GE crops increase pesticide use, not yield

Why is it that people continue to MISTAKENLY believe genetically engineered crops feed the world and help the environment by reducing pesticide use?  Perhaps because the government and the biotechnology industry expend questionable efforts to “educate” consumers, the media, and politicians with propaganda championing GE food as safe and necessary.

In reality, genetically engineered crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty, states a report by Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety.

The report, Who Benefits from GM Crops? The Rise in Pesticide Use, found that:

  • the majority of GE crops are used for animal feed in rich countries rather than for people in poorer nations,
  • not a single commericalized GE crop is engineered for enhanced nutrition, increased yield, drought-tolerance, or other beneficial traits, 
  • 4 out of every 5 acres of GE crops worldwide are Monsanto’s Roundup Ready varieties, designed for use with the pesticide (glyphosate) that Monsanto sells,
  • US government data reveal a 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate on soybeans, corn and cotton in the US from 1994-2005,
  • rising glyphosate use has spawned superweeds resistant to glyphosate in the US, Argentina, and Brazil (weed scientists have reported glyphosate-resistant weeds infesting 2.4 million acres in the US alone), and
  • increasing weed resistance to glyphosate has led to rising use of other toxic chemicals.

The report also states that GE crops don’t yield more than conventional crops and that GE crops benefit mainly biotech companies. 

In 2006, the USDA even acknowledged that GE crops yields are not greater than those of conventional crops.

American taxpayers support the multi-billion dollar biotech industry by massively funding GE crops and dairy subsidies, state initiatives, and tax breaks for biotech companies, while biotech crops are exported for foreign aid, and other biotech support is doled out by the US government.

According to the census of agriculture, 66% of all farmers do not recieve subsidies because they do not grow one of the main crops — such as soy and corn — that account for most of the subsidy payments.  Subsidies were meant to help struggling farmers; however, between 1995 and 2005, the top, largest 10% of agribusinesses received 73% of all taxpayer-funded subsidies amounting to more than $120 billion.

Book review of Shedding Light by Chris Gupta

A very special thank you to Chris Gupta for the wonderful and indepth book review posted on his website on March 19, 2008.  Following is an excerpt of his review: 

Loaded with pertinent references and web pages – a must read to understand what is at risk.  Beth Harrison’s short book will ramp you up on the hows and why of behind the scenes GE shenanigans, the book is particularly suited for those with info overload.  There is no excuse now for all not to ramp up on this most pressing subject!

. . . The beauty of information is that once it is out – people can learn the facts and they can deal with the horror story and change their outrage to action.  Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food fits this need.  A worthy handbook for action.

Chris Gupta is a health researcher and educator in Canada, with his site covering everything from health through nutrition, environmental poisoning, electro medicine, Third World plundering, and more.  Check out his website; you can even subscribe to his email list.

Natural Products Expo West and The Non-GMO Project

Natural Products Expo WestNatural Products Expo West

Last week I went to the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, as did more than 52,000 other industry attendees. I spent the show interviewing vendors, sampling products, attending seminars, and digging up new information about the industry of natural and organic foods and alternative health products.

According to the Natural Foods Merchandiser’s 2007 Market Overview, the $57 billion dollar natural and organic products industry continues to enjoy rising sales with huge growth in certified organic meat and seafood, beer and wine, pet products, herbs and botanicals, and personal care.

Organic farms have historically been small, family-run businesses producing for local markets, but this is changing as conventional agribusiness continue to get in on the organic and natural foods industry. According to the Organic Consumers Association, in the eyes of General Mills, “organic is not a revolution so much as a market niche.” 

For instance, in 1999, Heinz acquired Hain Celestial products for $100 million, which gives them control of more than twenty natural food lines.  Other examples of corporate acquisitions of organic processors include M&M Mars owning Seeds of Change, Kraft owning Boca Foods, Cadbury Schweppes owning Green & Black’s chocolate, General Mills owning Cascadian Farms, and more (click here to see a chart of what company owns what.) 

Not surprisingly, many new foods were geared toward children, as well as a lot of green, probiotic, and energy drinks for adults.  It was a relief that many of these products were organic and there seemed to be a general awarness about GMOs at the expo. Unfortunately, many of the products (there were thousands of exhibitors) were just junk food with the “natural” label, which is meaningless if you’re wanting to eat organic and GMO-free, especially if they contain non-organic soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oil, or dairy.

While there are some organic companies that operate with integrity, consumers cannot mistakenly assume that they all have integrity, or that just because a product is called “something-organics” or “natural” that it is all organic and GMO-free.

Because I couldn’t read every label about new products, I asked several vendors, “Is this organic and non-GMO?”  Some said yes, while others replied, “This is natural so I don’t think it is GMO.”  Hmmmm.

I had a conversation with one company representative who was touting a children’s line of food. When I asked about the “macaroni and cheese with organic pasta,” she told me they use organic ingredients. When I looked at the label, the cheese, butter, and canola oil were not organic.  I asked, “Have you ever heard of rBGH? Your dairy might contain a genetically engineered hormone if it’s not organic or rBGH-free.” She said I should write to the owner about it and didn’t want to discuss it further with me after that.

The point is–buyer beware.  When choosing what to buy, make sure you see the USDA organic seal and look at ALL of the ingredients.

On another note, one seminar that I attended at the expo, GMOs: What You Need to Know, discussed organic contamination by GMOs and the progress being made toward ensuring non-GMO choices for consumers in North America.

For years, farmers have known that cross-pollination, blow-over, or genetic pollution, of genetically altered crops has the potential to contaminate their non-GMO crops. The British Soil Association’s report Seeds of Doubt stated:

Widespread GM contamination has occurred rapidly and caused major disruption at all levels of the agricultural industry, for seed resources, crop production, food processing, and bulk commodity trading. It has undermined the viability of the whole North American farming industry.

It is reassuring to know that some leaders with integrity in the organic industry are taking steps to ensure  that their organic products are not contaminated by GMOs.Speakers at this seminar included Megan Thompson, executive director of The Non-GMO Project, Michael Funk with The Non-GMO Project and UNFI, Margret Wittenberg, vice president, quality standards and public affairs of Whole Foods Market, and Dr. John Fagan, FoodChain Global Advisors.

The Non-GMO Project, the North American organic and natural product industry’s initiative for non-GMO verification, was discussed. Created by a coalition of industry leaders dedicated to the long-term viability of a safe, healthful food supply, The Non-GMO Project offers:

  1. a standardized, consensus-based definition of non-GMO;
  2. a third party verification program to identify products that are compliant with the standard; and
  3. coordination for industry efforts to address GMO-related challenges such as sustained availability of non-GMO seeds and ingredients.

In the fall of 2009, we will see products that are labeled “Non-GMO Project Verified” through advertisements and retail package labeling.  In the meantime, companies are enrolling in the project and coordinating their sourcing of non-GMO ingredients.

Encouraging is that ten organic-food industry leaders—Good Earth Natural & Organic Foods, The Natural Grocery Company, The Big Carrot, Lundberg, Eden, Organic Valley Family of Farms, United Natural Foods, Nature’s Path, WhiteWave, and Whole Foods—initiated and funded this verification project, not the regulatory agencies of the US government. The intent is to ensure standardized testing and the safety of organics in today’s world of mass GMO contamination.

Given the fact that we vote with our dollars, we need to read labels and buy accordingly. Furthermore, we should support companies involved in The Non-GMO Project that are doing what they can to ensure that our organic food remains GMO-free.