Scientists challenge organic backer Benbrook claims that GM crops increase pesticide spraying

The ongoing hullabaloo over the controversial Seralini study and questions about the safety of foods made from genetic modified crops has obscured another line of attack on biotechnology by the Hydra of GM critics: claims that GM crops are environmentally unfriendly.

Noted organic scientist Charles Benbrook of the University of Washington recently released a summary of his published study assessing the use of pesticides since the introduction of GM crops in the 1990s. A fierce and respected critic of GM technology, Benbrook claims his data shows that pesticide use has gone up in the US over that time.

News coverage of the Benbrook study was motley and often highly politicized. There was the expected selective presentations from anti-GM journalists such as Tom Laskawy at Grist, Tom Philpott at Mother Jones and at organic publisher Rodale. But more disappointing was the botched context provided by more mainstream sources. Reuters, for example, echoed Benbrook’s views uncritically, blaring in a headline that “GMO crop technology backfires.”

Within days of the first wave of media coverage, the more responsible press weighed in and contextualized analysis emerged. Keith Kloor, the respected Slate contributing writer, offered his analysis of how many reporters misplayed the story out of the gate.

Former UC Davis scientist Steve Savage, who had nice things to say about Benbrook, put the organic advocates claims in a different perspective, and reached a far different conclusion. He viewed the extremely modest multi-year increase in the use of some pesticides—less toxic versions than ones used previously—as a sign of significant environmental progress.

The blog Big Picture Agriculture broke down Benbrook’s numbers and found that pesticide use is actually falling on a yield per acre basis—in accord with what biotech proponents have claimed would happen—but warned that trouble may lie ahead.

Environmental consensus emerging on relative safety of GM crops

Benbrook’s broadside aside, what’s most interesting as the debate unfolds are signs that a scientific consensus is gradually but surely emerging that GM crops do not pose unmanageable environmental threats. Supporters and critics of biotech crops agree that crops bred for a natural resistance to pests harm biodiversity less than conventional crops because glyphosate, the pesticide used in conjunction with GM crops, is less persistent in the environment and less toxic to animals.

As New Scientist noted this week conservationists, once diehard opponents, have sharply reduced their vitriolic opposition. It noted, for example, that in 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature called for a halt to the release of GM organisms, but by 2007 it had published a report saying there was “no conclusive evidence of direct negative impacts on biodiversity of GMOs that have been commercially released”.

Related article:  With glyphosate-cancer legal battles poised to escalate, what are the ramifications for agriculture if the herbicide is restricted?

By 2010, Michael Marshall also noted, the once skeptical US National Research Council Reporter had concluded: “[G]enerally, GM crops have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GM crops produced conventionally”. The same year, a European Union report summarized 10 years of research, saying GM crops “are not per se more risky”.

The evolution in views, Marshall wrote, is largely because “claiming that GM crops are environmentally harmful is difficult to back up.” But what about Benbrook’s claims? The magazine quoted scientists who believe there are more than nits to pick with his methodology and conclusions.

Benbrook made subjective estimates of herbicide use because the data, provided by the US National Agricultural Statistics Service, doesn’t differentiate between GM and non-GM crops, said Graham Brookes of PG Economics, a consultancy firm in Dorchester, UK. Brookes crunched the almost identical data and published a peer reviewed report earlier this year that reached a far different conclusion: GM crops may actually have reduced worldwide pesticide use by 9.1 per cent.

The disparity can also be explained by the unique toxic profile of glyphosate. While traditional herbicides don’t work on all weeds, resulting in farmers spraying their fields multiple times, the far more effective glyphosate, which attacks most weeds, can be sprayed fewer times for the same effect.

Every technology comes with trade offs. Farmers have seen an emergence of weed varieties—22 at current count—that are resistant to glyphosate. That’s a problem in conventional agriculture as well of course. So-called superweeds may signal danger ahead—or as New Scientist suggests, perhaps it’s only a temporary reflection of the current market reality that farmers have a limited menu of GM crops to choose from. With more variety of crops using different pesticides, resistant-specific weeds would be less likely to emerge. The issue then morphs into a debate over patent protections and not the science behind GM technology.

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303 thoughts on “Scientists challenge organic backer Benbrook claims that GM crops increase pesticide spraying”

  1. maybe if Monsanto, with its sordid background and all removed itself from the GMO field, they’d be more accepted. Even GMO supporters dont like Monsanto, its background or its tactics.

