In early April, the shocking news that breast milk carries many times the allowable amount of glyphosate, also called Roundup, came out on the web. Glyphosate is a poison that defoliates plants, but back in the late 1990s, farmers began planting soybeans that resisted the chemical, bouncing back from a dowse of Glyphosate like they had just enjoyed a spring rain, while the weeds around them died. The Frankenstein soybeans were followed by releases of genetically modified corn, cotton, canola and sugar beets. Now, many crops carry the gene.
As a result, according to the release, scientists found glyphosate at “760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides.” These levels are less than allowable levels set by America’s Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been led to believe that glyphosate exits the body and does not accumulate. How could they think that?
The answer is that, in an atmosphere of austerity and trade secrets, the government listens to industry scientists. Senior Monsanto scientist Dan Goldstein recently stated “If ingested, glyphosate is excreted rapidly, does not accumulate in body fat or tissues, and does not undergo metabolism in humans.”
The website Sustainable Pulse, directed by Henry Rowlands, broke the breast-milk news. Rowlands has been a longtime critic of the biotech industry. Immediately, big ag released criticisms of the study’s small sample numbers, but the assertion that America is drowning in Roundup should be investigated. And the story, co-released by Moms Across America, continued that urine from American consumers had also been tested and researchers found ten times the glyphosate as urine in European consumers.
America’s favorite herbicide, Roundup, has been sprayed on an estimated 90% of American farmland, and we don’t know how to go back to normal. In fact, American regulators are set to approve even more chemicals for even more genetically modified crops. Next summer, dicamba and 2,4D will certainly be approved, making it legal and even recommended for farmers to spray their fields with these elements that were part of Agent Orange, the defoliant used to clear jungles in the Vietnam war.
While this story might seem to only affect farmers, who continue to plant genetically modified organism (GMO) crops, it should be the major story for American citizens. Not only is this chemical going into future Americans at an alarming rate, denying its regulation is a major part of American international policy.
Internationally, consumers have rejected GMOs while US trade agreements insist that GMOs be allowed. Russia allows import of GMOs, but insists on labeling if foods contain over 0.9% of the stuff.
In contrast, the US has insisted, under the sway of Monsanto and other US firms that produce GMOs and chemicals, that it is America’s mission to “feed the world” and that GMOs are the only way to do it. We have, they remind us, nine billion hungry mouths to feed in the future.
Russia has not been persuaded. In response to US assistance that GMO crops are just like any other, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that Russia has the space and clean soils to produce organic food. So, American farmers and consumers have been guinea pigs to a giant agribusiness experiment that has gone terribly wrong.
“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” Medvedev told Russian farmers. Producing non-GMO foods on healthy soils will become a matter of Russia’s national pride. And it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that the subject will be a matter of friction for future American administrations.
So what should American consumers do?
Unfortunately, the easiest path, eating organic foods, has also been corrupted by agribusiness. Our rural communities are not owned and run by the same citizens that founded them. Instead, animals are owned by the giant corporations and raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These CAFOs have become producers of meat to export, yes, and they also produce tons of manure. Due to organic rules, this crap goes onto organic crops. The crops are used to make organic foods under a label that consumers trust. In other words, organics have become enablers of the bad system.
Last May, a group of consumers tried to make a month without biotech. Calling it “Nonsanto month,” we gave up industrial food and chose clothing from rayon, silks and linen rather than cotton, which has been GMO since the late 90s.
Since I’m old, the clothing part of the challenge was easier for me than for my young friends. I have a lot of clothes that go back to the ’90s. One of the youngsters pointed out that she had to wear a uniform on some work days and her boss didn’t care to buy organic cotton uniforms. So there you go—trapped!
For me, avoiding GMO foods was impossible as I confronted a schedule that had me eating off my farm almost every day. I packed a lunch once in a while and found some snacks made from wheat, which is still non-GMO, but I failed almost every day to eat 100% non-GMO.
So I’m extending the personal challenge—non-GMO June. Give it a try and find out if you, American consumer, can go a month, a week, a day ... an hour? ... without GMOs. Let me know how you do!
Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. She blogs at progressivepopulist.blogspot.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2014
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