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Despite Federal Judge Ruling – USDA Deregulates Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Crops

By Theodora Filis

Deregulation by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) means Roundup-Ready crops can now be grown commercially, endangering non-GMO alfalfa and sugar beet crops by transgenic contamination through the increased use of herbicides.

Under the Bush administration, the USDA approved Roundup-Ready sugar beet crops, produced and sold by Monsanto, without preparing a standard Environmental Impact Statement. Then, in January of 2008, the Center for Food Safety, along with several other organizations including the Organic Seed Alliance and the Sierra Club, filed a suit against the US government, insisting the USDA prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on Roundup-Ready Sugar Beets. The lawsuit asked the government to halt the production of the modified beets until further information regarding the crop’s safety was released.

In addition to citing obvious concerns regarding the safety of GM alfalfa and sugar beet crops, the suit points out that GM alfalfa and sugar beets have been contaminating nearby conventionally and organically grown plants. Despite a Federal Judge's ruling the USDA deregulated GM alfalfa and sugar beet crops in the US.

Monsanto's Roundup-Ready crops have been genetically engineered to permit direct, over the top, application of the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate, allowing farmers to drench both their crops and crop land with the herbicide to kill nearby weeds (and any other green thing the herbicide touches) without killing the crops. Roundup-Ready soybeans are heavily herbicide dependent because the Roundup-Ready System (RRS) is primarily a no till system.

Rather than the traditional tilling of the ground to control weeds the RRS relies on its herbicide to control them. No-till cropping systems are the most demanding with regards to weed control. The crop is seeded directly into un-tilled soil with no follow-up cultivation, therefore weed control depends entirely on herbicides.

In fact, the Roundup Ready System was specifically designed to require the exclusive use of Monsanto's herbicide – currently in use in over 250 million GM acres worldwide.

A recent review by Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open-source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, suggests that industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by Monsanto in 1976, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the agricultural market used approx.180-185 million pounds of glyphosate between 2006 and 2007, and non-agricultural markets used approx. 8-11 million pounds between 2005 and 2007, according to the 2006-2007 Pesticide Industry Sales & Usage Report, published in February of 2011.

David Ehrenfield, Professor of Biology at Rutgers University said, "Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers". "In the United States, the widespread adoption of Roundup Ready crops combined with the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds has driven a more than 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate on major field crops from 1994 to 2005".

GMOs effect the sustainability of our planet. The production of herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers that go along with growing GMO crops requires a huge amount of energy. And this energy requires the burning of precious fuels that are rapidly being depleted.

Farm chemicals may also be largely responsible for the decimation of honey bees, deformed fish and frogs, and may prove to endanger more species as time goes forward – including humans.

In an interview with the True Food Foundation, Dr. David Suzuki, Canadian geneticist said, anyone who claims genetically engineered food is perfectly safe is “either unbelievably stupid, or deliberately lying,” adding: “The reality is, we don’t know. The experiments simply haven’t been done, and now we have become the guinea pigs…. I am most definitely not in favor of release of GMOs in the food stream and given that it’s too late, I favor complete labeling of GMO products.”

Harm of chemical herbicides
Institute for Responsible Technology: Monsanto’s Roundup Triggers Over 40 Plant Diseases and Endangers Human and Animal Health (Jan 14, 2011)
Rodale Institute: Ten good reasons why GMOs are not compatible with organic agriculture (excellent overview)
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM): Genetic Engineering vs. Organic Farming
Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets Get Go-Ahead From USDA
U.S. Says Farmers May Grow Engineered Sugar Beets (Feb 4, 2011)

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