    While GMO have been proven not to be dangerous overall, Monsanto and their prior history and agenda IS in question. Especially since glyphosate is no longer as effective as it once was (for the same reason that bacteria have gained immunity against many antibiotics and we need to get them out of our farms). Even GMO supporters see the dangers of a Monsanto monopoly, and want no part of it. I took this off of Monsanto’s own website (dont they ever read?) while the article is pro GMO it does poke holes in Monsanto’s propaganda that their products need less dangerous pesticides. As a matter of fact, Dow and Monsanto could have used much less dangerous pesticides than one of the two main ingredients of Agent Orange, but they chose to use the one they can make the most money from (patent):

    http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/nutrition/gmo-facts/

    But less than 20 years later, over a dozen weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, meaning that farmers have to use more of it, as well as other more hazardous chemicals such as 2,4-D, a powerful herbicide linked to reproductive problems and birth defects, says Chuck Benbrook, PhD, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. On the basis of 16 years of pesticide data, collected since GMOs were introduced, Benbrook predicts that use of 2,4-D will increase more than fourfold in the next decade, spurred by new GMO crops. “Twenty years from now we will look back and deeply regret the misuse and mismanagement of current-generation GMO technology,” he says.

    This is Agent Orange, the same carcinogen that Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, et. al, poisoned Vietnam and our soldiers with. Now they are trying to patent it as their new pesticide- this is the part everyone should be paying attention to

    These are also interesting reads- illustrative of what may happen in the future

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/03/08/148227668/insect-experts-issue-urgent-warning-on-using-biotech-seeds

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/12/05/143141300/insects-find-crack-in-biotech-corns-armor

    Note how scientists differed with Monsanto’s assessments and guess who the “regulators” listened to (and you can probably guess why- conflict of interest when they are allowed to be on the regulatory agencies.)

    http://fieldquestions.com/2012/02/12/bt-cotton-remarkable-success-and-four-ugly-facts/

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/11/us-gmo-science-idUSKCN0IV24C20141111

    But critics of the products say that is not the last word on the issue.

    Some international scientists are challenging the assertion and say many scientific studies show concerns with crops whose DNA has been spliced in ways not seen in nature.

    On Tuesday, a group with backing from institutions in Russia, the United States and Europe said it would undertake the longest, largest and most definitive study of GMOs to date to try to settle the debate once and for all.

    The $25 million study of 6,000 rats to be fed a GMO corn diet is designed as an independent examination of the health impacts of GMO corn and the herbicide used on it. The research is to be done in Russia and western Europe over two to three years. (factorgmo.com/en/)

    “The science on these GMOs is not settled by a long shot,” said Bruce Blumberg, an endocrinology expert at the University of California, Irvine, who sits on the study review board. “Studies that were done by the manufacturers are the main ones showing safety, and those have an inherent conflict of interest.”

    • Where is your study? The safety record is impeccable. The science is settled. AO is not relevant. The company was sold and a new one launched. Your comment is bunk.

      • there’s plenty of studies linking organophosphates causing autism, brain damage, etc, and the recent court case victory against RoundUp was awesome with thousands more to follow :) the corruption of the EPA was laid out for all to see, it’s great to see Bayer’s stock drop, hopefully within 50 years these companies will cease to exist because we will bankrupt them all!

        • You are full of nonsense. the court victory? You mean the one where the federal judge ruled Ca. can’t require labels on glyphosate due to lack of evidence. Autism? Try proving that lie. There are many companies that make glyphosate. We will always have it available. Hopefully in 50 years wacktivists people like you will be gone.

          • the autism studies were done by columbia and many other great institutions and are with regards to chlorpyrifos, which children are being exposed to. Wrong, things are on our side as people eat clean food, and we will ban all these dangerous chemicals

          • I posted them as part of a large group and even the corrupt EPA acknowledged the studies and listed brain damage under the side effects of chlorpyrifos exposure

          • no the one where a man won a 189 million dollar lawsuit because he got non hodgkins lymphoma from it. I guess you dont keep up with the news. We already have labels on glyphosate here smart guy, people MUST be made aware.

          • the ruling is what matters, I never said it causes cancer either, but it’s harmful in other ways (particularly now with weed resistance), but with gene editing pesticides like antibiotics will be a thing of the past soon enough

          • People like you try to cover things up but the truth always comes out, thanks to FOIA (thats how Monsanto’s private emails with the EPA got leaked and they were exposed in the lawsuit.)

