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Dow and Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America’s Heartland

Dow and Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America’s Heartland

 

Written by Richard Schiffman, Truthout

In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.

The problem for corn farmers is that “superweeds” have been developing resistance to America’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2,4-D, which will kill off the Roundup-resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2,4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.

But this plan has alarmed environmentalists and also many farmers, who are reluctant to reintroduce a chemical whose toxicity has been well established. The use of 2,4-D is banned in several European countries and provinces of Canada. The substance is a suspected carcinogen, which has been shown to double the incidence of birth defects in the children of pesticide applicators in a study conducted by University of Minnesota pathologist Vincent Garry.

Researchers say that the effect of 2,4-D on human health is still not fully understood. But it may be a risk factor for conditions like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and certain leukemias, which were often found in Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that the chemical could have “endocrine disruption potential” and interfere with the human hormonal system. It may prove toxic to honeybees, birds and fish, according to research conducted by the US Forest Service and others. In 2004, a coalition of groups spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network, wrote a letter to the EPA taking it to task for underestimating the health and environmental impacts of 2,4-D.

Large-scale industrial farming has grown dependent on ever-increasing applications of agrochemicals. Some have compared this to a drug addict who requires larger and larger fixes to stay high. Herbicide use has increased steadily over time as weeds develop resistance and need to be doused with more and deadlier chemicals to kill them. This, in turn. requires more aggressive genetic engineering of crops that can withstand the escalating chemical assault.

Many agricultural scientists warn that this growing addiction to agrochemicals is unsustainable in the long run. The fertility of the soil decreases as earthworms and vital microorganisms are killed off by pesticides and herbicides. They also pollute the groundwater and compromise the health of farm animals that are fed with the chemical-infused grain.

These impacts are poised to grow. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures reveal that herbicide use rose by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008. Significantly, nearly half of this increase (46 percent) took place between 2007 and 2008 as a result of the hawking of new herbicide-resistant crops like the new corn hybrid developed by Dow.

Nobody knows what effect introducing this hybrid would have on the health of American consumers. Corn laced with high levels of 2,4-D could taint everything from breakfast cereals to the beef of cattle, which concentrate the toxin in their flesh. Given that corn and high-fructose corn syrup are key elements in so many processed foods, some public health experts warn that all Americans will soon be guinea pigs in an ill-conceived mass experiment with one of the staples of our food supply. America’s agriculture department, the USDA is considering deregulating Monsanto’s new genetically modified corn variety (the one which will be used in conjunction with the 2,4-D) and is accepting final public comments on the matter until the 27th of this month.

Until recently, herbicide-resistant crops were popular with farmers who benefited from higher yields and nearly effortless management of weeds. But now that the weed problem is coming back with a vengeance, some are reconsidering the wisdom of this chemical-intensive mode of farming. Dow biotech corn costs nearly three times more than conventional seed. And the projected doubling of pesticide use in the years ahead will be expensive, as well as destructive to farmland and ecosystems.

There are viable alternatives to chemical-intensive farming, time-tested methods like crop rotation, use of cover crops, and other practices which allow farmers to compete naturally with weeds. The time has come for farmers to revive the knowledge of their ancestors in this regard.

Some agricultural scientists advocate developing a system of integrated weed management to replace the unsustainable use of chemicals. But the big agrochemical companies have no interest in supporting the sustainable agriculture that would put them out of business. So long as there are billions of dollars to be made in selling herbicide and herbicide-resistant genetically modified seed, there won’t be much research money available to explore the natural alternatives to the destruction of our nation’s heartland.

This post was originally published by Truthout.

 

Related Stories:

Why Monsanto Fails at Sustainability

Under Industry Pressure, USDA Works to Speed Approval of Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Crops

Widely Used Weed Killer Causes Reproductive Harm to Animals and People

 

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216 comments

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3:01AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

WHY ARE WE WANTING TO USE THE SAME CHEMICAL THAT KILLED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN THE VIETNAM WAR AND ARE STILL KILLING OUR VETERANS IN ORDER TO STOP A PROBLEM WITH CORN.
WE CAN NOT TELL OVER THE YEARS WHAT WAS HERE THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO AS NATURAL, AND WHAT HAS BEEN ALTERED IN ORDER TO MAKE MONEY FOR SCIENTIST.
EVEN ORGANIC PRODUCTS YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS IN IT. IF THE WORLD WOULD STOP MAKING THINGS MORE HEALTHIER BY DESTROYING THE NATURAL PART THEN WE CAN LIVE INSTEAD OF DYING & THE WORLD WOULD NOT GO HUNGRY.
HUMANS AND ANIMALS ARE EATING AND DRINKING THE SAME POISONS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER.

