Volatility

August 29, 2014

Total Failure: The Fraudulent Promises of the Two Types of GMOs

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Farmers originally embraced the Roundup Ready system, not because they expected it to directly increase crop yields or reduce costs (it doesn’t and never did), but because by greatly simplifying weed management through the one-time application of one herbicide, it freed up time and conceptual space so the farmer could farm more acres.
 
Under conditions of commodity agriculture, farmers are under constant pressure to maximize their acreage and in this way their production. So while herbicide tolerant GMOs never increased yield acre-for-acre, and often have decreased it, they enable the farmer to cover more acres and in this way “make it up on volume”. It’s a version of Taylorism, a speed-up device, and also saves labor costs. Monsanto and the USDA touted these virtues for the farmer, and to this day still claim that the product benefits farmers in this way.
 
All this describes the attraction of the Roundup Ready system for farmers, during the few years that it worked as advertised. But with the rise of glyphosate-resistant superweeds, all these benefits have been lost. All the touted simplicity has been replaced by a regression to an even more costly complexity than farmers faced prior to the advent of herbicide tolerant GMOs.
 
Farmers were promised by Monsanto and the US government that they could schedule their plantings without having to coordinate them with herbicide applications. They could later apply glyphosate whenever they wanted, needing just one application (or in the case of cotton two). But with the evolution-predicted rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds, farmers now find themselves having to revert to the old complex choreography. Increasingly, they need a non-glyphosate pre-emergence application, followed by a post-emergence glyphosate application at exactly the right time to catch Palmer amaranth when it’s small enough to be affected. That’s assuming the P. amaranth isn’t a Roundup Ready superweed, as they increasingly are. If it’s resistant to the herbicide, then it has to be hand-weeding or the hoe, when the weeds are still small enough. Then more applications of glyphosate and other herbicides.
 
Farmers were similarly promised they could forever plant corn-on-corn or corn-on-soy (again, something implicitly demanded by the economics of commodity monocropping), since the Roundup Ready system would make weed management such a snap that you could forever plant Roundup Ready-on-Roundup Ready and never have a problem. In spite of the previous history of weeds developing resistance to triazine and ALS-inhibitor herbicides, as a matter of evolutionary clockwork, Monsanto explicitly promised that glyphosate-resistant weeds would not develop no matter how massively and long they were doused with Roundup. Their technical hacks published “studies” to that effect.
 
Today such rotations accomplish nothing against the superweeds, and weed scientists can only recommend rotations which include wheat or lesser crops like oats and barley. Some recommend that farmers ration their use of glyphosate. This of course is tantamount to rejecting the Roundup Ready GMO system as such, since the only thing which could possibly in theory justify the massively higher cost of RR seeds is the efficacy and simplicity of idiot-proof drenching with Roundup.
 
Meanwhile, not only have GMO farmer/contractors made their own weed management increasingly complex and economically unviable, but they’re inflicting worse weed infestations on their non-GM conventional neighbors.
 
To sum up, the corporate system promised farmers and the public that the Roundup Ready system would simplify weed management and render it less toxic, as glyphosate was allegedly less toxic to human and environmental health than older herbicides. Today “The Party’s Over” as weed scientist Aaron Hager says, and “the ‘simplicity’ of glyphosate as a stand-alone weed management tool will be relegated to the annals of history”. Or as former Dupont cadre Alberto Bianchi puts it, “today we have to fight pests worse than 15 or 20 years ago, but with fewer weapons than we had before”. Desperate weed consultants advise better crop rotations, using greater amounts of more different kinds of herbicides more often, and returning to the antiquated practice of deep tillage. Capping this reactionary program is the ultimate dark age regression, the deployment of GMOs engineered to be resistant to the exact same, far more toxic retrograde herbicides which the corporations and government originally promised us would be rendered permanently obsolete.
 
This proves the malign intent of corporations and governments, that they’re actually trying to repeat this same “mistake”, albeit at a vastly more destructive level. The failure of 2,4-D and dicamba resistant systems is already a proven fact. History proves it. No one who supports it can escape criminal culpability, and must and shall be held criminally responsible for every harm that follows.
 
Farmers have went through the same history with GMO corn engineered to resist rootworm (CRW) predation. Monsanto introduced CRW-resistant corn in 2003 with promises that it would forever relegate soil insecticides, previously the main pesticide used vs. CRW, to the scrap heap. Here the target pest counterattacked more quickly than even the weeds did. The Bt toxin itself was weak vs. rootworms from the start, serving to accelerate the development of resistance. Farmers saw very little insecticide dividend, and had to go back to soil insecticide application so quickly that by 2008 the University of Illinois felt the need to assure farmers that supplementing anti-CRW GMOs with soil insecticide doesn’t “always make sense”. That’s how ubiquitous the field reports of Bt-resistant rootworms already were.
 