          • “always” I guess you don’t know much about evolution, nature always wins, get used to it. You’d like to think there are certain types of corporate malfeasance that really only exist in the realm of Hollywood fantasy. For example, the soulless biotech company that, through a combination of shortsighted greed and scientific hubris, decides to play God with Mother Nature—only to unleash a host of unintended consequences, which said company then refuses to acknowledge and instead continues to pursue its reckless technology to devastating ends. Sounds like the plotline of dozens upon dozens of dystopian sci-fi flicks, right? Or maybe it’s just the ongoing saga of Monsanto and the superweeds.

            Yes, the story has taken far longer to unfold than any feature film, but still, your average teen who’s taken a semester of biological sciences would get the gist in a flash: A generation ago, Monsanto rolled out its patented line of genetically engineered crops that, in a (diabolical?) bit of corporate synergy, were designed to survive being doused with the company’s trademark weed killer Roundup, made with the herbicide glyphosate.

            Monsanto billed its “crop system”—the “Roundup Ready” GMO seeds combined with Roundup itself—as a revolutionary boon for farmers: higher yields with fewer chemicals. Yep, fewer chemicals. It’s worth remembering today, when the use of glyphosate has soared by more than tenfold in the past decade, that the original bill of goods Monsanto sold to farmers centered on the argument that because Roundup Ready seeds could withstand glyphosate, farmers wouldn’t have to use as much of the chemical to kill all those nuisance weeds.

            RELATED: Would You Buy a GMO Apple Just Because It Doesn’t Turn Brown?

            That’s not exactly what happened, as we’re reminded once again by the latest Monsanto-related headlines this week.

            As NPR reports, a scourge of superweeds that have become resistant to glyphosate is plaguing soybean farmers in parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. They’re not alone. This graph from the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds shows how the number of unique cases of herbicide resistance in weeds in the U.S. shoots off like a rocket in the years following Monsanto’s introduction of Roundup Ready GMO seed in the mid-1990s.

            Monsanto’s own solution to this escalating problem would seem as laughably predictable as a bad Hollywood sequel if it weren’t all too real: Let’s roll out more GMO crops designed to withstand being doused with even more weed killer. Monsanto calls its next-generation line of GMO soybeans “Xtend,” and these are capable of not only surviving heavy applications of glyphosate but an older, more potent herbicide known as dicamba.

            Federal regulators have yet to approve the new dicamba-based weed killer Monsanto formulated to pair with its dicamba-resistant GMO soybeans. But that apparently hasn’t stopped some desperate farmers from spraying dicamba anyway. And because the chemical has a nasty tendency to drift to neighboring fields, Monsanto’s new GMO crops aren’t only upending the natural order, they appear to being upending the social order in tight-knit farming communities too: Neighbors are accusing neighbors of illegally spraying dicamba and killing off crops that haven’t been engineered to tolerate the chemical. Dozens and dozens of complaints have been filed in Missouri and in Arkansas, but that may only be the beginning in the next chapter of the Monsanto saga. If the company’s new herbicide wins federal approval and certain farmers start spraying it, surrounding farmers might have no choice but to plant Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant GMO crops too—or risk their own crops dying from herbicide drift.

            As one crop scientist at the University of Arkansas tells NPR: “[These farmers are] afraid they’re not going to be able to grow what they want to grow. They’re afraid that they’re going to be forced to go with that technology.”

            That is, of course, until the next generation

          • Nature can’t “win” It is not capable of making effort. It is not a being. Besides that all we have to do is continue to improve the tools available and we will continue to “win” as we have done for millennia. The fact that we are here proves that. Take your juvenile copy/paste back to class. I know the successful history of GE crops. I am also aware of pending developments that will improve things even more.

          • the reason nature always wins is because we are a part of nature so trying to beat it wont work. You have to obey the laws of nature. By win I mean trying to defeat it never works long term

          • Nope. Editing is a form of GE. they just don’t want to call it that. so that they can avoid the stupid regulations. Plus that won’t automatically eliminate pesticides.

          • we have only been here for a short time and we will go extinct just like everything else does, we are a part of nature and must always obey nature’s laws…as a matter of fact humanity’s overpopulation which has led to every other problem we face, including climate change and the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history, is not one we will, or even should, survive.The planet is for all intents and purposes a self-regulating system, a superset of beings and functions in a similar way, when one species becomes too dominant there are a series of checks and balances to bring it back in line or it goes extinct- that has happened throughout our planet’s history and is accepted science, as a matter of fact a Nobel prize was handed out for proving that.

          • More than 1 million people live in the 100 communities where growers surpassed the original 1,3-D health limits.

            The state has allowed growers in six communities from Merced to Santa Barbara to exceed the limits every year since 2002. Some areas in Merced and strawberry centers like Monterey and Ventura counties have exceeded the limit by startling amounts.

