- Mexico to phase out glyphosate, organic farming of soy, corn and wheat is more profitable than GMO & underhanded stories of science by the biotech industry - Jeffrey Smith
Transcription: Jeffrey’s Take: Mexico to Phase Out Glyphosate, Organic Farming of Soy, Corn and Wheat is More Profitable than GMO & Underhanded Stories of Science by the Biotech Industry
Hi, this is Jeffrey Smith. Four pieces of news got my attention this week that I want to share, two quite good, and two more of the same kind of influence-peddling by the biotech industry and the chemical industry. The first, my favorite of the four, is that Mexico is banning glyphosate. It’s phasing it out by 2024, their environment ministry announced, and they’re actually doing some things that I think are really great. First of all, they’re acknowledging that glyphosate is not healthy for individuals and the environment. They’ve already stopped the import of a thousand tons of glyphosate (glyphosate, of course, is the chief poison in Roundup) and they’re analyzing alternatives. And not just the alternatives pushed by big ag, but also weed management experience and methods that farmers and indigenous communities have applied for thousands of years. So they’re looking for indigenous wisdom. And over and above that, they’re actually educating people.
They’re creating infographics and videos. It will be translated into several languages and distributed to alert people on the dangers of glyphosate-based herbicides for health and the environment. So they’re doing something that is simply stunning: indigenous wisdom, decisive action, consumer education.
If we go over to Europe, we see two items that demonstrate how the biotech industry likes to try to manipulate regulatory agencies and science. The first comes out of Le Monde, one of France’s leading daily papers. They report the fact that 19 so-called experts published an identical opinion piece in six different scientific journals, dismissing the dangers of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and opposing their regulation.
First, let me tell you about an endocrine-disrupting chemical. About 20 years ago or so, it was confirmed that certain chemicals in very low doses have a different impact on the body than they do in higher doses.
And it may be a very significant negative impact, where it could throw off our hormones. This is very serious information because things like plastic containers can shed things that may be endocrine-disrupting. But we’re talking about parts per billion and parts per trillion. So we’re not talking about high amounts and yet it’s in these low amounts that have the most effect. It’s kind of counter-intuitive. You think that you’d increase the dose and you’d always get a worse effect, but for the endocrine disruption side of it, that’s actually not the case. The lower the dose, often the worse the effect has. This is a problem for the industries that sell chemicals, because if it was discovered that their chemicals had endocrine-disrupting capacity, then they would have to take these chemicals off the market. Right now the regulatory agencies in the United States and in Europe do not require in-depth–or in some cases –ANY evaluation of these low dose effects. That’s certainly the case for Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides.
So Le Monde basically blew the whistle on these 19 scientists and quoted a lot of experts, basically talking about them as self-proclaimed experts, but not really experts at all, violating ethical principles, having conflicts of interest, and in fact, the six journals that published it had these members as their editors or on editorial boards. They’re very low-level journals, but nonetheless, it was a full–court press trying to influence scientific opinion. But as Le Monde points out, 15 of the 19 scientists had ties with the industries that are concerned about endocrine disruption — the chemical/pesticide/fossil fuel or tobacco industries– over the course of their careers. They all declared no conflict of interest, and yet if you look at their history, it is ridiculous. There’s Helmut Grime, for example. He was hired by Monsanto as a consultant many times, paid by Monsanto to write a so-called independent expert panel opinion on the safety of glyphosate.
He authored two papers defending glyphosate safety that were largely influenced and rewritten by Monsanto, even though he declared the opposite. He was also promoting Monsanto’s Dioxin and PCBs. Others were consultants for BASF, Bayer, DuPont, and Monsanto. Some organized attacks on Professor [Gilles-Eric] Séralini’s findings that glyphosate and Roundup-ready corn caused damage to rats. One was on the advisory board of Sense about Science, which is basically one of the front groups of the biotech industry. They also organized attacks against Professor Christopher Portier, who worked with the World Health Organization’s Cancer Committee to determine that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. Professor Portier was one of the expert witnesses at the trials that nailed Monsanto’s Roundup as the cause of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. So these 19 guys– these pseudo-scientists– are just basically regurgitating the same tactics used by tobacco, and they’re now doing it in Europe… again.
They were able to have some influence in 2013, and they’re trying to stop the regulations now. At the same time, across the channel in the UK, the biotech industry is trying to push its friends in government to amend an agricultural bill that would give the Secretary of State for the Environment (one of their in-the-pocket people), the power to change the definition of what a GMO is and reclassify gene editing as non-GMO. So that’s the way that they’re trying to use an end-around–not having it taken up by the full Parliament, but just running it through one of the Houses of Commons or the House of Lords and trying to push it through so that they can eliminate any regulations, notification or labeling requirements for the new form of GMOs called gene editing, which is extremely dangerous.
I have seen both of these types of scenarios–the fake scientists, the fake front groups — and the working to try and change laws through the back-end to benefit biotech. I’ve seen that all over the world. In fact, it kind of puts you off, but I really appreciate those non-profit groups, those non-governmental organizations that work in the area of government, that try and keep the government regulations sane. Our focus at the Institute has been more on consumers. I’ve certainly worked with governments around the world. I’ve traveled and spoken in 45 countries. I often meet with the ministers and the parliamentarians, and we do our best to support the local groups. But our main focus in the United States has been (so far) on consumer opinion, and also in some cases farms. I’m happy to report that organic farming in a study over a 10 year period by Purdue University found that organic farming is more profitable than conventional.
So that doesn’t require government decision making; lobbyists can’t wrestle that opinion away from the facts. It’s true that organic agriculture for corn, soybeans, and wheat gives the farmer more money. Net profits per acre, for their scenario, was $50 on organic, and for conventional systems net losses of $60 to $70 per acre. Now, that’s pretty significant: $50 profit versus $60 to $70 per acre loss. But this particular study assumed that organic was going to produce less, like one third less corn, one third less soybeans, and about 25% less for wheat. But in reality, the Rodale Institute has been studying side-by-side organic versus conventional, including GMO, and found that after five years of a transition period, organic actually yields about the same. And so you don’t have that yield drag. And in times of drought tolerance, organic yield can be 40% higher. This is excellent news, and this actually is news that can drive a huge change. If you know any farmers or anyone that knows any farmers, pass on the link to that study, because it’s the profitability that will drive farming decisions more than anything else.
Okay. That’s the news this week.