(NaturalNews) In a sop to biotech and agriculture giant Monsanto, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the company’s controversial genetically modified herbicide-resistant strains of soybean and cotton, leaving critics to speculate that the corporate giant’s influence within the federal agency won out over legitimate concerns about human and environmental health.
The latest approval for a Monsanto-manufactured GMO is “simply the latest example of USDA’s allegiance to the biotechnology industry and dependence upon chemical solutions,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, in a statement. “This continues the disturbing trend of more herbicide-tolerant crop approvals taking place under President Obama’s watch.”
As reported by Common Dreams, an environmental news website, Hauter’s view was seconded by Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eitman of the Pesticide Action Network. She called approval of the new GMO crops “the latest in a slew of bad ideas” as well as a sign of the Agriculture Department’s “allegiance to the largest pesticide corporations.”
Next, EPA approval?
“Once again, the USDA has neglected to look at the full range of impacts associated with these GMO herbicide-tolerant crops. Instead the agency has opted for a short-term solution to superweeds that have become resistant to herbicides because of previous approvals of GMOs, thereby perpetuating and escalating chemical use,” added Hauter.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently granted “nonregulated status for Monsanto Company’s (Monsanto) soybeans and cotton that are resistant to certain herbicides, including one known as dicamba,” reported Common Dreams.
The USDA approval is not the last word on the issue. Now, it will be up to the Environmental Protection Agency to also approve use of the new herbicide, which contains both dicamba and glyphosate, for use in tandem.
Common Dreams further reported:
But food and environmental safety advocates warn that the corresponding increase in herbicide use is dangerous to the ecosystem. As the Center for Food Safety points out, dicamba has been linked in epidemiology studies to “increased rates of cancer in farmers and birth defects in their male offspring.” First approved in 1967, dicamba seeps through the environment, causing damage to crops and flowering plants and polluting waterways.
In addition, widespread herbicide use is known to cause a rise in resistant weeds, which then leads to the development of additional herbicides along with new resistant, genetically modified crop strains. Critics of the process have said that, rather than proceed on an endless cycle of introducing new chemicals and GMO crops into the environment, which fosters a “pesticide treadmill,” government regulators ought to consider what is best long-term for the ecosystem, agriculture in general and the environment, thereby changing the status quo.
“The USDA has ignored pleas from organic farmers”
The recent decision by the USDA to approve Monsanto’s newest GMO soybean and cotton strains follows approval by the EPA in October of Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Duo herbicide, which both farmers and scientists have warned threatens human health and environmental damage.
“Monsanto’s genetically-engineered dicamba-resistant crops are yet another example of how pesticide firms are taking agriculture back to the dark days of heavy, indiscriminate use of hazardous pesticides, seriously endangering human health and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.
Regarding the latest approval, Hauter said the cycle of GMO products being introduced into the environment shows no signs of abating.
“The USDA has ignored pleas from organic farmers and other specialty crop growers asking the agency not to approve these crops that will increase applications of this incredibly drift-prone herbicide,” she said. “Farmers of nearby non-tolerant crops will pay the price for USDA’s short-term weed management fix in the form of diminished or completely destroyed harvests caused by dicamba drift.”
“The pesticide treadmill spins on, and that’s great news for Monsanto,” Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a food issue research group, told Reuters. “This is just the latest in a endless string of favors from our federal government to Monsanto.”
Written by J. D. Heyes
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