            Near New Republic Elementary School in Salinas, for example, growers and Dow have been able to use a total of 1.3 million pounds more 1,3-D than the original rules allowed.

            Down the coast in Oxnard, Rio Mesa High School is boxed in on all four sides by strawberry fields. It’s surrounded by more of the most risky pesticides than any other school in the state. Here, strawberry growers surpassed the original 1,3-D health limits in 10 out of 12 years.
            Manage

          • In an interview, Helliker maintained that his decision to alter the pesticide policy in 2002 didn’t put Californians in danger. Because the state’s regulations average cancer risk over a lifetime, Dow and state regulators said, it’s fine for people to be exposed to more 1,3-D in some years as long as it evens out over time.

            Helliker said he can’t recall whether department scientists disagreed with his decision. But documents obtained by CIR show a state toxicologist objected to the science – and the logic – as soon as Dow began raising the idea in 2001.

            Eight years later, a new batch of department leaders received similar warnings from another staff scientist. Toxicologist Linda Hall disputed the basic justification Dow and Helliker used to create the loophole.

            “Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) scientists do not agree and suggest that this practice may actually increase cancer risk,” she wrote.

            Still, department leaders didn’t put a stop to it.

            Chensheng Lu, an associate professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, likened the averaging idea to drinking and driving.

            If you get pulled over once and you are sober, but you are pulled over a second time and your blood alcohol level is twice as high as the legal limit, you can’t average the two incidents and say everything is fine.

            “This is a very dangerous approach,” Lu said.

          • chlorpyrifos will be rebanned shortly, the federal courts ordered Trump’s EPA to do it, he was trying to keep it from getting banned, which the previous administration was already committed to doing because of all the studies that linked it to brain damage in children

          • “They used the term ‘silent epidemic’ with lead, and I think that’s really what we’re talking about here,” said Hertz-Picciotto, whose research has found links between autism and maternal exposure to the class of pesticides that includes chlorpyrifos. “The longer this goes on, the more accumulated evidence there is. It’s not like there is other evidence coming in that detracts from the conclusion that this is not safe and it’s not healthy.”

            Research has further linked chlorpyrifos exposure to loss of working memory, delayed motor development and decreases in cognitive functioning.

            “Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids,” Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at NRDC, said in a statement.

            “It’s eating away at the development of vulnerable brains,” added Hertz-Picciotto, who said she had hoped the ban initiated under Obama would have paved the way for further restrictions of harmful pesticides. “All bets are off at this point.”

            Bonnie Wirtz, a farmer in Minnesota who said she was exposed to a chlorpyrifos drift from an alfalfa field when she was at her home, slammed Pruitt’s decision.

            “By leaving this chemical on the market we are gambling with the lives of children and their long-term wellbeing and they have no choice in the matter,” she said in a statement. “That’s reckless and heartbreaking.”
            Manage

          • Post actual links. Linked and caused are 2 different things. You are now simply using editorials. NRDC folks are often wacktivists and scientifically honest folks rarely cite them.

          • The use of pesticides is largely cosmetic and designed to make our food prettier, according to Dr. Jennifer A. Lowry, section chief of toxicology at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City and chair to the Council on Environmental Health for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

            “If a bug landed on your strawberry it’s not going to taste any different and it actually might be healthier because it wouldn’t have pesticides,” she said.

            Looks like this is the first of many lawsuits against Roundup and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma based on a meta-analysis of 34 studies done by the WHO, which is being disputed. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
            Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped company
            Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped company
            “For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the report states. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf

          • complete nonsense. The doctor was either quoted out of context or has no clue. The bug that lands and flies off is not what we are trying to kill. It is the critter that eats a hole in the fruit and causes it to rot. Or parasitizes the plant. And the dunce finally posts link. Not surprised it is to the well debunked IARC nonsense.

          • I posted about 50 links but it doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that there is a huge movement to rightly move away from destructive chemical agriculture and towards something which doesn’t damage the brains of our kids, something you wouldn’t care about.

          • I didn’t say it wasn’t, I was talking about the proliferation of chemicals being a dead end, biology is the ultimate answer.

          • All biology is chemicals. Without even being educated enough to realize it you are trying to use the appeal to nature fallacy.

          • Actually it’s not. Sustainable farming does not require pesticides or fertilizer. I certainly dont use any.

          • Yet you are ignoring the federal court decision I cited. Also, the study can be OK. But crap conclusions can be drawn from it. As I have already shown. Plus you have posted editorials and news articles as studies. They are not.

