Home > Dow, farm workers, food waste, GMO, hunger, Monsanto, pesticides > GMOs Accelerate the Pesticide Arms Race

GMOs Accelerate the Pesticide Arms Race

No GMO (Photo credit: Liam Wilde)

I hold Bill Nye in high regard for all he has done to raise public awareness of important scientific issues.  However, I respectfully disagree with his love of GMO foods for at least four reasons.

(1) The Pesticide Resistance Arms Race:

“Roundup Ready” crops have been genetically modified to withstand exposure to glyphosate, the generic name for Monsanto’s Roundup, “the largest crop protection brand” in the world.  Farmers that grow Roundup Ready crops had every incentive to use it to kill weeds without apparent harm to the crop.  (From 1996 to 2006, Roundup use increased six-fold.)

The problem: Roundup “worked spectacularly well — until it didn’t,” because weeds have developed resistance to it.

The purported solution: crops genetically modified to withstand exposure to more toxic and persistent pesticides like 2,4 D, a major component of Agent Orange linked to numerous cancers and other serious health problems.  (Although some sources claim that the problems with Agent Orange arise from another ingredient, 2,4,5-T that has been banned in part because its production is contaminated with Dioxin, 2,4-D can also contain Dioxin.)

Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide contains both glyphosate and 2,4 D.  Question for Dow: how long will this “weed control system” actually control weeds, and when will you start selling Enlist Trio, Enlist Quattro, etc.?  Although using higher concentrations of more lethal pesticides may keep weeds at bay temporarily, over time, this overdose will only result in creating an even greater superweed problem.  Monsanto, Dow, and other companies that sell GMO seeds resistant to their pesticides profit from the pesticide arms race, but I have yet to see evidence that increased exposure is good for my family’s health.

(2) Farm Workers Exposed to Higher Amounts of More Toxic Pesticides:

Farm workers are routinely exposed to far higher levels of pesticides than consumers, which can cause these workers to develop acute and chronic health problems.  Choosing to eat pesticide-free foods is a market-based solution to getting off of the “chemical treadmill” and reducing their exposure.

(3) Higher Pesticide Exposure = Lower Fertility:

A recent study found that men who ate foods with more pesticides had lower sperm counts and fewer normal sperm.

(4) GMOs Feed Shareholder Profits; They Are Not Used to “Feed the World”:

Fun fact: GMO crops do not have higher yields than conventional ones.  But they do have higher profits for the GMO seed companies, at the expense of farmers.

If Dow, Monsanto, and their competitors dedicated, say, 20% of their GMO R&D budget to reducing the $1 trillion of annual food waste, why would we purportedly need GMOs to “feed the world“?  Because profits.  You probably can’t aggressively enforce a patent on public service announcements re: how to reduce food waste.

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