October 4, 2013

GMO Herbicide Tolerance: Failure and Destruction


One of the original propaganda lies of GMOs was that they would require less spraying of poison. But in country after country it’s the same story – poison use has radically escalated. In Argentina herbicide use escalated from 30 million liters a year to over 300 million during the GMO era. In just five years following commercialization herbicide use in Brazil doubled. In India the use of insecticides, after a brief dip immediately following the widespread commercialization of Bt cotton, has surged to a level exceeding the status quo ante. A superb 2013 report* by a team led by Jack Heinemann documented that herbicide use in the US and Canada has escalated to 107% of the pre-GMO level, bucking the general Western trend of decreasing use (including in these countries prior to the mid-90s). Meanwhile use of both herbicides and insecticides continues to plummet in Europe, which has largely eschewed GMO cultivation in favor of conventional modes of production.
[*This report is excellent on poison use, and yet that aspect is secondary to the report’s devastating analysis of GMO yield, seed sector monopoly concentration, and the corporate sector’s utter lack of innovative work on crop germplasm. I’ll be writing more on these aspects later on.]
This proves that when flacks claim GMOs reduce the slathering of poisons, it’s a lie. On the contrary, they increase the dumping of poison on our food and soil, and the poisoning of our air, water, and general environment. In fact, this proves that the goal of the GMO regime was to increase poison use all along. Which stands to reason, since it would defy common sense that poison companies would introduce a technology which would reduce the use of their product. Monsanto’s propaganda for Roundup was always absurd on its face.
So for as long as we continue the GMO adventure, we’ll continue to poison ourselves and the Earth at a rate far exceeding what even conventional industrial ag would have achieved. Let’s take a quick look at the next step.
The number one proximate function of GMOs is to engineer herbicide tolerant crops to make for more “efficient” poison-based weed control. This is already collapsing. As predicted, the massive escalation in glyphosate use on account of GMOs has merely generated dozens of glyphosate-tolerant superweeds against itself.
Sane people would say at this point that the whole concept of genetically engineered herbicide tolerance has proved a failure. For example, India’s Technical Expert Committee (TEC) advising the supreme court came to exactly this conclusion in its recent report: Herbicide tolerant crops are inappropriate for India.
But we do not find sane people among the corporate system’s elites and supporters. On the contrary, it’s taken for granted that the only acceptable response to failure is to double down on what’s already proven to fail. This anti-scientific, anti-rational ideology is the standard mindset in the corporate world, in government, in the corporate media, in academia, and among every sort of establishment “expert”.
In this case this anti-science ideology advocates GMOs engineered to be tolerant to a second generation of even more toxic herbicides, to replace the extremely toxic glyphosate, which no longer works. These escalated poisons include 2,4-D (one of the primary ingredients of Agent Orange) and dicamba. These are the same ultra-toxic herbicides which the original propaganda promised would be rendered obsolete by Roundup Ready crops.
Everyone knows that the only possible result of this doubling down will be that the superweeds will adapt and resist this second generation even more quickly than they adapted to glyphosate (2,4-D resistant waterhemp has already been documented, and its use hasn’t even been escalated yet), and in the meantime the vicious poisoning of our crops, our food, our soil, our bodies, and the environment will become even more catastrophic. It’s reaching the point of becoming a collective will to suicide.
The regulatory establishments of the US, Canada, and elsewhere fully embrace the anti-science ideology of corporatism and thus government regulators have always considered the GMO project to be normative. Governments have aggressively promoted GMOs and given them every subsidy and assistance. This case has been no different. Canada and Brazil have already approved Agent Orange corn and soybeans.
Among the fully coordinated GMO countries, the only weak link for the “second generation” herbicide onslaught has been, ironically, the US itself, where the USDA has been dragging its feet about approving Dow’s Agent Orange corn. Dow originally hoped to have it commercialized in 2012, and then was assuming 2013 would be the year. But earlier this year the USDA announced it would be conducting a more thorough review, which will postpone approval at least till 2014. This procrastination is certainly not because the USDA is having second thoughts about its anti-science ideology. It’s because Agent Orange corn has provoked the most broad-based business sector opposition any GMO product has faced. Not just organic but conventional farmers and large vegetable canners and processors came together to form the Save Our Crops Coalition to lobby against approval of the second-generation herbicide tolerant GMOs, fearing a great escalation of what’s already a severe problem with 2,4-D drifting from where it’s sprayed to contaminate other people’s crops.
Am I being too pessimistic about the USDA? Is it possible they’re thinking things over? The answer to that is given by its recent approval of a more obscure second generation herbicide tolerant GMO, Bayer’s FG72 soybean, engineered to be tolerant of isoxaflutole (IFT). This is a “probable human carcinogen” according to the EPA, and has been found to cause liver and thyroid tumors in rats. It persists in surface waters, kills wild plants and aquatic animals, and has been implicated in drift which has killed cultivated vegetable crops. It’s exactly the kind of extreme poison we were promised the first generation of GMOs would render obsolete.
Clearly the USDA’s plan here is to approve this and perhaps other relatively obscure products, and then use that as a precedent to justify approving Agent Orange corn.
The concept of controlling weeds through massive spraying of poison cannot sustainably work. We knew this in principle from the start, and with the rise of glyphosate-resistant superweeds it’s been empirically proven. This failure will only become more profound with the deployment and collapse of the second generation of poisons.
And while the project fails, what will be the cost? For the sake of this insanity, which itself is nothing but the facade of vile corporate greed for money, power, domination, and control, we’re poisoning ourselves. We’re poisoning the crops. We’re poisoning the soil. We’re poisoning the water and air. We’re poisoning our own bodies, and those of our children, starting in the womb. We’re poisoning our souls.
None of this is even the slightest bit necessary or practical. Organic weed control has always comprised the most effective set of methods, and its methods work to build the soil and render all – crops, soil, water, air, body – more healthy. Agroecological solutions are not only necessary, not the only ones which work at all. They’re the best. They’re desirable.
But to get what we need to have, and what we want to have, to save ourselves from death by poison and claim for ourselves our human birthright as creative, prosperous stewards of the Earth, we’ll first have to take action against those who would kill us and the Earth. We must abolish GMOs.