          • ivy league studies and regulatory white papers are pretty substantial. and in regards to the Benbrook claim, the fact is that GM crops do require more pesticides, that was the whole point of the Dicamba, Enlist Duo and Chlorpyrifos stuff. Trying to dispute that we are now using more pesticides than we have ever before is not something that any scientist would argue, they are losing their effectiveness just like antibiotics have.

          • Chemistry is a failed attempt at agriculture, the yields aren’t even all that improved, which is why organic farming is on the rise and why it’s a much better approach

          • Organic yields run quite a bit loser most of the time. That is so easy to confirm that not knowing it is negligence. Organic also uses chemicals.

          • I didn’t say organic was much more efficient either, it causes less damage to the environment, but they both have their drawbacks, however a pesticide free solution is on the horizon which will be better than either. I sent you the link.

          • My point was using more and more chemicals isn’t the answer either. Biology is always the preferred solution over chemistry and gene editing is preferable to all the other techniques we have discussed.

          • the NYT articles beg to differ where they found that conventional farming creates far more nutrient run off. Organic has its issues too, the best alternative is genetic editing, which needs no pesticides or fertilizer and will be make GMO a thing of the past.

          • You have no proof that industry scientists are corrupt on The GE crop issue. You are merely using the shill gambit. As dishonest folks often do.

          • You are a dishonest little boy I see. I make money from my job. Yet that is not proof of lying about it. Are you in Jr. high?

          • We have discussed nothing. You have simply refused to learn from what I told you. You aren’t qualified to discuss. “unregulated capitalism>” Straw man argument

          • We already discussed your job in the past that has nothing to do with the corruption, it has to do with large companies that have a long history of destroying the environment AKA unregulated capitalism

        • the new genetic editing technique is really good, it uses plant analogs to our own immune system to fight pests, I think you’ll love it, read the WaPo article. It’s going to be much better received than GMO also, because no outside organisms are used.

          • Some will be better. some maybe not. Outside organism use is not relevant to the effectiveness of the modification.

          • No but the great thing is eventually YOU wont have to apply any pesticides yourself once this technology is fully realized. Genetic editing will utilize the plant’s own pesticides, just like immunotherapy uses our own immune system instead of having to use antibiotics, which lose effectiveness with time.

          • Until there is proof, it is speculation. You have no idea as regards traits that could allow for resistance ton develop to the new modifications. Plus there are pests like Whiteflies that have many species. Can you account for all of them? What if they can hybridize? Look up Nirvanna fallacy.

          • But this kind of thing applies to all science. We have seen that with GMO’s also. As long as it’s an improvement that’s all one can ask for until the technology fully matures.

          • yes it does, apparently you know nothing about electronics :)) it matures once all the kinks are ironed out and then you move onto the nex

          • The first generation of technology adopters frequently experience problems with the technology until that technology matures and becomes adopted by a wider audience, those original adopters are considered “beta testers”. After the technology matures it is then replaced by a new generation of technology. Everything has a lifecycle

          • I envision that we could take genetic editing to the next level and actually use it to adapt the plant’s defenses to allow for pests that become resistant so that the plant’s own pesticides will evolve to match it. Use nature to fight nature!

  2. anecdotal crap about what mommy believes is till crap. Post links. Not copy pastes. the copy paste crap makes it obvious you are concealing evidence. “Chrissy Garavito, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, died in Fontana in 1997 of a heart rhythm disturbance her mother believes was triggered by exposure to chemicals sprayed at the school. Authorities never confirmed that pesticides contributed to her death.” From your own source.

    • oh so the EPAs own statements about how dangerous it is doesn’t matter to you. Even the corrupt EPA stood up to Dow, you know when the EPA didn’t have brain dead greedy lunatics in charge that are clones of the current president and when he’s ousted, it will be banned again, or even before since the federal courts told the EPA to ban it again.

    • Junk? This includes research from Columbia, Cal-Berkeley Cal-Irvine, Harvard, etc- go to the links and read them for yourself. It concerns pesticide drift into schools, and rising health concerns that have been statistically documented.

    • scientific studies from multiple reputable institutions aint nonsense and its also why all the civilized nations of the world have banned these dangerous chemicals, while a third world country like america that doesnt even have the decency to have universal healthcare have not, because the fact is america does not care about its inhabitants.

      • You would be incorrect. Correctly using GE crops and crop protectants leads to less acres being needed to raise food. Thus more land can be allowed to return to native ecosystems or not cleared.

