed in the last ten years. This includes use of neonicotinoids (neonics) which are extremely powerful neurotoxins that contaminate our food and water and destroy non-target pollinators and wildlife such as bees, butterflies and birds. In fact, two neonics in widespread use in the U.S. are currently banned in the EU because of their suspected link to Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.