When we take a closer look at what is happening within the agriculture business we see that modern seed development has allowed the food industry to become more concerned with economic returns than with human health and environmental preservation. Hybrid and genetically modified (GM) crops have severe health and environmental risks that are hidden and ignored.
A look at the chemicals used in agriculture
Chemicals comprise a huge part of the agriculture business. Over $17 billion a year are made from selling pesticides and herbicides. In 1991, 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides were used in the US. As agricultural chemicals are used, weeds, diseases and insects resistant to the chemicals develop. As a result, farmers constantly need to use more powerful chemicals on their crops.
GM crops, because of their built in resistance to herbicides, allow even more toxic chemicals to be used on crops. Since 1945, pesticide use has risen 3,000% while crop loss has continued to rise at 20%.
Health and environmental consequences of agricultural chemicals
Agricultural chemicals are absorbed into food and seep into the land killing, polluting our water and killing microbial soil life. Even though GM crops are designed to make herbicides chemically inactive in plants, spayed GM plants do still absorb the herbicides. Human still digest the chemicals when eating GM crops.
Our Food supply is linked to serious health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The Surgeon General reports that 68% of US diseases are due to the way our food is grown. The National Academy of Sciences states that 30% of all US cancer growth is related to the chemicals eaten in foods.
Unpredictable results of gene manipulation
The technology of genetic manipulation is questionable. Health care professionals state that the genes inserted in food would not be a problem if they would be listed for allergenic reasons on packages (which they are not). Doctors say that the technology of genetic manipulation itself is a concern.
Tampering with genetics is dangerous. Various combinations of genes, temperatures, and pressures can create unknown and unintended genetic combinations and reactions. For example, the switching of genes around could produce an unintended protein that induces serious and fatal allergic reactions. Also, since biotechnologists use antibiotics to carry other traits into plant cells, there is concern that the eating of antibiotic properties aids in the ineffectiveness of antibiotic medications.
Labeling food as GM is forbidden in the US. As a result, Americans eat food that has been genetically altered and chemically treated without knowing it. Sixty percent of processed foods bought at grocery stores contain unlabelled GM ingredients.
An example of insufficient labeling is that of foods derived from Bt crops. Bt is a powerful insecticide used as a spray and now inserted into genetically modified plants (called Bt crops). Bt does not technically count as a chemical pesticide because it derives from the bacteria bacillus thuringienses, also called Bt. As a result, organic certified farmers are not required to avoid using Bt crops and Bt chemical sprays, nor are they required to inform their consumers that such technology is used on their crops.
Untrustworthiness of agribusinesses – A look at Monsanto.
Multinational corporations claim GM crops are safe, however they cannot be trusted. Monsanto is a perfect example. A giant agribusiness invested in GM seeds, hybrid patenting, and various agricultural chemicals, particularly the infamous Roundup, Monsanto has plenty of skeletons hidden in its closet. Monsanto used to be a chemical company and is linked to environmental pollution resulting in many deaths and severe health problems.
Monsanto used to make Agent Orange, a highly toxic herbicide used by the US military in its Herbicidal Warfare Program during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange kills by exposure to the carcinogenic chemical dioxin, causing instant plant death while also causing human genetic problems, skin diseases, and cancers. The use of Agent Orange caused thousands of Vietnamese deaths and countless birth defects in Vietnamese children.
Monsanto is also responsible for PCB pollution and related deaths. In Anniston, Alabama 2,000 residents filed and won a lawsuit against Monsanto for polluting their water supply. As a result of the pollution, health problems such as cancer, reduced IQ’s, reduced thyroid function, reduced sex hormones were abundant.
Roundup, Monsanto’s powerful herbicide, used to have the word “biodegradable” on the front of its container. A study found that only 2% of the Roundup product breaks down in the soil. Monsanto was found guilty of false advertising in the US Supreme Court and had to remove the word “biodegradable” from its packages.
In contract to Monsanto’s claims that Roundup is completely safe for crops, it has been found to be highly toxic. The chemicals in Roundup cause a dysfunction of cell division and can provoke the first stages of cancer to occur.
The company denies the toxicity of Roundup to consumers, and instead continues to promote GMO development. Monsanto develops GM seeds that are resistant to Roundup so farmers can use more of the toxic chemical on their crops than before. Monsanto is believed to hire scientists to give out statements and write blogs on the internet reporting the safety of GM Roundup-Ready crops. Today there are over 250 million acres of GM Monsanto crops in the world.
It is abundantly clear that the public cannot trust Monsanto, or similar multinational agribusinesses, to tell the truth about the safety of their seeds. They continually seek to protect their investment in seed technology and agricultural chemicals.
Twisted agricultural policies
There is overwhelming scientific evidence and data to support the fact that GM plants are unsafe. The FDA's own scientists give warnings about GM safety that are ignored and then classified.
It is becoming clear that the US is following agricultural policy driven by economic concerns. There is a lack of scientific and regulatory integrity in the government agencies meant to protect the public from unsafe foods. A lack of GM regulation and labeling is treated as a political decision rather than a moral responsibility.
Monsanto and similar companies hold financial influence over food-related policy decisions. They boost the industry they are invested in by promoting deregulation, funding politicians in favor of deregulating, and by having their own corporate personnel placed in agencies such as The Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA).
The US demands the right to sell GM crops to other countries. The European Union bans most GM crops and the US is fighting their ban in the World Trade Organization. This has the potential of becoming a full out trade war and could endanger $16 billion in trade between the UN and the US.
Food safety has no meaning in the US agricultural business anymore. Seed development is all about economic return.