        • many biologists would disagree with that, as a matter of fact you deplete soil nutrients more, but you blindly follow your cult of course, it doesn’t matter more and more people are turning away from it, so you end up being the moron :)

          • No, we do not deplete our soils more. selling the same amount of “cabbage” removes the same amount of minerals from the soil regardless of growing technique.

          • I’m talking about nutrient runoff from when it rains, organic soil has proven to retain nutrients better.

          • No, it has not. Organic uses more tillage and mechanical weed control therefore there is more compaction and exposed soil. thus increasing run off.

          • Yes. And it will be great whenever it is perfected (or even improved). But right now, it has almost zero adoption among organic grain farmers (where it is best applied) and even less among vegetable farmers (where it is most needed).

          • yes it needs to be improved upon, the adoption of new technology that can benefit is us all is very important (it’s why I also advocate for gene editing, which will eventually mean zero need for pesticide application, the same way we’re going to move beyond antibiotics and onto immunotherapy.)

          • Pesticides will always be needed. But I agree that giving plants some more defenses is a good thing that will help reduce pesticide use.

          • it makes me wonder if they will always be needed because of what’s going on with antibiotics and them being replaced by immunotherapy drugs. Evolution eventually defeats whatever we throw against it, and before that even happens, we keep having to use more and more dangerous ones. Perhaps gene editing is going to be the analog to immunotherapy in that we will be able to shore up plants’ natural defenses to combat pasts rather than having to introduce somewhat dangerous outside agents. I think that anything that helps us reduce or eliminate the introduction of outside chemicals is a win win, much like if you can treat human illnesses’ without subjecting them to drugs with side effects, and by strengthening our own immune system, then that’s the far better option.

          • I agree that we should be working towards a chemical free ag industry, I just don’t think we will ever achieve it. Perhaps we can gene edit plants to disrupt all herbivores, but that would probably require many many traits stacked on each other. It also will do little to stop weed pressure. By all means, we should keep trying and I would love if we could seriously reduce inputs.

          • That would be amazing if we could do that. Are neonics banned here? I read that they were banned in the EU because they have been implicated in the honey bee and monarch butterfly die offs.

          • Neonics are not banned anywhere in the US, as far as I know.

            Implicated is the key word. I feel like focusing on neonics is a lazy way to address a real problem. We have been using chemicals for a long time. Neonics iare not harmless, but its association with insect decline is not completely proven in my mind. Even if it were, only insects exposed would be affected. We are seeing serious declines in all kinds of insects–and I think declining habitat is the bigger problem.

          • I think it was implicated in the decline of milkweed which they need in order to thrive. Declining habitat is also a problem and it underlies the basic cause of everything- increasing human population and overpopulation. We need to keep the birth rate to about 1.5-1.8 like it is over much of Europe, humanity’s population cannot just keep growing exponentially and doubling every 40 years, it affects pollution, the environment, and us (lower quality of life, much lower standard of living in densely populated cities, much higher stress levels, etc.)

          • and ruin natural habitats you mean, yes, but also as an amateur astronomer, light pollution is the bane of the existence of any star gazer and it causes higher stress levels, sleepless nights, etc. When I travel to the mountains and sleep under pitch black skies, I get a much deeper sleep, much more relaxed, lower blood pressure, etc. Light pollution has even been connected to higher cancer rates because it inhibits the release of melatonin at night.

          • by the way I dont know if this interests you but SETI has been talking about their AI discovering 72 mysterious radio bursts from a galaxy 3 billion light years away and they seem pretty excited about it. I like that it might be something, because I always had problems with the idea that humanity was the first sentient technological species in the universe.

          • the biggest problems humanity faces are all due to overpopulation, and that includes climate change too, the most efficient way to lower one’s carbon footprint is to have one less child.

          • I agree. There are too many people in the world. How do we address that? how do we reduce the world’s population without treating the people alive today cruelly? I don’t know the answer. But I think we need to efficiently produce as much food as possible to keep people from starving or to reduce the chance of wars. we need to do this while we are figuring out the population problem.

          • I’m not sure reduction is something we can reasonably do, rather we should try to aim for a slower growth rate, closer to the “break even point.” You’re absolutely right that we need to produce as much as food as possible as efficiently as possible for the people who are here right now and work towards slowing down birth rates in the developing world (which is where they are the highest and where mass starvation is endemic.)

          • I think better education and job opportunities for women in the developing world will help curb growth rates there, the growth rate in the US is higher than it is in Europe because our poverty rates and economic inequality is worse too, if we followed the model of countries like Norway, Denmark, Iceland, etc.- I think we can improve, they have much higher literacy rates, universal healthcare and less disparity between the haves and have nots (and much better record on pollution and less toxic chemicals in their food.)

