Should Science and Nature run advertorial by wacky Dr. Bronner’s that misleads on GMOs?

| | October 21, 2014

David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, presides over a company with famously wacky product labels. … But apparently, Bronner’s writing on GMOs is too hot for the advertising pages of the English-speaking world’s two most renowned science journals, Science and Nature—even though a slew of magazines, including Scientific American, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, Harvard, and, yes, Mother Jones, accepted the Bronner ad.

It consists of a short essay, known in publishing as an advertorial, that’s nothing like the wild-eyed rants on his company’s soap bottles. Bronner’s ad (PDF) focuses on how GMO crops have led to a net increase in pesticide use in the United States, citing an analysis by Ramon Seidler, a retired senior staff scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’re concerned about backlash from our members and potentially getting into a battle with the GMO industry,” wrote an ad sales manager for Science in an email.

Stan Schmidt, an ad rep for Scientific American, which accepted the ad, told me that his magazine has a broader policy on advertorials—it accepts them unless they contain offensive or “wild-eyed” material, and the Bronner ad easily passed the test, he said.

“I’m concerned how lame and weak the leading scientific publications in the world are being here, although I appreciate Science‘s upfront explanation,” Bronner said. “Science and Nature magazines, like the scientific enterprise in general, are not above the fray.”


Herbicide and Insecticide Use on GMO Crops Skyrocketing While Pro-GMO Media Run Interference – Former EPA Senior Scientist’s New Article Sets Record Straight

By David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps

Michael Specter’s recent articles bashing Vandana Shiva and the labeling of genetically engineered foods (“Seeds of Doubt” and “The Problem with G.M.O. Labels,” 8/25/14) in the New Yorker are the latest high-profile pro-GMO articles that fail to engage with the fundamental critique of genetically engineered food crops in US soil today: rather than reduce pesticide inputs GMOs are causing them to skyrocket in amount and toxicity.

Setting the record straight, Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., former Senior Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency, has recently published a well-researched article documenting the devastating facts, “Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops” in Environmental Working Group’s online AgMag. Dr. Seidler’s article cites and links recent scientific literature and media reports, and should be required reading for all journalists covering GMOs, as well as for citizens generally to understand why their right to know if food is genetically engineered is so important. The short discussion below summarizes the major points of his five-page article.

Over 99% of GMO acreage is engineered by chemical companies to tolerate heavy herbicide (glyphosate) use and/or produce insecticide (Bt) in every cell of every plant over the entire growing season. The result is massive selection pressure that has rapidly created pest resistance—the opposite of integrated pest management where judicious use of chemical controls is applied only as necessary. Predictably, just like overuse of antibiotics in confined factory farms has created resistant “supergerms” leading to animals being overdosed with ever more powerful antibiotics, we now have huge swaths of the country infested with “superweeds” and “superbugs” resistant to glyphosate and Bt, meaning more volume of more toxic pesticides are being applied.

For example, the use of systemic insecticides, which coat GMO corn and soy seeds and are incorporated and expressed inside the entire plant, has skyrocketed in the last ten years. This includes use of

neonicotinoids (neonics) which are extremely powerful neurotoxins that contaminate our food and water and destroy non-target pollinators and wildlife such as bees, butterflies and birds. In fact, two neonics in widespread use in the U.S. are currently banned in the EU because of their suspected link to Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.

Mainstream pro-GMO media also fail to discuss the ever-increasing amount of older much more toxic herbicides like 2,4 D and Dicamba being sprayed along with huge volumes of Glyphosate to deal with superweeds. Most importantly and egregiously, this biased reporting does not mention the imminent approval of the pesticide industry’s next generation herbicide-tolerant crops that are resistant not only to glyphosate, but also high doses of 2,4 D and Dicamba, that will lead to huge increases of these toxic chemicals sprayed on our food and farming communities.

USDA and EPA are in the process of rubber-stamping these into our farming communities (and unlabeled onto our dinner plates) this fall, yet pro-GMO media consistently fail to discuss their imminent approval even as the lower-toxicity profile of Glyphosate is touted. Such reporting gives a pass to the chemical pesticide industry that pours millions into lobbying government and media elites and defeating voter ballot initiatives to require labeling of GMO foods.

Hopefully Dr. Seidler’s article will be widely read and disseminated, so reporters can learn the facts and check their biases against industry-fed distortions. Citizens and consumers need to hear the fundamental concern that GMOs are doubling down on, not freeing us from, the pesticide treadmill that contaminates our food and water while lining the pockets of the chemical companies that make both the GMOs and the pesticides used on them.

David Bronner is President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America. He graduated with a degree (B.A.) in Biology from Harvard University in 1995. A leader in the fight to label GMO foods in the U.S., Dr. Bronner’s dedicates resources to progressive issues on behalf of the company’s mission to use profits to help make a better world.

 Read full original articleWhy Did Top Scientific Journals Reject This Dr. Bronner’s Ad?

Related article:  As Chipotle struggles with poisoning crisis, it's under fire for GMO and sustainability claims
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

32 thoughts on “Should Science and Nature run advertorial by wacky Dr. Bronner’s that misleads on GMOs?”

  1. ‘Hopefully Dr. Seidler’s article will be widely read and disseminated, so reporters can learn the facts and check their biases against industry-fed distortions.’
    What a toadie!! Let’s give the article to people with the least amount of scientific knowledge to ‘validate’ it. If we give it to ‘industry’ (you know, people who know what they’re doing) the narrative will be lost.

  2. I tell you what, I’ll start supporting GM labeling laws the day Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap company starts labeling their products “Contains ingredients more toxic than Round-Up”. This needs to be displayed predominantly on the front of the package. After all, people have a right to know.