  1. “And while the project fails, what will be the cost? For the sake of this insanity, which itself is nothing but the facade of vile corporate greed for money, power, domination, and control, we’re poisoning ourselves. We’re poisoning the crops. We’re poisoning the soil. We’re poisoning the water and air. We’re poisoning our own bodies, and those of our children, starting in the womb. We’re poisoning our souls.”

    I’d say our souls are already poisoned – why else do we engage in or passively approve of these kinds of activities? Thanks for the “head’s up” on Scienceblogs – I didn’t read all of the comments. I’ll post a reply to the person at Corrente. Once upon a time, I thought Corrente was pretty cool – I see now that it is mostly an Obamabot blog – liberal and “progressive”.

    Comment by Paul — October 4, 2013 @ 7:23 am

    • I haven’t been to Corrente in ages. It used to be anti-Obama, and relatively good on analysis, while very uneven on the What-To-Do. Sounds like things have greatly deteriorated, if they’re reduced to the role of liberal Monsanto hacks.

      That’s no surprise. I’ve been saying for years that “progressivism” won’t be able to exist much longer. It’s untenable because it has nowhere to go, zero chance of achieving anything. There will be too much pressure to choose. A few will move on to radicalism, most will cave in and become corporate liberals. That’s the logic of their position anyway.

      Comment by Russ — October 4, 2013 @ 8:57 am

  2. […] products involved are soybeans engineered to be tolerant of glyphosate plus dicamba (Monsanto) or isoxaflutole (Bayer). . Not that I’m calling for this testing. We already know each herbicide in itself […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary, January 22nd, 2016 | Volatility — January 22, 2016 @ 5:48 am

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