          • also (and I wouldn’t say this lightly)- those European countries are far more agnostic, I find the US too “religious” and that is part of the reason it isn’t as progressive as those countries or Canada for that matter.

          • Dutch firms are among the world leaders in the seed business, with close to $1.7 billion worth of exports in 2016. Yet they market no GMO products. A new seed variety in Europe’s heavily regulated GMO arena can cost a hundred million dollars and require 12 to 14 years of research and development, according to KeyGene’s Arjen van Tunen. By contrast, the latest achievements in the venerable science of molecular breeding—which introduces no foreign genes—can deliver remarkable gains in five to 10 years, with development costs as low as $100,000 and seldom more than a million dollars. It is a direct descendant of methods employed by farmers in the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago.

          • I don’t eat that kind of food, so I am not that worried. I can be concerned about the effect it has on our population as a whole–but I am not that interested in delving into the science enough to determine if this stuff is bad or not. Some science seems to say yes, some not so much. Either way, avoiding it is the best thing for me.

          • Yes I try to grow my own as much as possible, and these factors are not just confined to plant products, the amount of antibiotics and hormones used in meat and diary are big considerations also, as are pollution rates

          • I dont have as much of a problem with glyphosate as I do with organophosphates like chlorpyrifos, we have enough data on it to get it banned and it was going to get banned before the current administration took office.

          • Where I learned about not-till organic soil farming was an hour long documentary on PBS where a couple of biologists conducted an experiment showing three types of soil in test tubes one was conventional soil, another was organic soil, and the third sample was organic soil with compost, and then they ran water through the three test tubes, and in the conventional soil sample the most amount of soil nutrients flowed out, the organic soil sample retained more of its nutrients and the organic soil plus compost retained the most nutrients and the water that flowed out looked completely clear. Then there was a history of farming presented showing how nutrients were being removed from the soil and farmers were realizing that biology presents a much more sustainable answer to farming (by about 125%) than chemistry usage of fertilizers and pesticides does.

          • That didn’t answer my question. In fact, it had nothing to do with using GE crops. And you didn’t name the documentary or the biologists.

            In fact, I think you are misremembering the experiment. Or leaving valuable parts out. Organic soil–I would need to know how that soil was treated over the long term. USDA certified organic operations don’t have to do much as far as soil health. Tillage plays a large part in most organic operations. Sure, they don’t apply chemicals (well, they do–just not modern ones). But that doesn’t mean their humus is in sufficient quantity. You see, it is organic matter that helps keep soil in place and retain its nutrients. If the “conventional soil” was tilled it is going to have very little humus–very little organic matter. If the “organic soil” was no tilled, then yes, few nutrients would escape and the water would be very clear. Do you know if the conventional was no tilled? If the Organic was no tilled? Tillage is a true predictor of nutrient loss–not whether it is organic or conventional. And the reality is, conventional farmers use GMOs and herbicides to make no tilling easy and affordable for them which leads to a reduction in soil loss.

            If compost was added to the organic soil and you could see a difference, then it should have also been added to the conventional soil. Compost is going to help either type of soil retain its nutrients. A good experimenter would have had control groups and only tested one variable at a time.

            When it comes to organic no till, it is possible to reduce tillage and use cover crops as weed suppression. Then the cover crop is rolled down and the new crop is planted into the biomass (the new humus) of the cover crop. Some conventional farmers are using the roll down cover crop method to reduce weeds and fertilizer. This doesn’t mean they don’t ever use a pesticide or a chemical fertilizer–some weeds and insects are just really hard to control and no matter what–you are depleting nutrients when you farm–where do you think all those vitamins and minerals you eat come from? The nutrients that are pulled from the ground.

          • No they didn’t mention GE crops at all, this was just about what kind of soil was used- they specifically mentioned organic soil not organic farming, although they did say that it was more sustainable than the usage of fertilizers and pesticides, 125% more sustainable is the number mentioned. I don’t remember the name of the documentary because I saw it 2 years ago, but they had interviewed both biologists and farmers from around the world, and they were showing the damage caused to the soil by the application of chemicals, and how farmers were going back to organic soil farming because it retained nutrients better. They mentioned organic no-till which was considered more sustainable than the old method. I’ll try to go back to the PBS website to see if I can find the documentary, the experiment that they showed with test tubes of different kinds of soil and pouring water through each and the one that caused run off of the clearest water (least amount of nutrient run off) was the organic soil+compost. That much I do remember clearly. You’re right that compost should have also been added to the conventional soul, but the implication was that since organic soil performed better than conventional soil even without the compost, then they thought having four test tubes was unnecessary. If I was doing this experiment, I would have actually separated into two experiments, one would solely be organic soil vs conventional soil and the other one would be organic+compost vs conventional+compost. I think that would yield more valuable data.