  3. Bronner is actually not “Dr. Bronner” – that was his father. Bronner is pointing out that GMO’s lead to increased use of herbicides, and destroy beneficial insects indiscriminately. That affects the future of all of our food. It would be wise to consider the external costs of GMO’s: Superweeds, pollinator problems, and depleted or toxic soil. Those costs to our future food prices are not built in to the current price of GMO’s.

    • It’s certainly wise to consider the impact of any technology on both the environment and in creating food. The problem is that Bronner is wrong on the facts. GMOs has led to a a dramatic decrease….more than 10 fold according to the USDA–in the use of insecticides, particularly as the result of GMO Bt crops. Although herbicide volume usage has increased, as even organic supporter Charles Benbrook writes in his studies, overall toxicity impact of herbeicides has gone down…the opposite of Bronner’s misleading claims. The new generation of HT BMO crops are designed to address in major way the weed problem, and the EPA/USDA both agree on its sustainability advantages (read last week’s approval documents). So, although Bronner’s emotions might be in the right place, his disdain for conventional agriculture and desire for self promotion and promoting his own products drives his argument into a ditch.

      • That’s the whole debate in a nutshell. Former EPA scientist Seidler’s report, quoted by Bronner, says that decreased pesticide usage is an old statistic from prior to the superweed eruption and that herbicide use is again on the rise, along with increased GMO expression of neonicotinoids that are highly toxic to pollinators. Neonicotinoid pesticides are currently banned in most of Europe, at least until 2015.

    • My biggest problem Bronner is ignoring half of the equation – he assumes (like many do) that if GMO’s went away that pesticides would also go away. In fact pesticide use would probably take a bug jump. “Superweeds” were first mentioned in 1931, so that problem is really nothing new, and you will have the same problems or worse without GMO crops.

    • First, “Dr. Bronner” wasn’t really a doctor either. He apparently started calling himself that after a vacation at the funny farm. He forgot to get the degree along the way. And the younger Bronner, as Jon says, has his facts wrong.

  4. By the way, the ingredients of Bronner’s soaps are listed on the label. The ingredients are sourced from plants and certified fair trade. Hydroxides of sodium and potassium are used in the soap-making process, but that is common to most commercial soaps, and these reactants are consumed in the reaction.

  5. Seidler’s thesis, from his analysis: “Much has been written by scientific and mainstream media about the advantages of using genetically engineered (GE) crops because, according to popular belief, these crops require significantly less pesticide to control weed and insect pests. Or in slightly more sophisticated but equally misleading coverage, cursory acknowledgement is given to increasing herbicide use, but such increase is qualified in terms of the lower toxicity profile of glyphosate relative to more toxic herbicides that are also increasingly used. (See e.g. “Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea”, Scientific American, 8/20/13: “Because conventional crops often require more water and pesticides than GMOs do, the former are usually more expensive.”; see also Seeds of Doubt, The New Yorker, 8/25/14; “The Promise of GMOs”, Biology Fortified, 2/14/14 and “Environmental Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops”, Fig. 7 CropLife, 11/02.) These accounts are inaccurate and rely on annual pesticide application rates and volumes reported prior to 2010, when widespread resistance began to emerge in “superweeds” and “superinsects.” (See “What Happens When Weed Killers Stop Killing?”, Science, 9/20/13 and “Field-evolved resistance by western corn rootworm to multiple Bacillus thuringiensis toxins in transgenic maize”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9/12/13.) These reports also ignore the now widespread practice of coating seeds in systemic pesticides, which has emerged in the past 10 years. This lack of journalistic and scientific integrity distorts the facts on the ground.”

    • The latest USDA data released this year, covering the very period you are targeting shows a continued dramatic drop in insecticide use to minimal levels and a continued abatement of the use of glyphosate, which is a very mild toxicant. Systemic coating of pesticides actually decreases the volume of pesticide use, the opposite of what you are suggesting, and allows it to be targeted so any possible corollary damage is limited.

      • That’s clever Jon, but I said that herbicide use is up, not pesticide use. Glyphosate use, 2-4,D use, and Dicamba use. Insecticide application is down because GMO insecticide expression (built in to the plant’s genetics) is up. Now those plants produce their own neonicotinoids. I understand it is very profitable, but may have damaging effects on pollinators.

  6. Dr. Bronner is not nearly as “wacky” as the pseudo science that is present-day GMO “technology.”

    These bad science fair projects continue to fail throughout the world at seemingly ever perimeter.

    • Evidence please…I guess you consider the National Academy of Sciences, the European Commission, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and 90+ other independent global science organizations “wacky” for concluding that GMOs are as safer or SAFER than conventional or organic foods. Oh, forgot…you watch Dr. Oz and read

      • Evidence for their collective infallibility please!

        I find it amazing that people in 2014 actually have such childlike (i.e. childish) faith today’s regulatory agencies!

        How incredibly naive do you think the American People are? (Er…. aside from those naive individuals who believe in the GMO religion, those susceptible to PR thugs, and who those routinely vote against their own interests).

        • Let’s see…you reject the EPA, USDA and World Health Organizations. which are regulatory organizations. You reject the world’s leading independent global non regulatory agencies, such as the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, the German Academies of Sciences, and the European Commission—all of whom agree GMOs are as safe or safer than conventional or organic agriculture. And you embrace….what? Dr. Oz? With receding respect, you sound like you live in a shack in Idaho and sleep with your gun.

        • So you are saying that you have zero evidence other than you don’t think all those places are credible? You are making the claim that GMO’s are dangerous – you provide some evidence for the claim.

    • Yep. lets believe the Magic Soap salesman, and those penis size increasing pills work and JFK was assassinated by an alien riding on an Asteroid behind the grassy knoll , Lets all believe in Magic and to hell with science, who needs it anyway?

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