Monsanto, a self-proclaimed solver of global agriculture problems, has really just brought more and more chemicals into our food supply. GAP coalition partner, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), gave the company a failing grade yesterday in documenting eight ways Monsanto has taken agriculture in the wrong direction.
In addition to suppressing independent research on its controversial products and spending millions to lobby Congress against measures that threaten the industrial agriculture status quo, Monsanto has brought troubling threats to human and environmental health with the widespread application of its glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide. UCS points out that the genetically engineered (GE) crops Monsanto produced to tolerate glyphosate were supposedly meant to decrease overall herbicide use, but the result has been millions of pounds more instead. Possible links between glyphosate and birth defects, not to mention threats to biodiversity, make this increase unsettling.
But even this higher rate of herbicide use is still not enough for Monsanto. The company has just requested that the European Union raise the acceptable residue levels for glyphosate in lentils by 100-150 times … most likely because that's how much is actually ending up on the crop already.
To fight off weeds that have grown resistant to glyphosate, Monsanto wants to introduce new GE crops that can tolerate even older herbicides, including one that was a major ingredient in Agent Orange.
Instead of acknowledging concerns for its products, Monsanto continues to pump them as solutions. But it's not the only one. Agribusiness company Syngenta continues to tout atrazine, the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. – despite an ongoing feud with the biologist Syngenta hired to study atrazine, who then tried to expose the herbicide’s harmful effects. PR Watch also published a lengthy piece yesterday on the company's tactics to defend attacks against atrazine, including paying thousands of dollars to the president of the American Council for Science and Health who pushed the notion of “chemophobia,” an irrational fear of chemicals.
These chemical companies clearly have a fear of losing profits, given all the concerns that they simply dismiss. Increased use of herbicides, as UCS reported, ultimately means more pesticide use as well. If we didn't have enough to worry about already, whistleblower Renee Dufault has previously explained the negative health impacts of pesticide exposure in food, including Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder prevalence in kids. It's not a pretty picture overall.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.