          • I am still not sold that it was organic soil. In my experience it is the amount of tillage that matters, having not much at all to do with fertilizers or pesticides. Cover crops help as well. But cover crops aren’t exclusive to organic farms.

          • I found the name of the documentary if you can watch it please let me know it’s called The Symphony of the Soil

  3. The Columbia paper is full of speculate claims and the fact is that pregnant women don’t spray chlorpyrifos. Several of those articles are simply newspaper editorials and almost all that I have had the time to look at are crappy wacko article full of anecdotal claims that can;’t even come close to being proved. One was so stupid as to blame walking near an apple orchard. well, guess what dummy? I grew up in apple country in Michigan during times when folks used more risky chemicals than now a days. we not only walked by, we stopped and ate the apples. Our parents also fed them to us by the bushel and we loved the cider. Separate the garbage sources from the ones that might, just might have a very small chance of having some substance or relevance to GE crops. Hint, the Hawaaiaan Center for Food Safety is not one. they are an activist group and have done zippo studies that I have ever heard of.

    • it has nothing to do with mothers spraying anything, it has to do with pesticide drift which is what the lawsuit is about (read the Guardian), you do realize that the EPA already agreed that it causes brain damage right? and that a federal judge ruled that it be banned- it was already going to be banned before this brain dead president took office

    • the EPA already had ruled to ban it, and we are going more towards the EU, the fact is there are good reasons for them to ban chemicals that are still dangerously used here, the US is prehistoric when it comes to regulations

    • the point remains that most of these are banned in Europe for a reason, pesticides are a dead end approach to agriculture. It’s why I’m excited about gene editing technology which will replace GMO and not require any pesticides whatsoever

    • and the fact that Dow tried to exceed the scientifically accepted limits and not even tell the schools when the crops near the schools were going to be sprayed shows how corrupt they really are.

    • In a 15-year longitudinal study examining chemicals in the environment and children’s health, UC Berkeley Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) researchers found a strong correlation between pregnant women’s exposure levels to organophosphate pesticides, the most commonly used form of agricultural insecticide in the U.S., and their children’s neurodevelopment. First developed as nerve-gas agents during World War II, organophosphates kill insects by the same mechanism that sarin gas kills people—by causing nerves to fire uncontrollably.

      “During [the] sensitive life stages [of in utero development, infancy, and early childhood], exposure can cause permanent brain injury at low levels that would have little or no adverse effects in an adult,” wrote Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Philip Landriga, dean for global health at Mount Sinai Hospital, in a study they published last month in Lancet Neurology.

      A farmer sprays pecticides on crops in Santa Cruz, Calif. (Photo: David Gomez/Getty Images)
      This brain injury can manifest in several ways, from greater risk of autism to slower reflexes to hyperactivity. The CHAMACOS study found that by age seven, kids with higher levels of prenatal exposure scored an average of seven points lower on IQ tests—the equivalent of being a half year behind their peers. Other studies on organophosphates and other pesticides have found associations between in utero exposure and birth defects or childhood cancers.

    • this is regarding Glyphosate, it’s actually less dangerous than the other pesticides we’ve been discussing, but the rise of weed resistance has led to more dangerous combinations now being used. According to a review of studies on agricultural chemicals published in the medical journal The Lancet, the group of international cancer researchers found “limited evidence” of glyphosate—the “highest global production volume herbicide” on the market—causing cancer in humans, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Studies of occupational exposure to glyphosate in the United States, Canada, and Sweden “reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides.” In studies of rodents, glyphosate has been linked with a number of cancers.

    • Pregnant women dont have to spray it lol, these idiots are spraying it near people’s homes and schools, that’s why teaachers have been protesting and there is a push for more regulation and transparency to release spraying schedules and an outcry against Dow because they have been exceeding scientifically accepted limits.

    • I sincerely hope you dont use organophosphates then, for the sake of your own family and workers. Chlorpyrifos is about to be banned again, I have less of an issue with the other pesticides, but that one has a pretty ugly track record, just like the other organophosphates. Hopefully you avoid neonics too, since they have been implicated in the reduction of various endangered animal species and pollinators.

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