If I were a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’d be confident that sustainable practices will feed the world in the future. Then, I might be using this page to rant against the effects of consumption of GMOs on humans. The problem is, I’m not that guy. The scientific research on the effects of consumption is getting stronger, but it’s not always conclusive. I’m not ready to take the tool of GMOs out of our hands in feeding the world in the future. That’s the scary problem for me, feeding everybody.
But I am concerned about the ways in which GMOs affect the balance of the general ecology. I’ve been working with The Organic Center, a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado. I’m thankful today for the guidance of Chuck Benbrook, chief scientist there.
Red Gold is a tomato processing company located in northwest Indiana, with major growers in Ohio and Indiana. Recently Steve Smith, director of agriculture there, testified before Congress over his concern about the government’s approval of GM corn which tolerates not just glyphosate (Round-up), but 2, 4D and dicamba, a relative of 2, 4D, as well. This has become necessary because the prevalence of Roundup Ready GM crops has increased the use of glyphosate to a level where weeds are becoming resistant, and farmers are having more trouble controlling them. 2, 4D and dicamba are older, more volatile, more mobile herbicides which don’t yet have resistance issues, allowing farmers to get better weed control.
The mobility and volatility of these chemicals is affecting fruit set in tomatoes and other crops when 2, 4D and dicamba drift away from the target farm and onto others. It is their nature that this is a frequent occurrence, yet they cannot be traced when this problem occurs with non-target crops, which is what concerns Steve Smith and his industry’s lobbyist group, the American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition. Smith says his company lost $1 million in revenue because of dicamba contamination.
This is a concern. Feeding the world will be an effort involving all crops, and farming practiced on one particular crop should in no way be detrimental to another.
“It’s really ironic that in this day and age of genetic engineering we’re going back to a herbicide from the 1940s,” said Dean Riechers, an associate professor of weed physiology at the University of Illinois, referring to the chemical “2, 4-D.” “It’s the oldest herbicide we have, and it’s going to become really popular again.”