Ethan A. Huff
July 5, 2016
The media is notorious for showcasing genetic engineering as some kind of miracle for food production, but what do actual farmers think of the technology? In a scathing op-ed piece published in The Des Moines Register, Iowa farmer George Naylor holds nothing back in debunking many of the common myths about GMOs and chemical herbicides which food modification apologists often use as justification for continuing to alter the genetics of our food.
A board member at the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Non-GMO Project, Naylor is more than qualified to speak on the subject. He comes from a long line of farmers who did much the same thing back in their day as he does now: grow many acres’ worth of corn and soybeans. But, unlike many of his neighbors, Naylor grows only non-GMO corn and soybeans, explaining that transgenic varieties are simply too problematic.
Besides plunging many farmers into a hopeless debt spiral, which also contributes to widespread farm consolidation by big agriculture corporations, GMO farming is destroying the habitats and food sources of our most precious pollinators: insects and birds. Crop chemicals like glyphosate herbicide (Roundup) kill everything in the areas where they’re sprayed, which the exception of the GMO crops that resist them, destroying the diverse ecological systems that maintain our soils and help naturally protect against pests and disease.
These chemical sprays are also creating resistance among the GMO crops they were designed to protect, leaving them vulnerable to the very same problems as the conventional crops they’re quickly replacing. Not only do these chemical interventions not work, but according to Naylor, they actually create more problems than before, including notable upticks in cancer and other chronic illnesses.
“[R]ather than boosting rural economies, genetically engineered crops have drained billions of dollars from them,” Naylor writes, adding that “the temporary ease of weed control has led to even more farm consolidation; and the unbelievable power of the herbicide glyphosate to kill both annual and perennial weeds has destroyed food and nesting resources for many of our important insects and birds.”
“Farmers have spent billions of dollars on genetically engineered seeds only to see weeds become resistant to the glyphosate on Roundup Ready crops. Corn rootworms, too, have become resistant to the most common insecticidal proteins included in many GMO corn varieties. These resistance problems require even more application of herbicides and pesticides that threaten the health of rural Americans … and add to chemical residues in food products.”
We don’t need lousy GMO labeling – we need a ban!
With all that we now know about the risks involved with GMOs – the cancer risk alone validating the concerns of skeptics – it’s remarkable that transgenic species are still allowed to be sold without labels. Heck, these organisms should be banned outright simply out of precaution for human and environmental health, and yet neither a ban nor labeling appear to be on the horizon.
The chemical industry is pushing for a compromise called “Smart Labels” that would allow consumers with smartphones to scan an item on the grocery store shelf and identify the origins of its ingredients. But, as Naylor points out, this system is inherently discriminatory (not everyone has a smartphone), not to mention incredibly impractical (who has time to scan every single item during a routine shopping trip?).
“We are in the dark simply because a handful of multinational agribusiness and food companies have spent more than $100 million over the past three years to fight the consumer’s right to know, and now are pushing senators from both sides of the aisle to endorse discriminatory smart labeling,” he writes. “Voters and consumers have enough to keep us awake at night; we don’t need to be worrying about what’s really contained in the food we put on our tables.”