Despite problems with superweeds, Obama and USDA firmly support GMOs

Superweeds, a side-effect of growing Roundup-Ready genetically modified (GM) crops, are a growing problem. Roundup-Ready crops, engineered to tolerate weedkiller, are the most popular variety of GM crop today. However, many native weeds have evolved their own defense to weedkiller and now occupy 10 million acres of US farmland. Despite this issue being a direct result of growing GM crops, the Obama administration and USDA recently made it clear, they firmly stand beside biotechnology.

Ann Wright, a deputy undersecretary at the USDA, told a House oversight subcommittee last week:

This administration and USDA see biotechnology as being a very important tool for farmers to use in addressing some very important issues, globally and domestically. All the options we look at have to be supportive of that.

Yes, you read that right. In finding a solution, the Obama administration and USDA will only consider options supporting the same technology that created the problem.

Wright also stated the USDA did not have authority to regulate weedkiller-tolerant crops leading to superweeds.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Ohio democrat and former presidential candidate, corrected her by stating the department can impose restrictions on weedkiller-tolerant crops under its authority to control noxious weeds. Kucinich advocates creating a moratorium on genetically modified organisms and is holding a series of hearings on the superweed issue.

The USDA statement came amidst reports that Monsanto’s shares are down 42% and on the eve of the first official Non-GMO month.

Monsanto, the creators of Roundup (a weedkiller also known as glyphosate), is the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds. They alter the DNA of crops to resist weedkiller, then sell both the seed and weedkiller to the farmer. It is supposed to make a farmer’s life easier, as it allows an entire field to be blanketed with weedkiller. The GM crops survive, and the weeds die. It was touted to be more environmentally friendly than the old method of tilling weeds under. But as the years went on, the weeds around the crops grew resistant to weedkiller as well, erasing the benefits of the GM crop.

This news reinforces President Obama’s appearance as a politician determined to facilitate biotech world domination. Since winning the presidency, he has made it his mission to fill his administration with a team of biotech all-stars:

December 17, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama nominated Tom Vilsack, a politician well-known for his preference of large industrial farms and genetically modified crops, as US Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack originated legislation prohibiting local communities from regulating where GM crops could be grown. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership, and was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

July 7, 2009, President Obama appointed Michael Taylor, Monsanto-man and poster boy for revolving door politics, as “senior advisor” to the FDA Commissioner. Taylor began his career as staff attorney for the FDA before moving to a law firm representing Monsanto. He later returned to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, where he lead the approval for using Monsanto’s rBGH growth hormone in dairy cows without labeling. From there he moved to the USDA as Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service, before becoming Monsanto’s Vice President for Public Policy.

September 24, 2009, President Obama appointed Roger Beachy, “the father of GM foods”, as Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Beachy was the founding president of the Danforth Plant and Science Center, a non-profit arm of Monsanto, where he is still a trustee and member of its scientific advisory board. A part of the USDA, NIFA was developed as a result of a task force chaired by William H. Danforth and appointed by then Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman. Veneman herself has a history in biotech, having served on the board of directors for Calgene Inc, a biotech company later purchased by Monsanto.

November 10, 2009, President Obama nominated Rajiv Shah, GMO and vaccine proponent, as Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Before this, Shah was Chief Scientist at the USDA (also appointed by Obama), where he worked on launching NIFA. Shah used his USDA position to promote genetic engineering to Congress and direct millions towards GMO research. Prior to his involvement in government, Shah was the agricultural programs director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the Danforth Plant and Science Center, is one of Monsanto’s key non-profit partners.

January 13, 2010, President Obama re-appoints Michael Taylor, this time to Deputy Commissioner of Foods for the FDA.

April 2, 2010, President Obama appointed Islam A. Siddiqui, a registered biotech lobbyist, as Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Siddiqui is a former VP for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, a biotechnology industry consortium. His credentials include lobbying against mandatory labeling of GMO foods in Japan and criticizing the European Union’s precautionary rejection of importing GMOs. Siddiqui is the former Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the USDA, where he oversaw the National Organic Program’s standards. These standards initially allowed both irradiated and GM foods to be labeled as organic, but were later revised due to public opposition.

It’s no wonder 86% of US farmland is planted with GM crops, a good ‘ol boys network is writing our nation’s agricultural policy!