3:00AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

WHY ARE WE WANTING TO USE THE SAME CHEMICAL THAT KILLED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN THE VIETNAM WAR AND ARE STILL KILLING OUR VETERANS IN ORDER TO STOP A PROBLEM WITH CORN.
WE CAN NOT TELL OVER THE YEARS WHAT WAS HERE THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO AS NATURAL, AND WHAT HAS BEEN ALTERED IN ORDER TO MAKE MONEY FOR SCIENTIST.
EVEN ORGANIC PRODUCTS YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS IN IT. IF THE WORLD WOULD STOP MAKING THINGS MORE HEALTHIER BY DESTROYING THE NATURAL PART THEN WE CAN LIVE INSTEAD OF DYING & THE WORLD WOULD NOT GO HUNGRY.
HUMANS AND ANIMALS ARE EATING AND DRINKING THE SAME POISONS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER.

10:39PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

Signing petitions - especially when many people participate - can have a huge impact; but the most powerful way to fight companies that put profits ahead of safety, health and wellbeing of their customers and the general population is through boycotting their products. This may be very difficult for a lot of us to do - since besides the infamous Roundup and 2, 4-D and GMO crops, these corporations also produce ingredients that are used by other manufacturers in products we buy and use every day - and as average consumers, we would not recognize the source of these ingredients. If these irresponsible corporations cannot sell their poisonous products (or ingredients used by other manufacturers), they will be forced either to find other markets that the United States or do what we really want them to do: clean up their act and put health and safety ahead of obscene profit. Along with boycotting the products of these corporate bullies, we need to seek out and patronize the companies and family farms that still produce healthy foods the natural way, using natural pest and weed control. It takes all of us, every day, to make this difference.

1:06PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

When I was 33, my 34 year old husband died from acute promeylocytic leukemia. At the time it wasn't generally known that this type of leukemia was caused by Agent Orange. Cliff didn't even have to go to Viet Nam to get exposed -- he got exposed during Ranger training in Alabama, right here in the US. Now I'm being told that some of those chemicals in his body may have caused my Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, which has had me disabled since 1991. I'm glad I never had any children, but I did adopt a couple. I wonder if his chemicals can cause illnesses for them through me. Don't spray this chemical in this country, or anywhere, for that matter. There will be no end to the illnesses and misery it will cause. Fight this or its legacy will be with us for many generations. Corporate greed will be the death of this country -- it is causing all the political upheaval we're having and is responsible for the terrible economy. What else will we allow in the name of corporate greed?

4:26AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

The entire world should ban monsanto. Go organic.

5:02PM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

When we allowed our farms to be gobbled up by foreign corporations, we gave away any control to keep our food supply safe. Once again our government did not protect this country. Now we are on our own and must find out what is dangerous with governmental support. Same with gasoline...until we find a way to make and deliver alternative fuels to this country, the oil companies and third world countries will continue owning us.

3:16PM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

my daughters father suffered from agent orange symptoms. the gov. and VA wouldn't help him, they acted like it was nothing they caused. he was on the verge of loosing everything, already lost his health, now unable to work,was losing his home and car as well. he blew his head off 2 years ago the day before fathers day, now they never have to pay him

6:43AM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

Dont buy GMO foods, teach yourself and childeren to be mindful eaters, Sign petitions, Say No to GMO's. Educate yourself and others. There are some great web sites out there to help educate you on GMO's. Millions against Monsanto, Go for it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5:45PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

This is so frustrating! Get this and think about how true/not true this is for GMO issues: "As a rule, scientists and medical researchers make poor players in the complex game of special interest politics, although they often think otherwise. They are not well endowed with the stamina, patience, and shrewdness that this game requires, and deep down they view it as an anti-intellectual activity beneath their scholarly dignity. . . This is more a reflection of the unsuitedness of their training and temperament to the political arena than it is a mark of weakness of conviction." --The Research Smokescreen: Moving from Academic Debate to Action on Smoking, New York State Journal of Medicine (1983).

9:55PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Man is unwittingly engaged in forcing some of the most rapid evolutionary changes of all times.

Just as the widespread overuse of antibiotics gave rise to the rapid evolution of drug resistant bacteria, so too here the overuse of synthetic pesticides is increasing the rate at which insect resistant ti such are evolving.

Such attempts are futile, doomed to ultimate failure, in that one can never kill all of the targets, so that it is inevitable that the survivors will give rise to new generations of those able to withstand man's attacks.

Nature can produce more virulent lifeforms faster than man can devise and deploy new defenses.

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