Monsanto, RoundUp and Junk Science

Last weekend demonstrators joined a March Against Monsanto in some 428 cities in 38 countries, including more than 240 cities in the U.S. alone. What exactly has so many people riled up? Monsanto, of course, is an agrichemical and biotech giant, responsible for more than 90 percent of the traits in genetically engineered corn, soy and cotton sold worldwide. The company is a flash point for those who oppose the technology. But now a new issue has emerged. Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate — trade name RoundUp — which is used on most genetically engineered crops (also known as GMOs), is sparking new and serious concern, not just among GMO opponents but among health and environment experts globally.

There is good reason to be concerned with glyphosate and its widespread use on GMO crops. When they were first being introduced in the early 1990s, biotech companies said GMO crops could do many things — produce more nutritious food, resist climatic stress, reduce pesticide use, and confer many other benefits. But, in fact, the characteristic most widely engineered into crops was the ability to withstand RoundUp. This was a win-win for Monsanto — they could sell the engineered seeds, and also sell the weed killer the seeds were designed to withstand. Since this greatly simplified weed control, farmers embraced the seeds and glyphosate use. Today, 90 percent or more of the corn, soy, canola, sugar beets grown on U.S. cropland are varieties that have been engineered to tolerate glyphosate.

Not surprisingly, glyphosate use has increased vastly. In the period between 1996 and 2011, during which GMO crops were introduced into U.S. agriculture, these crops increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds. Use of glyphosate on just two crops, corn and soy, has increased almost 17-fold between 1996 and 2012, from roughly 12.5 —> Read More