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the agricultural spectrum, the First Lady created an organic garden where she grows produce for the White House kitchen as well as local charities and soup kitchens. She also uses the garden to educate local elementary school children about organic gardening. In addition, the First Lady hosted diplomat spouses of world leaders at the UN General Assembly to a luncheon tour of a local NY farm specializing in seed diversity, local farming and sustainability.

You may be baffled, so am I. Is Michelle Obama just a front? Does the President really believe he is helping the world? Or, is he a puppet in the hands of wealthy campaign financiers?

Clearly, the government has ignored the growing number of studies which indicate GM food is unsafe for human or animal consumption. A paper released by The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) shows more than a causal association between GMOs and adverse health effects.

According to the AAEM,

…several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

Another study, lead by Professor Andrés Carrasco of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School, demonstrated that glyphosate (Roundup) causes birth defects at far lower doses than those used in agricultural spraying and well below maximum residue levels in products approved by the European Union. The study was initiated because of widespread reports of human malformations in Argentina beginning in 2002. This was two years after farmers began widespread aerial spraying of Roundup on their GM soy crops.

Even the President’s own Cancer Panel suggests reducing your risk of cancer by “giving preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones.” In other words, eat organic.

We are faced with a mountain of problems linked to genetically modified organisms and they continue to build: South African farmers were devastated in 2009 when genetically modified maize from Monsanto failed to produce kernels; GM soy has been linked sterility and infant mortality in hamsters; and insecticide-producing GM corn is polluting streams, lakes and rivers. What will be next?

The biotech lobbyists have succeeded in preventing GM foods from being labeled thus far, but many are seeking for that to change. This Washington Post public poll clearly shows the public wants to know if they are eating GMOs. But, the biotech industry knows they would have no industry if that was the case. Watch for this issue this coming election and ask your candidates where they stand on GMO Food Labels.

Congressman Kucinich seems to be one of the only people in Washington taking a stand for integrity and common sense. Let’s hope he still has a job come November.

About Matt Spaeth

Comments

  1. bob smith says:

    Matt,

    GM technology didn’t create “superweeds” as you like to call them in the article. Do a little research on the topic before you write. Herbicide resistance in weeds was noted as early as 1962 (follow link below). There are hundreds of examples of weeds that developed resistance to dozens of herbicides over time. And this was all prior to the introduction of GM crops.

    There is no question the overuse of roundup (glyphosate) led to weed resistance problems developing over time, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the crops the herbicide was sprayed on were GM.

    Weeds are crafty little buggers and they will eventually find a way around whatever you use to try to kill them.

    Mechanism of Herbicide Resistance (PDF)

    • Bob,

      Superweeds are the direct effect of increased herbicide use, and GM technology is linked to increased herbicide use. Roundup-Ready crops were created to replacing tilling with herbicide application, this dramatically increases a farmer’s need for herbicide.

      Some USDA statistics from a 1/18/10 ISIS Report:

      From 1996 to 2008, herbicide use increased by 383 million pounds. 46 percent of this increase took place between 2007 and 2008.

      The first GMO crops were planted in open fields in the US in 1995.

      Still, I am glad you commented on this because it helps illustrate the larger issue. Weeds really are “crafty little buggers” and will continue to evolve to withstand whatever chemicals we spray on them. To stay on this route, the chemicals will have to get stronger and stronger and more detrimental to human and environmental health. It is not a sustainable system.

      Matt

  2. Heather Donaldson says:

    One summer not long ago my paths were overgrown with weeds. There were more than I could control and foolishly, I got lazy. I decided to spray them with roundup. I had my mesh New Balance sneakers and socks on. Bad move. Eight hours later my feet were still numb. Hard lesson learned!

  3. hello,

    I have always been (and still am) a supporter of President Obama, but I cannot understand, why he supports Monsanto by appointing so many lobbyists to his team. He always wanted the CHANGE, he was against the lobbyism of big companies, he wanted to support the regular people, in this case: the farmers, who are now in big trouble, as Monsanto lawyers are giving them a hard time by checking, if their crop is allready contaminated with Monsanto seeds, though it was not their fault… Monsanto is owning the patents on regular seeds and creates a dependency of all farmers on their gen-technology. Will some day in the near future all the agriculture be possessed and ruled by one big company?

    Why is Obama not supporting the healthy organic food?

    Can anyone explain me, why he is acting like this, and is there a link to an explanation or excuse of himself, why he was doing so?

    Peter

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