Lab confirmation quickly followed. Using specimens collected from ravaged Iowa fields in 2009, a team at Iowa State documented resistance in a 2011 study. Subsequent studies in 2013 and 2014 reinforced the documentation. This latest study, published in the National Academy of Sciences, documented that rootworms which developed resistance to Monsanto’s original Cry3Bb1 trait were also cross-resistant to Syngenta’s Cry3A set of anti-rootworm traits.
 
According to this study, Dow’s Cry34/35Ab1 toxin still worked well vs. rootworms. But that was only for the moment. In 2014 Iowa farmers have reported rootworm damage in fields planted to Bt varieties containing the Cry34/35Ab1 trait. So what was the last trait standing is now staggering.
 
Thus farmers have had to go back to the bad old days of applying soil insecticides, and it’s commonplace among system entomologists to recommend this as part of the remedy farmers need to deploy as the Bt GMO system increasingly fails to live up to its promises.
 
Here too a return to crop rotation is a common recommendation. But if the idea is the pseudo-rotation of corn-on-soy, previously effective vs. rootworm, it’s becoming too late for this as well. As early as 1999 rootworms were discovered which could lay their eggs amid a corn-planting and then endure through a soybean season, awaiting the next corn planting. These “rotation-resistant” rootworms have since then been documented in Illinois and Iowa. They’re a product of the industrial corn/soy monoculture; corn-on-soy is really is no kind of legitimate rotation at all. And there’s many possible ways in which their rotation resistance may have been fostered by elements of the Roundup Ready GMO system itself.
 
Here again, GMO contract growers are not only destroying their own ability to exist, but are making production more difficult for non-GM farmers who must contend with more common and virulent rootworm infestations than occurred prior to Roundup Ready’s corn-on-corn campaign and the advent of the anti-rootworm Bt campaign.
 
The inexorable march of the superweeds and the rising insurrection of the rootworms exemplify the proven complete failure of the two basic genres of GMOs, herbicide tolerance and insecticide expression. Farmers increasingly wish to get off the GMO treadmill and resume conventional agriculture, or even to switch to direct retail and/or organic agriculture. This is definitely the rational choice, as confirmed by every portent.
 
But if farmers want to get off the treadmill, they may find many obstacles. The superiority of non-GM conventional production is well documented. With every new year of greater seed costs, poison costs, and ever expanding and intensifying superweed and superbug development, more and more industrial farmers are interested in getting off the GMO treadmill and resuming conventional production. But for corn and soy, non-GM varieties are often difficult to find. Thanks to the dereliction of the public breeding sector and the widespread enclosure of new varieties which are released to the public only in GMO (i.e. Roundup Ready and/or Bt expressing) form, the varieties which are available are often of lower quality. (This also reveals the fraud involved in cartel studies which allege higher yields for some Bt varieties over conventional. These “studies” never compare a GMO variety with its isogenic non-GM equivalent, but rather what’s likely to be a superior conventionally-bred variety which was then subjected to Bt transgene insertion and made publicly available only in this GMO form, vs. an inferior conventional variety.)
 
The cartel and the US government are responding to the proven complete failure of the very concepts of herbicide tolerant and insecticide-expressing GMOs by striving to double down on them and render vastly worse the failure and the collateral health, environmental, and economic destruction which shall go along with them. This is smoking gun proof that all the blathering in favor of GMOs is nothing but lies, and that for GMO proponents, the consciously, intentionally held one and only goal is to maximize corporate profit and power.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Russ and friends,

    Hope all is well! Been fighting the grasshoppers, and now black aphids. Had some good tomatoes, Swiss chard and green onions. Red wiggler composting project is going well. Anyone who knows where to get red wigglers delivered at a reasonable price, please let me know.

    Cheers, tawal

    Comment by tawal — September 21, 2014 @ 5:01 am

    • Hi tawal, glad to hear the garden’s going well. My tomatoes have been very good as well.

      Comment by Russ — September 25, 2014 @ 3:39 am

  2. […] = fewer and more tractable pests. Few gambits in the history of science and technology have so quickly been so thoroughly disproven in principle and practice as have been the two GMO genres, insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. What keeps them in the […]

    Pingback by There Is No Science of Big Agriculture | Volatility — August 4, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  3. […] endlessly regurgitating basic empirical lies about the performance of the product: The fact that GMOs require increased pesticide use, that they yield less, that products like “golden rice” or “GM drought resistant […]

    Pingback by The Historical Context of the “Genetic Engineering = Conventional Breeding” Lie | Volatility — September 30, 2015 @ 12:14 pm


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