- Jeffrey's Take: GMOs in Wildlife Refuges? REALLY? - Jeffrey Smith
The Trump administration is proposing to allow genetically engineered crops on thousands of acres of wildlife refuges in the Southeastern United States in 131 refugees in 10 States, in Puerto Rico and in the US Virgin Islands. This battle has been going on for over six years. The Obama administration decided to phase it out. In 2018 the Trump administration decided to reverse that decision and they’re being sued. This new proposal attempts to open the door for more genetically engineered crops to be grown in the wildlife refugees that are designed to protect fish and wildlife. Some of the species in those refugees are already known to be imperiled by pesticide use. Pollinators are known to be affected and this is happening in the same week that Monarch butterfly numbers are reported is critically low for the second straight year.
Why is the Monarch butterfly population below the critical threshold of 30,000 in the overwintering places on California coast and may not recover? It’s because of the use of Roundup on Roundup Ready crops. Milkweed is often throughout the Midwest and it is the only food for the larva of the Monarch butterfly, and it gets killed when one sprays Roundup because Roundup kills all the other plant biodiversity except the Roundup Ready crops. So, it’s killing off the Monarch butterfly and damaging ecosystems. And now we want to have a similar kind of carpet bombing in the wildlife refuges and the Roundup will leak into the freshwater systems. Another study this month from McGill University shows that Roundup damages the biodiversity in freshwater systems, and it makes them more vulnerable to pollution and climate change.
Roundup Ready crops are just one type of GMO. They’re the most popular. There’s also corn, cotton, and soy in the United States and in other countries that produce their own toxic insecticide called Bt (which stands for bacillus thuringiensis). It breaks open little holes in the guts of insects to kill them. It’s already known to damage the biodiversity in freshwater systems and the whole marine ecosystem. And again, it affects what they call non-target insects. It’s supposed to kill the corn borer and the cotton boll weevil, but it damages honeybees, ladybugs, lacewings (these are beneficial organisms), soil microorganisms, some mammals and the water flea. This new research verifies that under the type of exposure expected to occur in nature, including wildlife refuges, it damages the caddisfly, which is particularly important because it’s important to reduce plant growth and help break down animal and dead plant material.
In addition to Roundup and Bt toxin, so many seeds now are tolerant to Dicamba because a lot of the weeds have outsmarted Monsanto and become resistant. So now they have Dicamba and Roundup-resistant crops, but Dicamba can volatilize. It can lift, spread and damage wildlife or damage flora all around the crop area. Imagine spraying Dicamba in a wildlife refuge. It can lift, spread, land and destroy or significantly damage a lot of the plant life. We know that it damages fruits and vegetables. In fact, the USDA fruit and vegetable industry advisory committee recommended the complete suspension of Dicamba use. The inspector general of the EPA is looking to see why the EPA allowed it to be registered. There are major lawsuits filed because millions of acres have been decimated or damaged because of the traveling of Dicamba.
So now they want to put Dicamba resistant crops in the wildlife refuges. In fact, Monsanto (which is now owned by Bayer) and BASF lost the first major trial on Dicamba damage to a peach farmer. The jury awarded the farmer $250 million in punitive damages. It was the punitive damages that ruled the day (plus $15 million in compensatory damages) because it turns out that Monsanto predicted that the GMO Dicamba crop system would damage U.S. farms. They knew it in advance and when the documents came out, they showed that Monsanto predicted thousands of complaints by farmers. They were okay with this because farmers who are planting soybeans or cotton near Dicamba and Roundup-resistant crops would have to become GMO in order to protect themselves. It was a way to make more chemical sales. If they didn’t switch to the Dicamba resistant seeds, then they might be damaged by their neighbors spraying Dicamba. It was a way to force farmers to accept the technology and that’s exactly what happens. So, they didn’t mind the fact that there was going to be damage. They were going to use it to their advantage.
In the same week that the government wants to increase the use of Roundup and Bt toxin, etc., in these wildlife refuges, we find out that glyphosate and other pesticides are linked with increased risk of childhood leukemia. That’s in the areas where glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup and Paraquat dichloride are used. In the same month, it’s interesting to read the contrast where one branch of government says we should open this up to GM crops in the wildlife refuges. Another set of information at the same time shows how much more devastating it is to wildlife and to human beings. Sometimes, when we read things in isolation, we don’t get the irony of the fact that several things at once point to the absurdity of allowing GMO crops in wildlife refuges.
There is a comment period right now where you can go there and register your disapproval of this proposal.